June 20, 2012

The drums of war

Music was an integral part for the British and American militaries in 1812. Fife and drum corps served alongside soldiers; often exposed to enemy fire. Their primary function was to communicate orders during battle and to provide entertainment for the army. This meant that musicians were required to memorize numerous orders and songs.

Fort George fife and drum corps
Recruits could be as young as 14 years old (or younger); however, the majority of those serving in the fife and drum were adults. This is evident because another important job that the musicians had was to remove casualties from firing lines during battles. Musicians didn’t necessarily act like modern-day medics, but rather removed casualties to prevent gaps from forming in the firing lines.
So why would you want to serve as a musician? Well, musicians were paid more than regular soldiers were and they received certain perks, such as more storage space for all their equipment. In addition, musicians stood behind the firing lines, which provided some protection during a battle. However, musicians were not always out of danger. Jarvis Hanks remarked that since musicians were placed behind a regiment’s flags during battle, they were often a conspicuous target for enemy fire.  As members of the fife and drum, musicians faced many hardships and were never far away from the dangers of war.
If you want to see some military music, don’t miss the Fort Erie Grande Parade on June 23rd. The Grande Parade starts at 2 p.m. and will feature dozens of units including bands, 1812 re-enactors, military units and parade floats. At 7:30 p.m. a military tattoo will begin at Old Fort Erie and will culminate with a fireworks display at 10 p.m. Don’t miss this great event!

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