Georgia Division
Reenactors Association, Inc.


Wanted: Field Musicians!

GDRA Field Music We are looking for fifers and drummers to function as field musicians within the Georgia Division Battalion. Our goal is to establish an active battalion fife and drum corps to participate with the infantry at living histories and reenactments. This is an exciting part of the Infantry and serves a vital function for the soldiers in camp and in battle. We can also use additional buglers, so any horn players can also join our ranks. So, if you are just learning to play or if you are a music veteran and need a chance to drag out those drumsticks or horn, then here is an opportunity for you. If you have the desire to experience what field music was really like during the Civil War, then please take the time to contact us.

Our current needs include:

  • Infantry fifers
  • Infantry drummers
  • Artillery bugler

A couple of notes:

  • All field musicians must be able to read and play music.
  • Anyone under 16 years of age must have a parent or guardian present with them at all events.

The field music part of our organization is a very fun, exciting, and important part of our Civil War reenacting experience. Come put your talents to use with us. If you have an interest in becoming a part of the GDRA Field Music or you would like additional information, then please contact our Field Music Coordinator:

GDRA Principal Musician / Chief Bugler

Getting Started as a Fifer & Drummer

Getting Started
Before buying a period drum, we highly recommend that a beginner first get a pair of drumsticks and a period drum manual and take private drum lessons. Many music instrument stores offer drum lessons. All beginners need to get a private instructor who can teach them the rudiments or basic techniques of drumming. Just trying to play along at an event will not make it in the long run. We also strongly encourage all drummers to play in their school's concert and marching bands.

Recommended Drum Type
For young drummers just starting out, the drum size that we recommend is a 16"x12" size (16" diameter), which is smaller than the 16"x16" size but still an official "contract" size. The plain shell with red hoops can be used for both Confederate and Federal.

A good source to order period drums from is
Terry Cornett from Hunstville, who plays with the
Olde Towne Brass Civil War band.

Terry Cornett
4021 Apollo Dr. SW.
Huntsville, AL 35805
(256) 533-5498

You can check out his website at
Heritage Drum Company.
Civil War era Contract Drum with Federal stamp

Other sources to order fifes and drums from are:

Recommended Fife & Drum Manual
The Civil War fife and drum book that every fifer and drummer should not be without is Bruce & Emmett's The Drummers' and Fifers' Guide (1862), which contains the basic cadences, quick steps, duty beats, and more.

Bruce & Emmett's Drummers and Fifers Guide (1862) The Drummers' and Fifers' Guide
George B. Bruce and Daniel D. Emmett
New York, 1862.

Good websites for ordering fife and drum music, books, CDs, etc., are:

On a historical note, Daniel Decatur Emmett was a composer and minstrel show writer from Ohio, who, while working in New York during the spring of 1859, wrote the song Dixie. The song became quite popular in the North but became a national anthem in the South, much to the dismay of Emmett, who was not a Southern sympathizer.

An on-line reference for Bruce and Emmett's can be found on The Drill Network's website at:

Getting Started as a Bugler

Getting Started
If you are just starting out playing a brass instrument, then you should look into taking private lessons, joining the school band, or playing in the church orchestra - anything to get your playing level up. Most importantly, though, is practice time at home. Remember, to be a good bugler you must first be a good trumpet player - they are one and the same. Also keep in mind that being a bugler is MUCH more work than shooting a musket. When the reenactment ends for everyone else, the work is just beginning for you. To be a brass player, you must make a commitment to practice every day - working on correct playing techniques, playing endurance, tonal quality, correct pitch, correct embouchure, etc. Oh, and don't forget that you have to memorize all of the bugle calls!

For information on everything you need to know about getting started as a Civil War bugler, check out the website at

Recommended Bugle
When looking for a Civil War reproduction bugle, you need to look for a real musical instrument. Although the "Gunga Din" bugles sold by the sutlers (Model 1855 British Duty Bugles) look inviting - and the price is nice - they are not true instruments and are not playable out on the field. (Plus, there is no documented evidence that a single Model 1855 British Duty Bugle was ever used by Federal or Confederate forces during the Civil War - they were used years later by Civil War veterans, however.) The reproduction bugles that are true musical instruments range from $300 to $600.

The reproduction bugle that we recommend is the
Amati ABG201 Bb Bugle, which is one of the lowest priced horns. It is a copy of the Model 1839 French Clairon d' Ordinance and is period-correct (except for the lacquer). This is the type of bugle that was imported from Europe and used extensively by both the North and the South. It is a very nice horn and has a great sound. Make sure it only has a single loop, though.

An instrument reseller that we recommend is:

The Woodwind & Brasswind
Southbend, Indiana
M-F 8-7, Sat. 9-4 CST
Amati ABG201 Bb Bugle

There is no case with the horn. Some reenactors wrap their bugle in bubble wrap and put it in a linen drawstring bag for events. To be historically correct, you will eventually want to have it delacquered. Since the chemicals to delacquer it can be very hazardous to your health, have a professional instrument repair technician do the work. This may cost up to $50 depending on the instrument repair shop you use. You will also want to get a blue bugle cord from one of the sutlers (red if you are doing artillery and yellow if you are doing cavalry).

Recommended Bugle Call Books
To be a functional bugler out on the field and in camp, you must know the bugle calls. For learning infantry, artillery, or cavalry bugle calls, we strongly recommend the following bugle call books and accompanying CD or cassette:

Infantry Bugle Calls of the American Civil War by George Rabbai Infantry Bugle Calls of the American Civil War + CD
by George Rabbai
Mel Bay Publications, Inc., Publisher

Infantry bugles calls only. You can order this book from Mel Bay Publications at the following website address:

The Civil War Bugler - Vols 1 & 2 by Jerry Pollard The Civil War Bugler - Vols 1 & 2 + Cassette
by Jerry Pollard

This instructional book contains 40 pages of instructions and scores for calls of the Cavalry, Artillery, Infantry and the 1835 Tattoo. Includes a cassette tape of all of the bugle calls listed above. You can order this book from Fall Creek Suttlery at the following website address:

Civil War Drummer Boys Playing Cards by Julian Scott (1891)
Civil War Drummer Boys Playing Cards by Julian Scott (1891).

On a historical note, the painter Julian Scott served as a Union Army drummer during the American Civil War. He enlisted in 1861 at the age of 15 in the 3rd Vermont Infantry. In February 1865, Scott received America's highest military decoration, the Medal of Honor, for rescuing wounded soldiers while under enemy fire during the 1862 Battle of Lee's Mill, Virginia.

And now, what you've all been waiting for...

The Top 10 reasons to be a Field Musician

10. Starting in 1864, field musicians were paid as much as privates.
Enjoy that extra $4 a month that you will receive. Buy yourself something special at the Sutlers.
  9. Field musicians were exempt from regular soldier duties.
No picket detail or manual of arms for you. Make the Sergeant Major do those tasks instead. Spend that extra time playing cards and gambling. (Federal impression only, of course. As a Confederate, you will want to either write letters home to your mother or read your Bible.)
  8. Field musicians were less likely to get killed during battle.
Contrary to popular belief, fifers and drummers went to the rear during the battle, put down their instruments, and served as stretcher bearers. Let the NCOs and privates take all of the bullets - you can help carry them off. (Sorry buglers, you guys are still out on the field being cannon fodder with the rest of them.)
  7. Field musicians were the communications of the army.
Don't want to go out and do battalion drill in the morning? Play "Dinner Call" instead.
  6. You get to march at the head of the column.
No eating the trail dust from everyone else. They'll be eating your dust because you'll be marching in front of them. You still have to watch where you're stepping, though, due to the dismounted cavalry. (Sorry, that was a Rudy Thompson joke.)
  5. You get to join the Army at age 12.
Brag to all of your fellow 6th graders during recess that you are in the Armed Forces. Sing "Rosie the Riveter" as you show them your tattoos.
  4. Once a band geek, always a band geek.
Don't want to suffer from marching band withdrawal during the off season? Here is an excellent way to keep playing! (Sorry, no majorette babes, but we do have a colorguard - they're not very pretty, but they are a colorguard.) Learn to play "The Hamster Dance Quick Step" for all of your friends.
  3. Chicks dig musicians.
Heather Locklear, Denise Richards, Pamela Anderson, Heidi Klum, and Rachel Hunter - need we say more?
  2. Hollywood directors dig musicians.
Want to make it big in the movies? Movie directors love to feature musicians in their films. Can anyone say The Last Full Measure?

And the #1 reason to be a field musician is...

  1. You won't have to clean your musket.
Spend that extra time hanging out with the laundresses. Teach them how to play cards.

Final Marketing Plug

If you want to have a great time around the campfire and experience what field music was really like during the Civil War, then please take the time to contact us. We look forward to seeing you out on the battlefield!


Battle of Resaca Reenactment
Battle of Resaca
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