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Support the Fife And Drum Corps

Thanks to a generous donation from James Greisinger, we have established a Fife and Drum Corps that will begin interpretation and performances in 2023! However, we are still seeking donations for the Corps’ crucial and sustaining endowment.

Donate here!

Learn more about the Fort Howard Guard Fife and Drum Corps, here.

Fifes & Drums

Fifes and drums were an indispensable part of the daily military experience during most of the 19th century. Military field music served as a routine communication system that ordered the soldiers’ day and conveyed critical signals during the din of battle. A fife and drum could easily be heard from hundreds of yards away. Fifes and Drums also functioned as regimental bands and provided morale-boosting musical accompaniment while on the march.

During the 1830s, each company had one fifer and one drummer. On average, drummers and fifers tended to be younger soldiers, but musicians of all ages were encountered

While in garrison and camp, fifes and drums provided the daily “duty calls” that regulated the soldiers’ routine. The day started with Reveille and a tune called “Three Camps” roused the troops out of their beds. Variously called “Roast Beef’ or “Peas on a Trencher” the signal for breakfast followed Reveille. In between breakfast and the noon meal, a number of drum signals served to direct the Officers and men. “Tattoo” signaled the end of the day.

During battle, or while drilling, the fifes and drums played a critical role in conveying everything from the rate of speed for marching to the firing of muskets. The shrill sound of the fifes combined with the resonant beat of the rope-tension drums filled the sounds of Fort Howard on a daily basis.

Reviving a Tradition

In 2023, the Heritage Hill State Historical Park will resurrect the sounds of the fifes and drums at old Fort Howard with the establishment of a fife and drum corps. The fife and drum corps will provide seasonal interpretation at HHSHP. This is defined as the period between May and November, with some special event performance during the Holiday season. The frequency is not yet determined but it is known that individual elements of the corps will be employed on a daily basis at the Fort. Large group performances may be performed on a weekly basis. Uniforms and equipment, as well as the repertoire and practice methods will painstakingly conform to period-correct standards.

The Music

The music repertoire will consist of tunes that were commonly played during the 1830s, as well as the duty signals as outlined in the 1835 edition of The School of the Soldier. These will be researched from primary sources and commonly available secondary sources such as the Company of Fifers and Drummers publications.

Music Instruction

In keeping with the goal of excellence, Heritage Hill will  employ instructors to build student technical efficiency and musical maturity, and to teach them the repertoire. Instruction will be done in a group setting at Heritage Hill. We envision two levels – a senior corps and junior corps. The senior corps will assist with  instructing the junior members, where appropriate, and will be the primary public expression of the Corps. Applicants for the junior corps may start instruction as young as 10 years old.

Your Support will ensure that we meet the mission of sharing the cultural and historical ties that bind our community together. Together, with your support, Heritage Hill State Historical Park offers a direct link to our shared history and cultural leanings. Make a gift now and help us advance the development of  this important music preservation program. To learn more about sponsorships, contact Madeleine Buchholz-Kneeland at