One of the toughest job in the armies of both sides during the Civil War was that of the bugler. He had to accurately play forty different calls and to make sure that he was playing the right ones at the right time. A thick bugler’s manual containing each order had to be memorized by the bugler.
Some of those bugler calls included Reveille, Halt, Deploy, Charge, Assembly, Commence, Rally by Fours, To the Color, attention, Taps, and others.
In August 1861, General Order 49 of the U.S. War Department required that each company have two musicians and that those company musicians would get together from each company of the regiment to form the regimental band. The buglers, however, were not part of those regimental bands.
The Chief Bugler was the head musician of each regiment. All the younger buglers, often young boys, were assigned under his direction. The Chief Bugler shadowed the regimental commander at all times, because he never knew when his talents would be called on at a moment’s notice.
The bugler was truly the person in charge of telling the armies what their orders were.
A school for the training of the musicians was set up at Governor’s Island in New York.
According to the manual known as “Caseys Infantry Tactics” every officer also had to know all the bugler’s calls and was encouraged to practice so that if it were necessary, he could sound them himself in case his bugler went down.
Each regiment had their identifying song so that the troop would know if they were hearing their bugler or on from the flanking regiment.
The bugler took over most of the duties that had been assigned to the regimental drummer and fifer originally. The bugle sounds could cut through the noise of the battle that the drumming sounds could not.
The book “The Little Bugler” by William B. Styple chronicles the story of Gustav Schurmann, a member of the 40th New York, Company I who was 12 years old..
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