Olustee Battle Reenactment
Guidelines For Federal Field Musician Reenactors

The reenactment of the Battle of Olustee presents an excellent opportunity for Federal Field Musician reenactors (buglers, fifers and drummers) to improve their authenticity level.

General Truman Seymour, the commanding officer of the Federal forces at Olustee, was a brass player, and after the war was responsible for revising the bugle call section of Upton's Manual.

Oliver W. Norton, General Dan Butterfield's brigade bugler at Harrison's Landing, and the "co-composer" (with Butterfield) of "Taps," was an officer with the 8th U.S. Colored Troops at Olustee, as well.

Field musicians represented the communications network of the Civil War army, not the "entertainment" - that was the job of the "band." Ideally, during the war, each company in an infantry regiment had a drummer and a fifer. A regiment usually had at least one bugler, and buglers were assigned at the brigade level and division levels as well. The buglers would send orders through the levels of command, and ultimately, the fifers and drummers would relay the signals to the men in the companies. Unit preludes, or special calls designed to apply only to a certain unit, were used when a signal was to apply only to that unit.

For example, the historian of the 17th Maine wrote:

"As the first beams of the rising sun began to tinge the eastern skies, the clear notes of the bugle sounding reveille from headquarters are heard - repeated in turn by the regimental buglers. The drums of one regiment commence their noisy rataplan, which is taken up by another, till every drum corps of the brigade, with accompanying bugles and fifes, joins in the din, and the morning air is resonant with the rattle of drums, the shrill notes of the fife, or the clairon tones of the bugle." [EOG Union p. 229]
Field music was used in battle as well, as the amplified voice of command, to reinforce verbal orders, to transmit signals, to maneuver battle lines and skirmishers, and to maintain the soldiers' morale.

A typical field music unit (note the bugler, fifer and drum major). This unit is part of the 93rd
New York drum corps, photographed in August 1863 at Bealton, Virginia, where the regiment
was part of the Army of the Potomac headquarters guard. Two identified musicans are
Newton Peters, 15 (below flag's right star), and Samuel E. Scott, 16 (to Peters' left).

The organizers of the Reenactment of the Battle of Olustee are attempting to elevate the quality of field music at this event to authentic levels, and therefore, it is expected that all reenactors portraying field musicians be fully functional as such. At a minimum, drummers, fifers and buglers should be familiar with the majority of the camp and duty beats, tunes and calls, as well as marching cadences, tunes, quicksteps martial airs, and skirmish calls. All musicians should know the manual of arms for their instrument and be familiar with basic infantry drill. Non-functional musicians, although welcome and encouraged to participate to the extent possible, should not be involved in any battle scenarios, and should instead detailed for medical/ambulance duties.

Musicians attending this reenactment should contact and correspond with the Field Music coordinators listed below as soon as possible, and should report immediately upon arrival at the event to the Chief Bugler and Drum Major.

The organizers will endeavor, as much as possible, to assign musicians to their own reenacting units. However, functional and qualified field musicians in the hobby today must expect that at times they will have to be reassigned to other units, in the interests of authenticity. (You can certainly camp with your pards, as long as when first call sounds you fall in with you assigned brigade, regiment, or company).

Any rank designations and drum major impressions must be approved in advance by the coordinators. Principal musician designations will be decided upon at the event (bring sashes if you think you are "principal material").

Uniforms worn should be typical Eastern Federal impression, February 1864. Frock coats are encouraged for dress occasions, as are dressed Hardy hats, sashes, swords, scales and white gloves. Fatigues will likely be worn during battles. Please, only a minimum of hat brass (no regiment, company or corps designation unless you know in advance where you will be assigned). Laced frock coats were probably at a minimum this late in the war. So do not wear lace unless it is all you have. Instruments should be authentic reproductions and period correct. No sutler bugles or modern percussion equipment please.

[Bagpipes: We have documentation supporting the use of field music at the Battle of Olustee, but we are not aware of any documentation of bagpipes at the battle. Until someone can come up with legitimate documentation of the use of bagpipes at Olustee, we ask that no one portray a piper. Please! (Save it for the sutlers or the dance Saturday night.)]

The number of musicians attending will determine at what level the music will "mass." Ideally, for a reenactment, this would be at the brigade level, and at Olustee, this would mean three fife and drum corps. More likely, however, drummers and fifers will be evenly disbursed among the three brigades for routine camp and battle duties (as if they were company musicians), and will mass at divisional level for ceremonial purposes. A chief bugler will be assigned at Division level, and one for each of the three brigades, Cavalry and Artillery.

Brigade prelude calls have been established, and all musicians must familiarize themselves with these calls. They can be obtained by contacting either of the Field Music Coordinators listed below. Signals throughout the day will be relayed from the Divisional staff through the Chief Bugler and the Brigade Buglers to the regimental music, who will be expected to interpret the signals and relay the information to the officers and the men.

Prelude calls and brass signaling will be used before and during battle as well to maneuver troops and skirmishers.

The Parley or Church Call will be used to signal the end of battle and resurrection.

The trend in reenacting has been toward increasing authenticity in general, and musicians have a responsibility to contribute to the growth of this trend. The days of showing up at a reenactment, looking pretty, and playing a tune here and there are over. Officers are beginning to realize the "power of music", and its ability, in the most authentic manner possible, to help improve coordination and communication at reenactment events. Only by establishing and adhering to high standards can musicians be expected to continue gain respect in the hobby. And on top of it all, when it all comes together, it is a tremendous amount of fun, and after all, isn't that what we're doing this for?

Field Music Coordinators:

John Poe and Steve Zimmerman

Thank you and have fun!

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