Fort George National Historic Site of Canada
41st Fife and Drum Corps.
DAILY DUTIES OF DRUMMERS AT FORT GEORGE IN 1812
Drummers had duties every day. One drummer was designated the duty drummer and was stationed in the guardhouse. He was at the disposal of the Officer of the Watch. The position of duty drummer was rotated amongst the drummers of the garrison and in times of crisis more than one drummer could be posted at the guardhouse, town of Niagara or anywhere else they were needed.
It was the duty drummers responsibility to wake his fellow drummers at dawn to sound the Reveille or have the bugler sounded the Rouse. Reveille was beaten in several locations around the garrison. Within an hour of Reveille the drums beat the Troop, which called the men to morning parade and inspection. The Regimental Colours were paraded while the drums beat the Grenadiers March. Trooping the Colours was performed so the regiment recognised its colours in times of crisis.
Soldiers and drummers were reformed for morning drill or labour. Drummers acted as the postmen carrying orders to duty officers or the Adjutant. When fatigue parties were required, drummers stood where the work was to be done and sounded the Pioneers March. A duty drummer could be assigned to the town to alert the local population or be part of a recruiting party that frequented taverns and street corners.
Drummers also had the notorious duty of flogging soldiers with a whip known as the cat o' nine tails. The Cat was kept in a red silk bag by the Drum Major. Letting the cat out of the bag usually meant bad news for soldiers. Each drummer distributed twenty-five lashes while the Drum Major counted out each stroke slowly. The scene was performed in front of the entire garrison including the officers, wives and children to provide an example against bad behaviour.
At two in the afternoon the duty drummer beat the dinner call or The Roast Beef of Old England. The final ceremony of the working day was the Second Troop followed by an inspection. After duties were complete, drummers like soldiers were given time off to head into town--perhaps to visit a local drinking establishment.
At sunset Retreat was beaten by the corps of drums warning soldiers to return to the fort. The gates were closed, guard mounting rotated and the new password went into effect. A few hours later the new duty drummers beat the Taptoo to indicate lights out and the barracks were to be locked.
Drummers had responsibilities on the battlefield as well. They sounded basic battle calls such as Prepare to Fire, Cease Fire, Charge and Retreat. They fell into their respective companies behind the line sounding calls and assisting the wounded. They were often used to run ammunition to soldiers. When time allowed they played music to encourage the men and sounded Parley to indicate a cease-fire.
When drummers turned sixteen they tended to join the regiment as soldiers. Since many grew up in the barracks the army was the only life they knew. Many went on to become non-commissioned officers in the 41st.