Camp Duties & Calls

Activities in an 18th Century military garrison or encampment were regulated by the drum (or music).  Specific musical tunes & beats were used to signal the soldiers to rise, assemble for roll call, inspection, & fatigue (work) duty, collect food rations, & retire to their tents for the evening.  There were also calls for NCO's & the Adjutant.  Individual soldiers were expected to “acquaint himself with the usual beats and signals of the drum, and instantly obey them”.1

Dewees details musicians' duties in his memoirs: 

Often the Orderly Drummer would be ordered to beat up the 'Adjutant's Call.' The Adjutant, when called thus, would answer to the call by his presence and would then receive his orders from a superior officer. Sometimes the orderlies would be ordered to beat up the 'Drummer's (or Musician's) Call' at the hearing of which we (fifers and drummers) would have to drop all and answer by our presence. Our duties upon such calls were various. Sometimes we would be required to beat the Long Roll, Roast Beef, the Troop or the General, and sometimes 'The Rogue's March'…2

…We had a name for everything, or rather tunes significant of duties of all kinds. To beat the “Point of War,” and “Out and Out,” or through from beginning to its end, which embraces all tunes significant of Camp Duties, Advances, Retreats, Parleys, Salutes, Reveilles, Tattoos, etc., etc., would consume nearly or altogether half a day, and to beat the Reveille properly, “The Three Camps,” which constituted the third or last part, would consume from the peep of day until after sunrise.3

Von Steuben indicates:

The different daily beats shall begin on the right, and be instantly followed by the whole army; to facilitate which, the drummer's call shall be beat by the drums of the police, a quarter of an hour before the time of the beating, when the drummers will assemble before the colors of their respective battalions; and as soon as the beat begins on the right, it is immediately taken up by the whole army, the drummer beating along the front of their respective battalions, from the centre [sic] to the right, from thence to the left, and back again to the centre [sic], where they finish.4 

There are a number of differences between an 18th Century & a 21st Century re-created camp.  The most obvious is that no 18th Century camp would have (or encourage) the public wander through.  Similarly, work details such as water, wood, construction (fatigue) & foraging are each done at the individual unit level in a re-created camp & not typically portrayed according to 18th Century drum signals.  Accordingly, duty calls which have no practical use in a re-created camp have been omitted.

The duty calls described below are adapted from the Orders of June 24th, 1776 Northern Army Head Quarters at Ile aux Noix (Canada)5, supplemented by musical notations from the Brigade of the American Revolution Music Manual.  Clicking on the call will play the beat or tune associated with the duty call.

Beat or Call   Meaning & action
Drummer's Call6   Beat to assemble the drummers (or music) from each company, usually 10-15 minutes before a signal/duty is beat.
Reveille7 / Morning Gun   Traditional signal for soldiers to rise & for sentries to cease challenging.  The men were to assemble on the company streets for a roll call.  They were not required to assemble under arms or be in full uniform.
In recreated camps it is signaled by a single musket or artillery volley, or the Music generally around 7 am.  Soldiers are not expected to assemble for roll call.
Open beating #4(drum)8
The Rose Tree (fife)9
  To signal the opening of the camp to the public. This signal was created exclusively for re-created encampments.
Troop or Assembly10   Traditionally the signal for assembly to read orders of the day, roll call, & inspect the troops for duty.

In re-created camps, this assembly is started by 11 am.  Troops assemble under arms on the Company street, where Serjeants march the Company to the Parade unless an Officer is present to do so.  Drill is conducted as ordered.

This call is repeated for the final Army wide assembly for safety inspection preceding the tactical engagement.  At this assembly the final roll call & inspection are ordered as follows:

Rising of the Troop11
& Singling of the Troop12
  To call the roll.
Doubling of the Troop13   To signal inspection of the men & arms.
The Retreat14   Traditionally beat at sunset for calling the roll, warning the men for duty, reading the orders of the day & drumming culprits out of camp.
In recreated camps this is signaled between 3:00-5:00 pm to signal the closing of the camp to the public.
To Arms15   Signal to form under arms immediately on the Parade Ground.
Rogues' March16   Traditional beat to drum a culprit out of camp.
Roast Beef17   Traditional signal for mess group leaders to repair to the Quarter Master to be issued rations.
warner's uses this at particular events as a signal that a particular meal is ready to be served.

1 Regulations for the order and discipline of the troops of the United States, by Baron de Steuben.  Boston, 1794.  Reprinted by Dover Publications, New York, 1985.  p 148.
2 History of the Life and Services of Captain Samuel Dewees.  By John Smith Hanna.  Published by Robert Neilson, Baltimore.  1844.  p 173
3History of the Life and Services of Captain Samuel Dewees.  By John Smith Hanna.  Published by Robert Neilson, Baltimore.  1844.  p 173    See also an abridged web version.
4 Regulations for the order and discipline of the troops of the United States, by Baron de Steuben.  Boston, 1794.  Reprinted by Dover Publications, New York, 1985.  p 89.
5 Parole: Quebec; Countersign: Ticonderoga Second New Jersey Regimental Orderly Book, 1776, by Doyen Salsig. Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, July 1980
A collection of standardized fife tunes and drum accompaniment from the period 1775-1783 as used by the Brigade of the American Revolution, edited by Ray Hauley, William C. Bub, and W.H. Frueh.  Brigade of the American Revolution, 1988.
6 p. C-4
7 The English Duty p.C-2
8 p. S-13
9 p. M-8
10 p. C-4
11 p. S-1
12 p. S-1
13 p. S-1
14 English Duty p. C-2
15 English Duty (Fife p. C-3) (Drum p. C-4)
16 p. S-9

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