The Continental Congress approved an organization of the Continental infantry in 1776 allowing for each to have a Drum Major and a Fife Major who commanded younger pairs of fifers and drummers assigned to individual companies. These companies had around 76 privates1; the size of these companies later decreased to about 53 privates, until Washington convinced Congress to increase that number to 64 by 17812.
Night guards, called "centries," would guard camp overnight while the soldiers slept. At dawn, these guards awakened the fifers and drummers, who then beat a reveille ceremony at various areas of the camp. This music was played in order to wake up the soldiers and signal the centries to "leave off challenging." George Washington stressed that the centry needed to "see clearly one thousand Yards around him" before loud reveille music was to be played, even if the soldiers were to have guns in hand before that."3
An example of a common reveille is the English duty tune, "Reveilly." This call was in use for almost 50 years, spanning well before and after the War.
Musical Example 1: English Reveilly4 (Click here for You Tube video clip)
There are two different Scotch reveille duty tunes to be found in historical sources. Both are short, but the first only appears in the Thompson books, the Longman & Lukey, and the Goulding.
Musical Example 2: Scotch Reveilly Version 15
The second Scotch reveille is more technically challenging and is found in all fife tutors listed in the Bibliography.
Musical Example 3: Scotch Reveilly Version 26
The following is a German reveille for two fifes and one drum from Pollitch's Thurfurstlick Bfalzbayerilche Regiments-Streich entitled, "Tag Reveille."
Musical Example 4: Tag Reveille7
From the 1688 'Rules for the Thurfurstlich Brandenburg troops,' we can see that the Brandenburg Prussian Army had been using reveilles to relieve the night centries much earlier, and Prussian regulations for the infantry from 1714 also dictated that, as soon as it was day, the reveille was to be beaten.8
Musical Example 5: Revelle9
The next reveille is a marching tune written after the Battle of Prestonpans in Scotland recounting a Jacobite victory in the Uprising of 1745, led by Bonny Prince Charles.10 The story goes that a farmer, Adam Skirving (1719 – 1803), wrote a song to recount the events of this battle, however dubious the accuracy of the lyrics might be. The full title of the song is, "Hey! Johnny Cope Are You Wauken Yet?" and it tells of how Prince Charles's Scottish army successfully executed a surprise 4:00 am attack on John Cope's English army. It is a very popular tune among fifers and drummers even today.
Musical Example 6: Johnny Cope11
The sources cited in this article contain music from England, Scotland, and Germany and these musical excerpts are just a small sampling of the music used to relieve the night watchmen of their duties and to wake the soldiers at the beginning of their day. This was the first job of the day in a long line of tasks to be executed daily by the fifer and drummer. With instruments that could be heard from a mile away on a clear day, it's easy to imagine the duty pair acting as the soldier's morning alarm clock.
Historical Music Sources
1. Wright, Jr., Robert K., The Continental Army (1983): 47. http://www.history.army.mil/books/RevWar/ContArmy/CA-03.htm
2. Ibid., p. 127. http://www.history.army.mil/books/RevWar/ContArmy/CA-07.htm
3. Camus, Military Music of the American Revolution (1976): 90.
4. Willig, Compleat Tutor for the Fife (1805):9. Identical appearances in: Longman & Broderip, Entire New and Compleat Instructions for the Fife (1779-98):7; Skillern, Complete Instructions for the Fife (c.1780):7; and H. Andrews, Complete Instructions for the Fife (c.1804):8.
5. Thompson & Son, The Compleat Tutor for the Fife (c.1759-60):15. Identical appearances in: C & S Thompson, The Compleat Tutor for the Fife (c.1770):15; Longman & Broderip, (c.1779-98):14; and G. Goulding, New and Complete Instructions for the Fife (c.178-99):10.
6. Willig, p. 11.
7. Pollitsch, Thurfurstlick Bfalzbayerilche Regiments-Streich (c.1781):18
8. Marten, P.C., Die Musik der Spielleute des Altpreussischen Heeres Erscheinungsbild und Wesen 1713-1807 (1976):243
9. Marten, p.251
10. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bonny_Prince_Charlie ; http://www.rampantscotland.com/famous/blfamcharlie.htm King James VII was dethroned because of his Catholic faith. Parliament hoped that his son could become the next Protestant king when he came of age, meanwhile having William of Orange and Princess Mary serve as regents. William insisted on being king instead. Bonnie Prince Charles (1720-1788) was King James VII's grandson and he was born and raised in Italy as a catholic, having been blessed by the pope himself. Bonny Prince Charles later went to Scotland to lead the Scottish Jacobite Uprising of 1745 in an effort to restore his catholic family, the Stuarts, to the British Thrones. After an early victory at Edinburgh, Charles marched on Prestonpans as he gained clan after clan along the way. Prestonpans was his last victory in what would ultimately prove an unsuccessful cause.
11. Aird, A Selection of Scotch, English, Irish and Foreign Airs II (1775-78) :19, No. 52