Battlefield Communication Using Drums and Drumming

Battlefield Communication Using Drums and Drumming
Related to America’s War of Independence, This Illustration is a Famous Depiction From the 19th-century Called “The Spirit of ’76” by Archibald Willard, Courtesy of Wikipedia

Battlefield communication using drums and drumming was an important military aspect of war, and this type of communication lasted well into the nineteenth century. During this time, the drum most popular among drummers was the ordinary drum that consisted of a wooden or brass cylinder with a skin head at either end, and described in the following way:

“The skins [on these drums] are lapped at their edges around a small hoop which encircles the cylinder, and a large hoop rests on this and presses it down in place. The large hoops at each end are connected by an endless cord, running through holes in their outer edges and zigzagging up and down the sides of the cylinder from hoop to hoop. Each loop of this cord is surrounded by a sliding leather brace, and by pushing these down, so as to draw the loops together, or up, so as to loosen them, the drum is tightened or slackened, and the clear, tense or harsh, loose notes produced.”

Although it might appear that drum beats were simple, every beat was actually regulated and it was only through “long practice” that perfection by a drummer was attained. Furthermore, to achieve this perfection it was claimed that the drummer had to possess “a quick and nimble wrist.” Drum beats were also regular in the number and the division of strokes that could be produced using the two sticks. Thus, one person noted that if all the drummers in the British Army were assembled together, they would all beat alike.

Different drum beats and rolls signaled different commands to the troops and there were various regulation beats that included the following:

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Clever Ruse: Surprise at the Tabor Bridge by Napoleon’s Forces

"Surprise du pont du Danube" by Guillaume Guillon-Lethière, Courtesy of Wikipedia
“Surprise du pont du Danube” by Guillaume Guillon-Lethière, Courtesy of Wikipedia

The Napoleonic Wars were a series of conflicts that begin in 1803 and lasted until 1815. The wars pitted Napoleon I against various European powers. Among one of the cleverest ruses achieved during the Napoleonic Wars was an incident that occurred near Vienna in November 1805 and involved French forces against the Austrians.

The French were under the direction of two Marshals. The first was Jean Lannes, a daring and talented general, and, the second, Joachim Murat, brother-in-law to Napoleon having married Napoleon’s youngest sister, Caroline Bonaparte in 1800. Lannes and Murat had been pursuing the retreating Austrian army, and, at the time, they and their forces were near the market  town of Spitz, located on the Danube River. Continue reading