Middlesex County 4-H Fife and Drum - History of Fifes and Drums

History of Fifes and Drums

As with other modern fife and drum groups, the Middlesex County 4-H Fife & Drum Corps perpetuates the centuries-old tradition of fife and drum music. With its roots traced back to Switzerland in the 13th century, the military's use of fifes and drums as a means of communication spread to other European countries, finding its way to America as countries such as France and Britain colonized the New World.

Assigned at the company level with 1-2 fifes and 1-2 drums per company (or formed as a band at the regimental level), fifes and drums were used to regulate the daily activities of the troops. They signaled when the troops should rise in the morning and retire at night, when to eat, when to assemble, and to sound an alarm.

In the United States, fifes and drums were used through the Civil War, finally being replaced by the bugle as technology and mechanization changed the nature of warfare. Beginning around the United States' centennial, civilian groups picked up and continued the fife and drum tradition in places like New England. In more recent years, the fife and drum tradition has been revived in other parts of the United States such as Virginia, the Midwest, and the West Coast. Today, fife and drum corps can mostly be found on the East Coast from Virginia to New England, with a concentration of groups in Connecticut.

See also: Ancient Fife and Drum Corps


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