A Duxbury GAR Ceremonial Bugle

by Erin McGough, Collections Manager

Calvary bugle, made in France, ca. 1860, brass with gold wool cord. Collection of the Duxbury Rural and Historical Society, 1955.005.053.

Bugle, made in France, 1890-1900, brass with gold wool cord. Collection of the Duxbury Rural and Historical Society, 1955.005.053.

Drill Call.
Call to Quarters.
And at the very end, Taps.

During the Civil War, the call of the bugle sounded out the structure to a soldier’s day. In battle, bugles also rang out orders across a field, providing an essential tool for communication in the midst of chaos. Later bugles were used by veteran’s organizations like the Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.) to commemorate the service of soldiers, and even today, bugles still sound the final notes over the graves of veterans.

There were many types of bugles in use in the 19th century, and indeed images of buglers in the Civil War show a wide variety of instruments [1]. The bugle in the collection of the Duxbury Rural and Historical Society is not a Civil War bugle, but rather one used by G.A.R. members as a ceremonial instrument, dating it to 1890-1900. The bugle consists of a plain brass body measuring 16 ½” in length with a 4 ½” diameter bell. The mouthpiece is marked “France” with the letter “T” stamped below. The yellow cord was probably attached by a G.A.R. member, and is meant to simulate the yellow cords used to indicate cavalry equipment during the Civil War.

Bugle march of the Fremont Hussars, composed by Hermann Shols, published by Beer & Schirmer, New York, 1862. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, http://www.loc.gov/item/ihas.200000471#about-this-item (accessed 7/23/2013)

Bugle march of the Fremont Hussars, composed by Hermann Shols, published by Beer & Schirmer, New York, 1862. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, http://www.loc.gov/item/ihas.200000471#about-this-item (accessed 7/23/2013)

The connection to France is noteworthy, as France has a long-standing tradition in brass musical instruments. French military traditions influenced American ones, and during the Civil War, U.S. bugle corps modeled themselves on French ones. French trumpeter Joseph David Buhl (1781-1860) spent many years revising traditional French military signals. At least ten calls utilized by the U.S. Army were created by Buhl and are still in use today, including: “First Call,” “Mess Call,” “Retreat,” and “Tattoo, First Strain” [2].

Cavalry bugles in the Civil War were often in the G or F keys, higher pitched sounds that were easier to produce on horseback [3]. The calls for the cavalry also included those specific to the use of horses, and indeed, the horses themselves would learn the calls and respond appropriately [4]. Army regulations required the assignment of field musicians in each company and a Principal Musician (Chief Bugler) to be assigned at the regimental level; the Chief Bugler was responsible for the buglers under him and he was considered to be at the same status as a Drum Major or Principal Musician of a band. Chief Buglers were also exempt from guard and other duties, services that could be onerous to the regular soldier [5].

Perhaps the most famous bugle call is “Taps,” a piece of music written during the Civil War and used to signal the end of the day. It was also adopted during the war for use at military funerals. At the start of the war, the official army bugle call to end the day was simply known as “extinguish lights” and was based on a French bugle call. Union General Daniel Butterfield disliked the call as being too formal and desired a finer melody to sound the end of a soldier’s daily activities. In 1862, with the help of a brigade bugler, he re-wrote an 1835 U.S. Army bugle call known as “Scott’s Tattoo” into the form we recognize today as “Taps.” It was about the same time that “Taps” was adapted for use at funerals; it was first used at a funeral for a Union soldier from an artillery battery that was too close to enemy lines to fire the traditional three rifle volleys [6].

Special thanks to Jari Villanueva, formerly the Non-Commissioned Officer In Charge of The United States Air Force Band’s State Funeral Plans and an expert on military bugles, for identifying and dating this bugle.

You can hear bugle calls from the Civil War at this website: http://www.armoryguards.org/bugle_calls.htm

You can hear the modern Army bugle calls at this website: http://www.music.army.mil/music/buglecalls/

[1] http://tapsbugler.com/buglers-in-the-civil-war/2/ (accessed 7/23/2013).
[2] http://www.middlehornleader.com/Evolution%20of%20the%20Bugle%20–%20Section%202.htm (accessed 7/23/2013).
[3] http://www.militaryhorse.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=1315 (accessed 7/23/2013).
[4] http://www.militaryhorse.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=1315 (accessed 7/23/2013). See also http://www.rjsamp.com/resources.html (accessed 7/23/2013).
[5] http://tapsbugler.com/buglers-in-the-civil-war/2/ (accessed 7/23/2013).
[6]. http://history1800s.about.com/od/civilwar/a/Bugle-Call-Taps.htm (accessed 7/23/2013).


2 thoughts on “A Duxbury GAR Ceremonial Bugle

  1. Good afternoon,

    I have been to the Duxbury Historical Society every time we get to Duxbury. I understand that there is an archaeological “dig” going on at the Brewster homestead site? so I thought I would share my story that just happened this September. I have a daguerreotype of Joshua and Marcia on their wedding day and a picture of Marcia Brewster in her later years. I descend from their daughter Zilpha Brewster.

    Relatively yours, Muriel Curtis Cushing, Florida

    • Hello – yes, we had a dig on the Brewster Homestead site in fall of 2012. The results of the dig were presented in our summer exhibition at the King Caesar House and we are currently doing some programming related to the exhibition before it closes for winter. This fall we will be publishing the results of the dig in a booklet which will be available to our membership at no charge; any additional copies will be available for sale through our office. It was a fantastic program and the exhibition received good responses. We hope that you will follow the news on our webpage and our Facebook page – we post items relating to the dig quite often. Thanks for your interest in the Society!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s