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Civil War Re-enacting for the Bugler


The hobby of Civil War reenacting has for years suffered with poor and sometimes incompetent field music. Many musicians in the hobby are youngsters under the age of sixteen who are biding time while waiting to reach the age where they can pick up a musket. Many are “dumped” by parents are are also in the hobby as a place for them to be baby sat while the parents are engaged in activities of their units. Few come into the hobby with little musical training and are placed under the guidance of some who are not trained in music teaching skills and sometimes with little more ability than the youngster. And to find a leader who has musical and military skills is even rarer yet. These non functional musicians take away much from the events. This is not so say there are not talented musicians in the hobby. Many of these young musicians are eager to learn and are taught mostly by rote at events.

There are those youngsters who are good musicians eager to learn and form good field music groups. There are many good Fife and Drum corps along with instruction books for drums and fifes with tapes and CDs. Today at re-enactments bugle calls sounded properly is still a rare treat, the morning reveille played by fife and drum corps is not consistent, and dress parades are need in much improvement musically.

As far as buglers go, today we have those who have picked up the bugle after not playing trumpet since high school or college. Many are playing for the first time. What is a basic necessity for those who wish to improve the bugling in the hobby is to take a few lessons with a professional trumpet instructor. Learning the basics of good embouchure, breath control, lip flexibility, and tone production will further your enjoyment of sounding bugle calls and make you a valuable asset to your unit. It is important to have a good instrument and a good mouthpiece.

The Bugler’s role today in re-enacting



1. Representing yourself in your unit and your brigade
2. Sounding the camp calls
3. Forming the brigade by the bugle
4. Skirmishing by the bugle
5. Providing Esprit de Corps
6. Maneuvering troops in battle

Here are the top MUST KNOW Infantry calls we should know cold. Many commanders and their buglers should know calls that the Infantry units use. I’ve listed them pretty much in order of use. Click on the name of the call for a sound file.

Here is the printed music for the Infantry calls 1861 Hardee Light Infantry Tactics


Attention-Sounded to bring soldiers to attention. In camp, it is the signal to prepare to fall in. On the march, it is sounded when the soldiers are at the route step. At the signal, soldiers go to shoulder arms, captains go to the front of their company and everyone picks up the cadence step.
Assembly of the Buglers
Sounded to assemble buglers and musicians. Known as “First Call”
The Reveille
Signal for first Roll Call of the day
The Assembly
-Signal for companies to form on the company street
To the Color
-Signal for the companies to march to the regimental or battalion parade ground to form the battalion. The Color Company arrives first and the companies dress on either flank.
Officer’s Call
All officers report to commander
Orders for Orderly Sergeants
(Orderly Sergeant)
The Recall
Release from duty

Fix Bayonets
Unfix Bayonets
Deploy As Skirmishers
Forward March
In Retreat
Commence Firing
Cease Firing
Lie Down

Rise Up
Rally Upon The Reserve

There are many other calls of course that would be wonderful to recognize. Calls like:
The General
(The pack up call) Signal to strike tents and load wagons
Breakfast Call
and Dinner Call (get your plates)
Sick Call
(sounded after breakfast….maybe because of breakfast)
Church Call
(used as a parley or truce and is used to signal end of battles in today’s reenactments)
(Beautiful evening call. Used for last roll call of the day)
To Extinguish Lights
(pre-1862 impressions should use this call instead of Taps for lights-out)
Used after 1862

To help memorize the bugle calls here are some ditties to help you learn them.
(Provided by Bugler R. J. Samp)
**Please note, these are NOT period correct

Assembly of the Buglers (first call) “Darn those rotten stinking little buglers!”
“I know you are tired but still you must go, off to Atlanta to see the big show”
The Assembly
“Red, white and Blue”
Officers’ Call “They’re the biggest brASSes in dear Mr. Lincoln’s army. Eating all the sutler’s food and staying behind the lines”
The Recall “
Come back here now, come back here now”
Fix Bayonet “It’s time to stick pigs boys, it’s time to stick pigs now”
Unfix Bayonet
“Take them off, take them off. Put them back into your scabbard. Put them away”
Deploy as Skirmisher
s “Deploy as Skirmishers, Skirmishers, Skirmishers. Deploy as Skirmishers, Skirmishers, now”
“Swing your legs, swing your legs, swing your little leg-gees”
Halt “Stop your feet, stop your feet”
In Retreat March
“Fight your way back. Fight your way back. Keep up the fire boys but don’t turn your back”
Commence Firing “Aim your rifles, time to pull the trigger NOW!”
Cease Firing “Cease fire!, Cease fire!, Cease fire!”
Lie Down “All lie down, all lie down”
Rise Up “All rise up, all rise up”


Here is the printed music for the Cavalry calls 1864 Poinsett Cavalry Tactics

General Calls

The General
Boots and Saddles
To Horse
Stable Call
Cease Firing
The Charge
Officers’ Call
Assembly of the Buglers

Skirmishers Calls
Commence Firing

In Battery
Commence Firing
Cease Firing
Assembly of the Buglers
Boots and Saddles
To Horse

RJ Samp published a Artillery manual for non buglers with great information.
Download here:
2002 Artillery Manual RJ Samp

RJ Samp’s website is The American Civil Bugler

RJ Samp has put together the bugle calls needed for
American Civil War re-enacting

Buglers are RJ Samp, Tom Tallman, George Rabbai
Code to the recordings
CBS=Cavalry (CGC = General calls, CSS=Service of Skirmishers) IGC Infantry General Calls

Artillery Trumpet Signals


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  1. Craig Flick Craig Flick July 22, 2019

    Thank you for putting together the “School of the Bugler” portion, as a new bugler it’s invaluable.

  2. Tapsbugler Tapsbugler Post author | May 15, 2019

    It was put together as a guide for re-enactors since there was no “bugle manual” of the time.
    It uses material from the School of The Soldier” but adapted for buglers.


  3. Marc Speed Marc Speed May 11, 2019

    I am curious about the “School of the Bugler.” Is it from Hardee, or did you compose it?

    In either event, it is most useful.

  4. JohnnyReb JohnnyReb September 26, 2013

    Seeing as the confederate army was modeled exactly the same way as the union army, regulations are the same.

    They use the same calls for EVERYTHING.
    You must remember most if not almost all officers in the Confederate Army resigned from the Union army to join the confederates.

  5. Kate Kate September 18, 2012

    Hi Great article and quite informitive. Do these regulations apply for the Confederates as well as the Union? Are the calls mostly the same? The type of Buge? The Uniform? Do you know if there is a list and music of Confederate calls?


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