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Ruffles and Flourishes


What is the fanfare that is played before the president, a general or other high ranking official arrives?


Four Ruffles and Flourishes
Hail To The Chief


Ruffles and Flourishes are sounded to render military honors and precede prescribed music for persons being honored. Ruffles (played by the drums) and Flourishes (played by bugles or band) are performed simultaneously.  The custom of announcing the arrival of royalty and heads of state with a fanfare of trumpets or drum rolls had its origin in Europe.  The colonists brought many of the military customs of their mother country with them when they came to America. At the time of the French-Indian Wars, soldiers were instructed to “rest (present arms) and beat two ruffles” for the Royal Governor of Virginia. In 1776, officers of the Continental Army were advised that “the adjutant is to order a drum and fife to give two ruffles to a major general and one to a brigadier.”


Baron von Steuben in his “Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States”, published in 1794, stated that there were to be “certain ruffles” for generals. Article 6 states the honors due from guards to General Officers To the Commander In Chief “drums beat a march” Major Generals “Two Ruffles” Brigadier Generals “One Ruffle”

        Excerpt from the 1794 Regulations by Baron von Steuben

That General George Washington  (as Commander In Chief ) was not accorded ruffles is interesting. Instead, his arrival was announced by a march-more than likely “Washington’s March”

The 1847 Regulations for militia and Volunteers of the United States also included honors for general officers. These called for trumpets sounding a flourish and drums beating a ruffle.  No music for the trumpet flourish exists in tactics manuals up through the Civil War. One would assume that trumpeters sounded a version much like today.

Below is an image of Lincoln arriving at the US Capitol for his Inauguration on March 4, 1861. Note the bugler on horseback sounding a fanfare for him.

Honors 1
From Regulations for militia and Volunteers of the United States

In 1874 with the revision to the Upton Tactics Manual music was written for the Flourish-the two note fanfare we are accustomed to hearing today.

From the 1874 Upton manual

It is ironic that drum ruffles and the two note bugle call flourishes, used in this manner today, have all but disappeared in the British Commonwealth while the tradition is still carried on in the United States. In the latter part of the 19th century a march was added to “Ruffles and Flourishes” to honor the person receiving the salute. The president received “The President’s March”, a bugle version of Washington’s March by Philip Phile (also known as Hail Columbia) and a general officer  received “The Generals March.”

president's March
1915 USMC Bugler Manual

After 1910, the president received the “Star-Spangled Banner” or the bugle call “To the Color.”  Later on this would be changed to “Hail to The Chief” for the president and “Hail Columbia” for the vice president. A bugle call for Navy Admirals was developed in the early part of the 20th century and rewritten as “Flag Officers March.”

                         Admiral’s or Flag Officers March

“Ruffles and Flourishes” are played stationary by trumpets and drums or with full band. All present should salute. In outdoor ceremonies ruffles and flourishes can be accompanied by cannon salutes-the number dependent  on the rank of the person honored. At the Tomb of The Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery, 4 muffled ruffles and Taps are used as honors for ceremonies at the Tomb.

The US Army Table 2-1 of AR 600-25 governs the number of Ruffles and Flourishes and honors march due dignitaries.


“Army Field Manual FM 22-5”
“Regulations for the order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States” by Baron von Steuben (Steuben’s Revolutionary War Drill Manual)
“Complete Instructive Manual for the Bugle Trumpet and Drum” by V.F. Safranek (US Army Bandmaster)
1874 “US Army Tactics Manual” by General Emory Upton
Cavalry Drill Regulations US Army 1916

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