18. The Continental soldier responded to the beat of a different drum
The soldiers of the Continental Army responded, on the march, in battle, and in camp, to signals made to the regiments by drums. Even the call for recruits in towns and villages was often preceded by a drummer to gain the attention of the residents. Drum calls beaten in camp were also used in battle, though with different meanings. A drum signal which in the field called for a parley with the enemy was used in camp as a call for church services, for example. Fatigue parties were called forth through a drum signal. The day began with the beating of reveille, calling forth the troops from their tents or huts, and ended with the tattoo, which directed the troops back in their tents, where unless they had duty they were to remain until morning, other than answering calls of nature.
There were specific drum calls telling the companies to gather firewood, to gather water, and to assemble for provisions, the latter being called roast beef by von Steuben, somewhat ironically since meat was frequently absent from the provisions. When meat was available it was often pickled in salt, either beef or pork, and in the summer months the heavily salted diet contributed to the considerable thirst the Continental soldier suffered on the march. Drinking on the march from one’s own canteen was not permitted except during rest breaks, which were also signified by drums. Troops who indulged in the habit of tobacco were allowed to consume the product either by smoking a pipe or chewing. Since matches had yet to be invented, pipe smoking on the march was rare.