To celebrate Twilight Tattoo on Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, the Pentagram is taking a look “behind the scenes” at elements of the Army's most popular outdoor ceremonial pageant.
What is the significance of The Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps uniforms and where do the Soldiers get their uniforms?
The 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), is the oldest active infantry regiment with direct lineage to George Washington's original Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. The Old Guard wears uniforms patterned after the Soldiers of 1784. They resemble the continental musicians' uniforms, and they are different than the continental Soldiers' uniforms.
“When you see the Fife and Drum Corps marching smartly by, you are struck that they are wearing red coats like the British Army,” said Kim Holien, JBM-HH historian. Holien explained how during the Revolutionary War, the fifers and drummers wore the opposite colors of the regiment to which they were a part.
“Since the Fife and Drum [Corps] wear red coats with blue facings (facings are the elongated lapels that stretch from the collar all the way down the front of the coat), the regiment to which they were attached were wearing blue coats with red facings. By wearing the reversed colors, the fifers and drummers would hopefully not be deliberately shot by the opposing side since they were in effect unarmed and during the battle would often act as medical personnel to take care of the wounded,” said Holien.
“Many Revolutionary War battles were fought at a very close range-since the vast majority of Soldiers used smooth bore Brown Bess muskets whose accuracy was such that they could not hit the broad side of a barn door standing next to it,” he added. Holien said it was hoped the opposing Soldier would not shoot the fifers and drummers for that reason.
The military musician of that time was the signal on the battlefield. When the commander wanted to communicate and give an order to part of his command that was all the way across the field, he grabbed one of the musicians to give the signal to do whatever he wanted. Because there's a lot of confusion on the battlefield, in order to grab the musician quickly, they identified him with a different colored coat.
“Fife and Drum Corps members get their custom uniforms here,” said Anthony Williams of the JBM-HH Central Issue Facility. “The [wool] uniforms are custom ordered and include the tricorn [hat], shirt, pants, greatcoat, waistcoat [vest], sash, shoes epaulettes and white wig.” Williams said the CIF also issues the Continental Color Guard uniform. “These Old Guard uniforms were supplied by a vendor from West Point, N.Y., until they closed. We were able to find a vendor at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., so we could continue supplying these historical uniforms.”