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In what was to be the last year of major conflict in the Revolutionary War, Henry Knox submitted this list, tallying numbers of musicians and instruments in the brigades under the immediate command of George Washington, to the Continental Board of War. The letter, and the enclosure, are now in the collection of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.
During the conflict, the army used fifes and drums not only to bolsterbattlefield morale, but also for communication and regimentation. Music,standardized for the army’s purposes by the drillmaster Baron Friedrich Von Steuben, served as signal in battle; the fife has a piercing sound that could carry above a fracas. Fife-and-drum signals also told soldiers in camp when to wake up, go fetch wood or provisions, or show up for church.