Thomas Shaw - Bugles

Thomas Shaw

Thomas was born April 23, 1842 in Newcastle on Tyre, England. He came to Michigan ,and when hostilities between the states developed he volunteered for the cavalry. He was the Chief Bugler for the 6th MI Cavalry.

He was the third husband of Josephine Gore. Her second husband had also served in the 6th MI Cavalry.

Since I have only the regiment’s service to go by, and I have discussed those events in the stories of other soldiers, in honor of Thomas Shaw, I have decided to discuss the duties of a cavalry bugler. Modern soldiers now are almost all in constant contact with each other by radio and EPLRS. It is interesting to review how it was done in the old days.

First, a little about the use of music in the military. A bugle call is a short tune, originating as a military signal announcing scheduled and certain non-scheduled events on a military installation, battlefield, or ship. Historically, bugles, drums, and other loud musical instruments were used for clear communication in the noise and confusion of a battlefield. Naval bugle calls were also used to command the crew of many warships (signaling between ships being by way of signal flags.)

Bugle calls typically indicated the change in daily routines of camp. Every duty around camp had its own bugle call, and since cavalry had horses to look after, they heard twice as many signals as regular infantry. "Boots and Saddles" was the most imperative of these signals and could be sounded without warning at any time of day or night, signaling the men to equip themselves and their mounts immediately. Bugle calls also relayed commanders' orders on the battlefield, signaling the troops to Go Forward, To the Left, To the Right, About, Rally on the Chief, Trot, Gallop, Rise up, Lay down, Commence Firing, Cease Firing, Disperse, and other specific actions

Buglers were indispensable to the cavalry. Bugle calls were used in nearly every aspect of the horseman’s life – to mount, to dismount, to charge, to gallop, to signal time to go to the stables or to church and much more.  Luciack  Truscott, author of The Twilight of the Cavalry, writes that the bugler ruled our lives with the clear notes which penetrated every corner of the camp.” A bugler had to translate a commander’s orders into music for hundreds to hear and obey.  There was no room for mistakes or stage fright.
Buglers used a handbook titled Cavalry Drill Regulations in case they weren’t sure of a regulation or notes for a bugle tune.  This handbook lists 102 different bugle tunes and each has a corresponding number.  A few of these are: #3 To horse, #5 Assembly, #22 Reveille, #33 Charge, #26 Taps and #31 Attention.

When the cavalry was in the field, bugle calls could only be used by units smaller than a regiment so they would not convey information of value to the enemy.

Buglers were also essential when there was no other way to communicate.  If a group of soldiers was too big to hear a voice command or see a hand signal, then the bugle was the only way to communicate.  This was true even on a daily basis, for there were no bells, no PA systems, no telephone calls and no radio messages.

A bugler’s role carried tremendous responsibilities.  In addition to knowledge of the bugle and its calls, a bugler also had duties of a regular soldier.  It was hard blowing a bugle, riding a horse and staying alive at the same time.

Compiled by L. Kimmel 3rd cousin 3X removed of Mr.  Shaw’s wife, Josephine Ludlow-Gore, 23May2011

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