The Top "MUST KNOW" Bugle Calls for an ACW Reenactor-Infantry

[I'll assume you know Taps; eat when you're hungry as opposed to by command, don't have formal flag ceremonies/retreats/tattoos; perform fatigue, sick calls, and guard mounts on an infrequent basis, and don't have an authentic skirmish company impression in your battalion.

We all know what ASSumptions are, so if you need help in these other areas I'm more than happy to work with you].

The DITTY appears right after the name of the call, so sing along with Mitch!


Assembly of the Buglers

Damn them stink-ing rot-ten li-ttle BUUU GLEEERS

(soldiers should start throwing shoes, tin cups, and loud epithets towards the bugler)

This is the Wake up Call and is the 'first call' of the day.

Later in the day, If you have a number of buglers in your battalion, it also could be a 'heads up' warning to you that further orders are coming. They don't just "assemble the buglers" for no good reason!



Put on your leathers and pick up your gun, now's not the time to be thinking of fun!

In camp: This is your warning call to be on deck to move at a moment's notice, 'couted up' with a full canteen and your 'personal needs' taken care of. A 5 – 10 minute warning until company street Assembly.

March: shoulder arms, dress ranks, and left foot (hay foot) striking on the cadence beat.

Restart a march: means form battle line. (wait for the Take Arms command!), and then wait for the command to form column of 4's in the direction of the march.

If you are in less than rigid attention order (Parade or In-Place Rest, disordered lines): it means "Attention! Battalion", eyes front, order arms.



We are the strongest men in the who-ole wide world! (add 3 lines about straightest shots, prettiest women, etc.)

In camp: Form battle line at the designated company area (most likely where you call roll) [and then Attention! Company!]

In Battle: Form battle line now, regroup

"Assemble On the Battalion" is the 1st and 4th lines of Assembly…..form up on your colors

or call in the skirmishers.



I can't get 'em up, I can't get 'em up…

The least understood, farbiest impression by reenactors of any American Civil War bugle signal, IMHO.

We don't even discuss reveille correctly, and I've yet to hear a correct first person discussion on it, ever.

This is NOT wake-up (that would be an Indian Wars Period 1867 or later impression).

When this call sounds you are buttoning clothes, putting on your cap, stretching, moaning, bellyaching and complaining about the weather, cold, lack of sleep, the stones under your gum blanket and SLOWLY shuffling to your Company assembly area. No weapons, no leathers. This is a Shirkers impression moment!

When the last note sounds, the First Sergeant calls the Company to Attention and the Morning Roll is called.

What the higher ups are looking for is a RIFLE count for the days battle.

Wake-up is not Reveille, rather, Reveille is Morning Roll Call.

[Retreat is Afternoon Roll, Tattoo is Evening Roll, and I'm still looking for my Tootsie Roll]


To the Colors

Red Whi-ite a-and Blue

This is equivalent to the Star Spangled Banner, only played on the bugle.

In camp: form the battalion on the color line, usually for action. Or Flag Raising at HQ (Salute!)

March: prepare for action, skirmishers forward, form battle line (listen hard for which company the battalion will form on).

Battle: Form/rally on the colors in battle line.

After a Battle: casualties, detached units, skirmishers, stragglers form up on the color line. Our Brigade used this in the cornfield at Antietam 135 to round up over 500 rifles….


Rally upon the Battalion

They whipped our butts (x2) It's time to get back out of there.

Skeedaddle back and reform. Usually used for skirmishers, but this sweetly played melodic line was heard often on ACW battlefields as a rallying cry for hard-pressed soldiers. Fall Back! Keep

Coming! Fall Back!


Forward, march

Swing your legs, Swing your legs, swing your little leggies

This is the command to march. Start out on your left foot, and stop bending your knees so much when you march….they ran differently back then and they marched differently as well….see your manuals.



Tuck-a Tut! Tuck-a Tut!

You've got two beats to align yourself and come to a halt. The more you fidget on the alignment, the more the column 'accordions'. Your one inch adjustment becomes YARDS at the end of a battalion.


Cease Fire

Cease Fire! Cease Fire! Cease Fire! Cease Fire!

Stop firing and admonish others to do the same…..this is of prime safety concern.


In Retreat

Fight your way Back, Fight your way Back, keep up the fi-re but don't turn your back.

Retire in battle line, loading as quick as you can, and firing on your Captain's command.

Hancock had his troops retreat for 30 minutes, doing an about face and firing volleys every 30 seconds and then continuing the retreat to slow down the CSA pursuit on July 2, 1863.



The Cha-rge The Cha-rge For-ward! we go to win the battle boldly

The cha-rge, the cha-rge let's sally forth to win the fight to-day!

Let's charge across the breastworks boys, across the field to glor-y!

for God and Country, Fight! My lads and and be victorious my boys

The Cha-rge The Cha-rge now here we go to win the battle boldly

The cha-rge, the cha-rge let's sally forth to win the fight to-day!

(Many other words to this battle of course you yelled and went in with the bayonet....)

Stay in formation!


Church Call

Come to the church and say your Prayers! Time for Church

Come and pray, come and pray

come to the church NOWWWWWW

This is the parley/truce call. And a convenient signal to return hits from the battlefield to their units.

Don't forget a Cease Fire call prior to this or no foe will want to parley/have a truce with you.

Not used enough in reenacting (used at 9AM Sunday only is the norm).



Come back here now, come back here now…

Dismissal from activities/drill, return from detached duty, come back from the sutlers/adjacent camps, end of fatigue duties. Another one of those underutilized (per Civil War usage levels) calls in reenacting…..this was played a minimum of 4 times a day while in camp. This call from HQ while you are drilling in the morning means to bring the troops back in for Dinner, and stop chopping firewood or building a road.

(need to be memorized by a select few…)



Orders for Orderly Sergeants *** This is a herky jerky rhythm ***

Call for the Sarge, Call for the Sergeants , Orders! At the Double Quick

[they are, calling all the clowns]

Call for the Sarge, call for the Sergeants, look at them run!

Turn in your roll call reports to the adjutant, who in turn compiles the returns for the morning roll and beats time up to the Brigade and/or Division HQ's….



Officers' Call They're the biggest brASSes in dear Mr. Lincoln's Arrr Mee

{They're the sharpest dressers in...]

eatin' all the sutler's food while hiding behind the lines!

Meeting with the CO….make haste!

Officer's to take their place in line after firing (form up)

Officer's get back in LINE!