Morgan Brewster Was a Fifer in the Revolutionary War

I recently wrote about a drummer in the Revolutionary War – and today I am writing about a fifer.

An 1856 edition of the Maine Farmer remembered Morgan Brewster (1762-1856), a Revolutionary War veteran who died at age 93.

An obituary for Morgan Brewster, Maine Farmer newspaper article 13 March 1856
Source: GenealogyBank, Maine Farmer (Augusta, Maine), 13 March 1856, page 2

Fascinatingly, this article notes that Morgan enlisted as a fifer at the young age of 16:

“The few surviving heroes of that eventful period, the Revolution, are fast dropping off, and passing away. We are called upon this week to notice the death of Mr. Morgan Brewster, of Leeds, who died on the 13th ult., aged 93 years, 5 mos., and 19 days. Mr. B. was born in Rome, N.Y. He was a soldier in the Revolution, enlisting as a fifer, when he was but 16 years of age, and faithfully serving his time.”

I wanted to know more about the role of fifers in the military, so I ran a quick internet search.

Illustration: originally entitled “Yankee Doodle,” this is one of several versions of a scene painted by Archibald MacNeal Willard in the late nineteenth century that came to be known as “The Spirit of '76”
Illustration: originally entitled “Yankee Doodle,” this is one of several versions of a scene painted by Archibald MacNeal Willard in the late nineteenth century that came to be known as “The Spirit of ’76.” Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Wikipedia gave me the following information:

“A fifer is a non-combatant military occupation of a foot soldier who originally played the fife during combat. The practice was instituted during the period of Early Modern warfare to sound signals during changes in formation, such as the line, and were also members of the regiment’s military band during marches.

“These soldiers… were used to help infantry battalions to keep marching pace from the right of the formation in coordination with the drummers positioned at the centre, and relayed orders in the form of sequences of musical signals. The fife was particularly useful because of its high pitched sound, which could be heard over the sounds of battle.”

The Maine Farmer article also mentioned that after completing his military service, Morgan married in March 1785 [to Martha Stetson (1760-1838)], and moved to Leeds, Androscoggin County, Maine, where he lived the remaining 68 years of his life.

Morgan died and was buried in Leeds, Maine.

Photo: gravestone of Morgan Brewster, Additon Cemetery, Leeds, Androscoggin County, Maine
Photo: gravestone of Morgan Brewster, Additon Cemetery, Leeds, Androscoggin County, Maine. Source: Find a Grave.

Mayflower passenger William Brewster is Morgan’s 4th great-grandfather.

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6 thoughts on “Morgan Brewster Was a Fifer in the Revolutionary War

  1. Interesting article. I’m glad you mentioned that William Brewster was Morgan’s grandfather, because William Brewster is my grandfather also… 10th great.
    GenealogyBank is wonderful. I have solved many problems in my family tree through this site.
    Thank you!

  2. Wonderful article and chock-full of helpful tips. I enjoyed the information about the fife and drums. I visit Williamsburg, Virginia, often and truly enjoy watching the fife players and drummers on parade. These notes brought Mr. Brewster to life and I can visualize him now doing his part in battles. How brave he and others were!

    1. Thank you Sharon.
      I agree with you. I remember the first time I saw an endless parade of fife/drum units at the annual Patriots’ Day holiday in Concord, Massachusetts – commemorating the Battles of Lexington and Concord, the first battles of the American Revolution) – I decided that was the best parade ever.

      It is good that we remember our ancestors who did so much,
      Tom

  3. Thank you for the article about the fifer. I also had an ancestor who was a fifer. I also was a fifer in the 1970s in a Fife and Drum Corp in Chester, Connecticut. I learned many of the songs that had been played in battle and loved marching in parades around Connecticut almost every weekend in the summer. I still have my fife and play it occasionally.

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