View Full Version : 1654 Will of trumpeter

06-12-2004, 6:39 PM
An inventory of documents held in Dublin (before so many were destroyed) includes a listing for the 1654 original will of a man described as "trumpeter, Kells garrison." I'm assuming that he would have been part of Cromwell's army. Am I safe there?
My ignorance about the English Civil War is staggering, so I hope that someone here can help me interpret this. For starters, I'd never thought of Cromwell having trumpeters. Were trumpeters common in armies then? Did they hold any rank? Would they have been paid enough to have to be bothering about making wills? If trumpeters weren't of the class of society who usually made wills, might this chap have been making a bequest of some of the rights to land with which Cromwell's soldiers were paid? Does the date fit?

Terry Waters-Marsh
06-12-2004, 8:35 PM

Before the invention of radio, commanding officiers (especially in the cavalry) relied upon trumpeter calls to direct the troops. Imagine for a moment the noise of a 17th century battle - the shouting of men, screams of the wounded, horses clattering around, cannons going off. About the only way you are going to "broadcast" a command to troops some distance away from you was with messengers and trumpet calls. I believe the use of trumpets and horns for this purpose stretch back to the ancient Persians and Egyptians. Trumpeters rarely rose above corporal in the army, occassionaly to sargent. I have trumpeters in my ancestors as last as the 1830's and I suspect they were around until at least the 1900s.

As to why your man had a will, I am afraid I am not qualified to suggest a reason.

07-12-2004, 8:05 AM
Thanks for your reply, Terry.
I've reached a few tentative conclusions, and would appreciate comments. All references I can find to Civil War trumpeters are to cavalry only. Cromwell's cavalry was barracked in the church (or abbey?) at Kells in 1654. So the man who made the will was in Cromwell's cavalry.
In Civil War accounts I find, the terms trumpeter and herald are often used interchangeably. Trumpeters were sent to issue challenges, discuss prisoners, deliver terms of surrender, or carry other messages. Might they have received rewards for such services, as I believe medieval heralds did? I begin to think that a trumpeter leaving a will may not have been anomalous, as I'd imagined.

Peter Goodey
07-12-2004, 8:55 AM
It's not unknown for soldiers to write their wills on the eve of a major battle whether or not they have two ha'pennies to rub together. Rationality rather goes out of the window on such occasions. The problem there is that I don't think there were any major battles in Ireland around that time!

Don't forget that the stroppier troops - those where the ideas of the Levellers were strongiest - tended to be the ones who were sent to Ireland (to get them out of the way). The political power of the Levellers had been pretty conclusively broken by that time - Burford was five years earlier - but the ideas hadn't been destroyed. Could there have been an outburst of political activity among those troops? Did the trumpeter fear retribution?

That's probably a fanciful thought - perhaps he was just ill!

07-12-2004, 10:21 AM
During the Civil War a troop of horse should have had the following establishment
Captain (could also hold a regimental rank i.e. Colonel, Lieutenant Colonel or Mayor)
3 Corporals
2 Trumpeters
c. 60 troopers

A trumpeter's pay was usually the same as a corporals. In the Parliamentarian army in 1642 this was set at 3 shillings a day while a trooper would be paid 2 shillings 6 pence.
John Vernon who served as an officer for the Parliament published a cavalry manual in 1644 ("The Young Horseman, or The honest plain-dealing Cavalier") which described the duties of a trumpeter as follows
"The Trumpeters which are usuall too belonging unto a Troop of horse, ought to be men of a pregnant wit and very indusrious, fit to deliver Embassages when they are sent, they are to observe if they can have so much liberty the enemies workes and guards, and what they can further gather or espy in the enemies quarters, and so report it unto his commander in chiefe; hu must precisely at the time appointed him by his superiour, sound the Boutezselle, that is clap on your saddles, the next is the Chevall, that is mount on horseback, the next sound of the Trumpet is the standard, that is repaire to your standard, therfore it is requisite that the Troop be distinctly taught to know the severall sounds of the trumpet, as when to saddle, when to mount, when to repaire to their standard; when to troop on, when to give the charge, when to retreat, when to attend the watch, and the like. All which they must punctually obey, as being the louder voice of the Commander, the Trumpeter must alwaies have his Trumpet with him, because its being the more ready to sound an Alarme when occasion shall require the same."
Trumpeter were still to some extent considered the personal servants of their captains and as such were oftan quite lavishly dressed at the captain's expence. For example Captain Thomas Noakes raising a troop in London in 1644 paid 10 pounds 11 shillings for suits and cloaks for his trumpeters another 18 shillings for hats and bands, 4 pounds 10 shillings for two trumpets and 7 ponds 3 shillings for trumpet banners and cording.

08-12-2004, 3:14 AM
Peter Goodey writes: Could there have been an outburst of political activity among those troops? Did the trumpeter fear retribution? That's probably a fanciful thought - perhaps he was just ill!

I like fanciful thoughts; I have them all the time. Retribution? Suggesting that the trumpeter was a ringleader? (Oops. I already have 3 colonial New York ancestors convicted in 1677 of "rebellious and mutinous riot" against the British. <G>) Or an anti-Leveller fearing the troops? His descendants (if he was my ancestor) weren't much for levelling, being part of the "Ascendency." I had figured that he was "weak in body," not knowing of any battles that were looming. For that matter, I don't know if the Will was executed in 1654, or probated then, or both.

08-12-2004, 3:32 AM
Thank you very much, Ivor! It says "1 post." I'm certainly glad you chose this thread to begin!

If a trumpeter's pay was usually the same as a corporal's, would that make him a non-com? If so, would that place him among the indexed few (officers) or among the unindexed masses (Other ranks) in the records? Might he be found in E.Peacock's book "The Army List of Roundheads and Cavaliers" mentioned in another thread? (Not that we have it in the Miami library. <g>) Warrants for commissions would be no help, as he wouldn't have had one, right?

08-12-2004, 8:10 AM
The trumpeters position was in a bit of a flux at this time. Previously he had been regarded as a servant of the captain who paid and equiped him personaly, by the 17th century his wages (when paid!) were met by the state but his commanding officer still tended to pay for his equipment although that too was starting to change. They do not seem to have had any command function but were normally paid with the NCO's and other specialists. I'm afraid he would not appear in Peacock as that only lists ranks down to Quarter Master. You are correct that he would not have a Commission as such although I do have a copy of a written agreement of service for a trumpeter of the Earl of Denbigh in 1643. To locate him in a muster list if one survives you would need to know at least the name of his Captain. I have so far been unable to identify the garrison of Kells from my own resources, but I will keep my eyes open for you.