The Drum Major was a senior non-commissioned officer charged with the training, discipline and appearance of the regiment’s drummers and fifers. In addition to these duties, he also acted as the regiment’s postmaster, assisted with the issuing of the soldiers’ spirit rations, and managed the regiment’s animal mascot if one was kept.
Throughout the British Army, the badges of the drum major’s rank and office were the laced baldric worn over the shoulder, and the mace. The latter, like the regiment’s colours and drums, was considered a trophy of considerable value and importance.
Since he marched at the head of the regiment, the drum major was expected to be a model of deportment and present an immaculate turnout at all times. As a result, regiments often vied against each other to have the most impressively accoutered drum major, and lavished considerable sums of money on his clothing.
Drum major’s uniforms were loosely regulated, and as they were also purchased by the regiment’s colonel, varied considerably. Befitting his duties and importance, the drum major’s dress typically comprised of a mixture of officer’s, NCOs’ and drummer’s features, in addition to common badges of rank such as a sergeant’s sash and sword.
Both contemporary prints by Charles Hamilton Smith (c. 1812) and a self-portrait by Drum Major Buttrey of the 34th (Cumberland) Regiment (c. 1804) depict drum majors wearing long, officers’ style coats in the reversed colours typical of drummers’ uniforms. While Hamilton Smith’s figure wears a large bicorne hat, Buttrey’s portrait shows him wearing an elaborately laced ‘stovepipe’ shako.
Alternatively, there is also evidence to suggest some drum majors may have worn laced coatees similar to those worn by the drummers, albeit made of higher quality materials. A sketch of the 6th (Warwickshire) Regiment’s drum major (c. 1800) shows such a coat, while several contemporary depictions of the Foot Guards throughout the Napoleonic period also illustrate similar garments.