The Miles Standish Wooden Bugle
When Miles Standish came to Plymouth in the Mayflower, he brought with him a queer wooden bugle that had been made for him many years before by a friend in England.
Many years ago this cartoon was clipped out and sent to me by a good friend Edie. She knew of my love of bugles and bugle history and I got a chuckle when I saw it. A Pilgrim blowing a horn frightening the Native -Americans. Filed away for many years it sparked my memory when I came across a reference to a wooden bugle carried by Miles Standish and then the discovery of a photo post card which I purchased.
“When Miles Standish came to Plymouth in the Mayflower, he brought with him a queer wooden bugle that had been made for him many years before by a friend in England. This bugle was about three feet long, and was made of two sections of cedar wood that had been hollowed out and glued together. It was about three inches in diameter at its base, and at the other end tapered almost to point. Around it, and holding the two parts together, were ten crude rings made from sections of animal horn. When Miles Standish went out to fight with the Indians in the New World, he is said to have carried the bugle with him, perhaps to frighten the savages. An old diary tells other stories of the Standish bugle. One story tells that it was carried more than a century later at the Boston Tea-Party, where its owner stood ready to use it to signal the “Indians” should they be discovered. It is said to have followed the Colonial troops into the battles of Lexington and Bunker Hill. At Bunker Hill a musket ball from a British gun struck it and a portion of its end was torn away. Years later in 1781, when Cornwallis surrendered to George Washington at Yorktown, the old bugle was again present. Its still clear call was a symbol to the American troops of the liberty which would soon be theirs.”
From “HISTORY SINGS: Backgrounds of American Music” by Hazel Gertrude Kinsella
Published in 1957 by The University Publishing Company. Lincoln, Kansas City, New York, Pasadena
Below is R.M Bever of Hillsboro, Indiana holding the Miles Standish Bugle.
The photo appears to have been taken in the first two decades of the 20th Century.
I grew up with this story about the bugle:
While we called it a bugle, it actually was a foghorn, specifically the foghorn from the Mayflower. It was handed down in my mother’s family; one of her ancestors carried it in the Battle of Bunker Hill, during which the brass ring that had encircled the larger end was shot off. When the family moved west, to Kentucky, Ohio, and then Indiana, the bugle went with them. It began splitting, since it lacked the brass ring to hold it together, and thus rings of buffalo horn were placed around it instead.
All that is very distant hearsay (though the horn rings and the trace of a ring that had been at the larger end are real).
A more recent story about it: my mother (Kathryn Boord South) told me that her grandfather, Robert Mannon Bever (the fellow with the beard; 1854-1927) used to soak the bugle in a horse trough and play it at Old Settlers meetings in Fountain County, Indiana.
My grandmother, Lena Bever Boord, acquired the bugle from her brother Truman Bever, and then it came down to Mother and, since 2005, me.
The bugle was such a sacred object that I did not question its history until well into adulthood. At one point, I did research 17th century foghorns and concluded that it might indeed be a foghorn, though why would the Mayflower, which was sailing back to England, leave a foghorn with its passengers? I also started wondering about the Mayflower connection to my family; I knew that the connection had never been proven, but, given the amazing records available now, I thought perhaps I could make some progress. At that point, unfortunately, Mother could not even remember who the Mayflower descendent was supposed to have been.
I continue to poke at that but with no luck so far. What I have been able to figure out is not encouraging.
The earliest mention I have been able to find about the bugle is attributed to Margaret Zumwalt Bever (Robert Mannon Bever’s great-grandmother), who is said to have acquired it as a young girl, so I have been looking at that side of the family for bugle history.
The Bever family (originally Bieber) came to PA from Germany in the 1720s; they moved to VA and then further west to KY. There Michael Bever (1775-1844, son of Matthias Bever and Nancy Ann Coon) married Margaret Zumwalt (1776-1871). She was the daughter of Johann George Zumwalt, whose father had also migrated from Germany to PA, in the 1730s, and Maria Kale/Kole.
As best I have been able to determine, Coon began as Kuhn, and Nancy Ann was probably the second generation to be in the US. Maria Kale/Kole was also, at a guess, of German descent; haven’t been able to trace her. That doesn’t mean there mightn’t have been a spouse or other connection from New England, but it seems unlikely.
Also, while Johann George Zumwalt did fight in the Revolution, that was in the VA militia and then in George Rogers Clark’s militia, in KY. It is hard to imagine that he was at the Battle of Bunker Hill, as I would assume from the family legend. (The legend does not, however, specify who was carrying the bugle; perhaps it was not actually a Zumwalt?)
I am attaching an article I expect you have also run across that presents an even more elaborate version of the legend. I am also attaching a not-great photograph of the bugle itself. Mother had hung it over the dining room table by her paternal grandfather’s Civil War saber sash. When time and gravity took its toll on the knitted silk sash, she encased it in the pink satin you see in the photograph; the tassels are those of the sash.
In trying to understand the bugle, I have been focused on trying to validate the family legends, with little success. It would be interesting to have another perspective on it.