A fife is a small flute. This long wooden fife belonged to William M. Ball, a private in the Union Army. Field music played a key role on both sides of the war. Musicians played fifes, drums, and bugles. The armies had many uses for music. They played during ceremonies, to entertain the troops, to make announcements, and on the battlefield. Music was used during battle to tell troops when to march, charge, halt, or retreat.