CIVIL WAR BANDS
By Robert Garofalo and Mark Elrod
The following has been reproduced from the liner notes written by Robert Garofalo and Mark Elrod for Civil War Military Music, a recording of period brass band music performed by the Heritage Americana Brass Band (Robert Garofalo, conductor) and the Fife & Drums of Musick Virginia (George Carroll, director). The recording features 22 musical selections from Union and Confederate bandbooks, including quickstep medleys, marches, patriotic airs, ballads, and polkas, and can be obtained by writing to Pictorial Histories Publishing Company, 713 South Third West, Missoula, MT 59801 or calling (406) 549-8488.
Regimental bands of the Confederate and Union armies served their units in many ways. They were highly effective in attracting new recruits, and morale boosters of the first magnitude -- playing lively marches and quicksteps to lift the spirits of war-weary soldiers on the march, and to inspire them just before and sometimes during battle. The military bandsmen also served as medics or corpsmen, assisting surgeons in field hospitals, and helping to evacuate wounded soldiers or to bury the dead.
When soldiers were encamped for long periods of time, they were entertained regularly with concerts and serenades by the band. At these performances, musicians demonstrated their musical and technical skill by playing their most difficult pieces -- usually operatic selections arranged by eminent bandleaders. Sometimes the two armies were so close that a band could be heard in the opponent's camp.
During the 1840s and 1850s many town bands had attached themselves to the local militia, wearing their uniforms and participating in annual or semi-annual musters. Their participation was highly valued because bands were so helpful in recruiting civilian soldiers. When hostilities broke out in April 1861, both sides were busy organizing volunteer units and the militia bands were in such demand that many commanding officers paid large sums of money to procure a good one for their regiment. Many bands enlisted as a complete unit.
Prior to the Civil War, U.S. Army regulations (also used by the Confederate States Army) authorized each regiment to enlist up to 16 men to serve as musicians. Photographs and muster roles show that bands varied from 6-24, with an average of 12-16 musicians.
Most bands used only brass and percussion instruments, although occasionally they might have one or more woodwinds. Instrumentation varied widely according to the deprivations of war; but a typical arrangement had 1st and 2nd parts for E-flat cornet, B-flat cornet, E-flat alto, and B-flat tenor; single parts for B-flat baritone, B-flat bass, E-flat bass; side and bass drum, plus cymbals if available.
Bands used several types of brass instruments -- upright, bell-front, circular, and over-the-shoulder (the latter configuration was designed so that the troops marching behind the bands could hear the music). The drums had rope tension devices.
Civil War band music may be divided broadly into three categories: martial (marches, quicksteps, patriotic airs), dance (polkas, waltzes, schottisches, gallops), and popular (sentimental ballads, operatic airs). The music is filled with emotion, spirit, and charm. The actual music used by approximately a dozen Civil War bands has survived and is now in public and private collections. Notes on four of the bands whose music is featured on [Civil War Military Music] appear below.
26th Regimental Band, North Carolina Troops, CSAThe bandsmen of the 26th North Carolina Regiment enlisted in the Confederate States Army in March of 1862 and served until 1865. Prior to the war, these Moravian musicians had been members of the Salem Brass Band. Although small, the 26th North Carolina Band was considered one of the best bands in the Confederate Army. General Robert E. Lee and Colonel Zebulon Vance, Commander of the 26th Regiment (later Governor of North Carolina), praised the band for its excellent music. The 26th North Carolina Band is the only Confederate band whose bandbooks have survived. Although some of their instruments were confiscated when the band was captured late in the war, the music stayed with the players and was taken back to Salem after their parole.
25th Massachusetts Regiment BandLittle is known about this volunteer infantry band or its leader, William E. Gilmore. Regimental histories list the names of the musicians who played in the band, but little else is given. The 25th Massachusetts Regiment was organized in the fall of 1861 and subsequently served under General [Ambrose] Burnside in North Carolina. There are more than seventy selections contained in the part-books used by this band -- quicksteps, marches, waltzes, polkas, operatic selections, and several arrangements of patriotic airs and Irish jigs. Except for a few selections which bear the name of the band's leader, most of the pieces give no indication as to who arranged or composed the music.
Port Royal Band, 3rd New Hampshire Infantry RegimentOn July 31, 1861, Governor Berry of New Hampshire directed Gustavus W. Ingalls to "enlist twenty-four men as musicians" to be mustered into the service of the United States. Ingalls organized a band at Concorde, and it was assigned to the 3rd New Hampshire Infantry. Although a field band of the volunteer army, it spent most of its one-year enlistment as a post band at Port Royal, Hilton Head, South Carolina. According to the regiment's historian: "The band was in demand for funerals and evening serenades. Its music drew tears and cheers. 'Twas [an] inspiration to all who stepped to its music, whether at dress parade or on the march." After regimental bands were mustered out in 1862, Ingalls and several former members of the 3rd New Hampshire band returned to Port Royal, where they formed the nucleus of the 2nd Brigade Band, 10th Army Corps.
1st Brigade Band, 3rd Division, 15th Army CorpsPrior to the Civil War, this band had been known as the Brodhead (Wisconsin) Silver Cornet Band. Oscar C. Kimberly, a versatile musician, organized the band in 1857. He also led the band during the Civil War after it was mustered into the Union Army in July of 1861. Following military training, the band went into camp with the 3rd Wisconsin Infantry Regiment on the Maryland Heights opposite Harper's Ferry, West Virginia. Approximately a year later the band was discharged from service along with other regimental bands of the Union Army. After a period of reorganization, the band reenlisted in 1863 and became the 1st Brigade Band of the 3rd Division, 15th Army Corps. To prepare for its assignment, the band purchased a set of silver over-the-shoulder instruments and new uniforms. Fully equipped, well drilled, and in good practice, the band reported to Hunstville, Alabama, for duty. Later in the war the band served with General Sherman during his famous march to the sea. At the end of the Civil War, the 1st Brigade Band participated in the Great Review down Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, DC, on May 25, 1865.
For more information on period brass bands and instrumentation, this site recommends Garofalo and Elrod'sA Pictorial History of Civil War Era Musical Instruments and Military Bands. This comprehensive volume contains approximately 240 photographs and illustrations (lithographs, prints, paintings, and sheet music covers). Most of the photographs have never been published before; nearly half are of musical instruments made in America between 1840 and 1870. More than 40 early instrument makers are represented. A "must-have" book for anyone interested in the military music of the War Between the States and the men who played it.
8-1/2x11, 116 pages, 240 photographs, full-color cover, softbound
Pictorial Histories Publishing Company
713 South Third West
Missoula, MT 59801