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Collection Band Music from the Civil War Era

About this Collection

On September 27, 1974, the Music Division of the Library of Congress re-created a typical concert of brass band and vocal music from mid-nineteenth-century America. That concert has become the starting-point for Band Music from the Civil War Era, an online collection that brings together musical scores, recordings, photographs, and essays documenting an important but insufficiently explored part of the American musical past.

The cornets and saxhorns that made up the all-brass bands of the 1850s remained a popular, though decreasingly prominent, feature of American wind bands through the nineteenth century. Bands of this kind served in the armies of both the North and the South during the Civil War, in the field as well as for the entertainment of the officers. Most of the sheet music used by these brass bands, which typically existed only in "part books" for individual instruments, has long been lost. This online collection presents several of the surviving examples of this music (both printed and manuscript) from the collections of the Music Division of the Library of Congress. Also included are the Manchester Cornet Band Books from the Walter Dignam Collection of the Manchester Historic Association External (Manchester, New Hampshire). The part books are presented both in their original order and grouped by song title. Several of the compositions from these part books are also presented in full-score modern editions created especially for this online collection.

In addition to the musical scores and parts, Band Music from the Civil War Era includes a gallery of photographs and drawings selected from several Library of Congress collections. These illustrations capture the nature of life in the Civil War's military bands and help explain the variety of the band books in this collection, which feature music that ranges from quick marches for six instruments to epic sets of waltzes for full bands.

Band Music from the Civil War Era also presents the original recordings and notes from the 1974 concert at the Library. In addition, Music Division chief Jon Newsom's essay "The American Brass Band Movement: A Historical Overview," which synthesizes two works Mr. Newsom wrote in 1974 in conjunction with the Library's concert, details the rise of marching and concert bands during the Civil War era. "About the Instruments" complements the essay with a discussion of the band instrumentation used in the re-creation concert, which reflected the more elaborate regimental bands of the Civil War.

Band Music from the Civil War Era is an unusual Music Division online collection in that it is not based on a permanent collection within the division but has instead been created solely for presentation online. The Music Division is pleased to present such a wealth of material delving into a period of American musical history that is as complex as it is fascinating.

Collections of Band Music in Band Music from the Civil War Era

A. Printed Music

  • Brass Band Journal. New York: Firth, Pond, and Co., 1853-54. Part books.
  • Dodworth's Brass Band School. New York: H. B. Dodworth & Co., 1853. Part Books.
  • Eaton's Series of National and Popular Songs, by E. K. Eaton. Boston: Henry Tolman, 1853. Part Books.
  • Military Band Music. New York: John F. Statton, 1866-70. Full score.
  • Peter's Saxhorn Journal. Cincinnati: Peters, 1859. Part books.
  • Squire's Cornet Band Olio No. 2. Cincinnati: A. Squire, 1872. Part Books.
  • Twelve Pieces of Harmony for Military Brass Bands, by E. K. Eaton. New York: Firth, Hall & Pond, 1846. Part Books.

B. Manuscripts

[Manchester Cornet Band Books]. Manuscript band books of the Manchester Cornet Band (founded 1854), from the Walter Dignam Collection at the Manchester Historic Association, Manchester, N. H. Microfilm used with permission of the Manchester Historic Association.

[Port Royal Band Books]. Manuscript band books of the Third New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry, first set, no. 48, in the Music Division, Library of Congress. These are frequently referred to as the "Port Royal Band Books" because it was on Port Royal Island, S.C., that the band, under the leadership of Gustavus Ingalls, spent the greater part of the Civil War.