A Wisconsin band in the Civil War: 1st Brigade Band of Brodhead

When the Civil War started, the two sides suddenly required armies, and army regiments needed bands. I have already written about the 26th North Carolina Regiment Band, which grew out of one of the oldest musical institutions in the country. Brodhead, Wisconsin had existed less than a decade before its band joined the war effort. The 1st Brigade Band, as it eventually became known, got off to a rocky start, but earned an excellent reputation by the end of the war. The rapid growth of towns like Brodhead In the decade before the Civil War, railroads spread across the country, … Continue reading

George Frederick Root’s Civil War Songs

Chicago was the musical capital of the North when it came to production of great Civil War songs. The firm of Root & Cady employed two composers (the founder’s younger brother George Frederick Root and Henry Clay Work). Between the two of them, they composed all of the best-selling songs in the firm’s catalog and probably more big hits than any other Northern composer. George Frederick Root was born in 1820 in Sheffield, Massachusetts to a musical family. He studied piano with George J. Webb and, in 1845, moved to New York to establish a career as church organist and … Continue reading

God Save the South: an update on Confederate music

MRP4SNZYDHBB The Library of Congress Civil War Sheet Music Collection has five different items called “God Save the South!” These are attributed to three different composers. Not all of them name the author of the words. I have searched the collection by the keyword “Confederate,” obtaining a list of 493 items sorted by title. As it is impossible to resort that list, I have been working on a spreadsheet that I can sort in whatever ways are necessary. I am at the step of determining whether items with the same titles represent the same music or not. This post is … Continue reading

Theodore von La Hache: a leading composer of Confederate songs

I had never heard of Theodore von La Hache until recently, but he is a fascinating figure in American musical history who deserves to be better known. One of the many German musicians who moved to the United States, he settled in New Orleans in about 1842. There he served as organist and choirmaster at St. Theresa of Avila Church, co-founded the New Orleans Philharmonic Society, and composed prolifically. During the Civil War, La Hache wrote his Missa Pro Pache (op. 644) in response to its horrors. He also wrote many songs and piano pieces related to the war. Having … Continue reading

Reprise: five early posts

I started this blog more than two years ago. Since then, I have learned a lot about blogging and what kinds of articles work best. Several of my early posts are way too short to deserve any attention, but I think you’ll still enjoy several of them. Here is a batch: In preparation of my latest book on the history of the trombone, I had to look at a lot of the Times of London. Before the book appeared, I posted some interesting selections verbatim. I did not use all of the quoted material in my book, so people who … Continue reading

Edward Mack, prolific composer of Civil War marches

Of the 412 marches related to the Civil War in the Library of Congress Civil War Sheet Music Collection, 26 are by E. Mack. I never suspected that 6% of the collection would be written by someone I had never heard of. I was not surprised to see so many unfamiliar names among march composers, but I never thought the composer of the most marches would be such a cipher, and I never thought one man would write more than twice as much as second most prolific composer. George Root’s 12 contributions (mostly arrangements and not original compositions) include three … Continue reading

The quest for a national anthem: Civil War edition

The Star Spangled Banner became the legal national anthem of the United States in 1931, the first time any song received that designation. That doesn’t mean no one perceived a need for a national anthem any earlier. In the early days of the Civil War, people attending rallies on the northern side sang two other songs besides The Star Spangled Banner: Yankee Doodle and Hail, Columbia. My Country ‘Tis of Thee dates from 1831, but apparently it was not as popular as the others.The other three were all good, emotional rallying cries, but more and more people were beginning to … Continue reading

Henry Clay Work’s Civil War Songs

The son of an ardent abolitionist, Henry Clay Work was born in Connecticut in 1832. He trained as a printer and started a career setting musical type. Along the way, he taught himself music. By 1853, he had moved to Chicago and started writing his own songs. His first publication, “We Are Coming, Sister Mary,” became nationally famous after the Christy Minstrels started performing it regularly. After a fatal shipwreck on Lake Michigan, Work wrote the music to “Lost on the Lady Elgin,” and even that song was published in New York as well as Chicago. Not long after the … Continue reading

Root & Cady: leading publisher of Civil War songs

Soon after Ebenezer T. Root and Chauncey M. Cady founded their music store and publishing house (Chicago, 1858), they became the city’s leading music dealer. Content at first to be, like other Chicago music companies, a general music dealer and publisher of songs for the local market, the partners could not have imagined that they would be best remembered for the songs they sold nationwide during the Civil War. During that time, most American music publishers catered to the local market. They made no particular attempt to promote their songs; the songwriters themselves did that. In fact, publishing was usually … Continue reading

The Salem Band at war: 26th North Carolina Regiment Band

Upon the firing on Fort Sumter, armies on both sides of the Civil War began to gear up for a fight. In the North, at least, the announcement that some famous band would be attached to a particular regiment aided recruitment. The South, too, had its famous bands, including one in Salem, North Carolina, which eventually became attached to the 26th North Carolina Regiment. The Salem Band, which still exists in what has become Winston-Salem, is one of the oldest musical institutions in the country. It began as a quartet of trombones in that Moravian settlement in 1771. It expanded … Continue reading