The following is an essay from the 1st Wisconsin Brigade Band information site. Check it out!
In 1857, a group of citizens of Brodhead, Wisconsin, decided to form a brass band. They initially called themselves the Brodhead Tin Band, from the set of inexpensive tin instruments that they had purchased. Soon they purchased a set of brass instruments, however, and became known as the Brodhead Brass Band, or "B.B.B." Under that name, they performed at the debate between senatorial candidates Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas on August 27, 1858 at Freeport, Illinois.
During May and June 1861, the members of the band enlisted in the Union Army as the band of the 3rd Wisconsin Volunteer Regiment, commanded by Col. Charles Hamilton. The high spirits of the time inspired Edwin Oscar Kimberley, the band's leader, to write a song in praise of Col. Hamilton, "Hamilton's Badger Boys" (the song was later published in 1899). Despite this valiant beginning, the 3rd Regiment participated in the campaigns in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia during 1862, suffering from the hazards of battle and losing instruments during retreats. In July 1862, the government decided to reorganize music within the military and the regimental bands were mustered out. The 3rd Wisconsin Volunteers were discharged in July.
In early 1864, the citizens of Brodhead and other nearby towns raised the funds to enable the band to enlist again, as a brigade band associated with the 1st Brigade, 3rd Division, 15th Army Corps. This time, they bought top quality instruments produced by D. C. Hall of Boston and had proper uniforms made by the Smith and Bostwick Department Store Janesville. They also copied their music into the leather-bound partbooks of this collection, which contain about sixty tunes, including dances, songs, hymns, and marches.
By the end of August 1864, the band was looked upon as a credit to the brigade and their services were sought after. Kimberley wrote:
We continue to improve in playing slowly, and are looked upon as gentlemen and good musicians by the entire division! General Smith is trying to get us at his headquarters, he thinks all the world of us. I think if Brodhead could hear us play, or Janesville they would open their eyes.
(Edwin Oscar Kimberley, to his mother, undated letter in Wisconsin Historical Society)
After a furlough over Christmas of 1864, the band returned south and participated in Sherman's march through the Carolinas. During a brief respite in the action in April, Kimberley reported that the band had received attention from Gen. Sherman, himself:
Last night, according to previous notice, we repaired to Sherman's headquarters for a serenade. A new song, composed by prisoners [Lt. H. S. M. Byers of Iowa, who wrote the song while a prisoner of war in Charleston, S.C.] is in my possession, entitled When Sherman Marched Down to the Sea. After some rehearsing, I was the first one to sing it before our old hero, Billy T. [Sherman] and his entire staff, after which I sang another and rec'd a very high compliment from Sherman. After playing several pieces the crack band of the army made its appearance, namely the 33d Massachusetts and played several pieces. After all this we played another piece and returned to camp, assured we had done honor to ourselves at least. After getting in camp our Brigadier [Clark] came with a compliment from Sherman to our band, stating we were the model band of his entire army. This, said by a Gen'l of such wide world renown is certainly a big thing!-a great feather in our caps. The Massachusetts Band spoken of has always had the name of being the best band in Sherman's Army - pronounced by Sherman himself at Savannah. Not wishing to boast I will say of ourselves - we are not afraid of any Band in this Dept. of Tennessee or Georgia. During the campaign we done considerable playing and [were] spoken of very highly as good players and a band of gentlemen. We have strived to live up to and merit a continuance of that good name.
At the end of the war, the 1st Brigade Band participated in the Grand Review in Washington, D.C. on 8 June 1865 and, after a brief period in Kentucky, returned home. As a final hurrah, the band was invited to play at the homecoming celebration held by the town of Galena, Illinois, for General Ulysses S. Grant on August 18, 1865.
The band continued in existence with varying membership into the early twentieth century as the Brodhead Silver Cornet Band
About the collection
The musical legacy of the 1st Brigade Band consists of a set of twelve, leather-bound partbooks (although one of the twelve has lost its leather cover and some pages) and seven envelopes of other music manuscripts. The partbooks contain about 55 numbered selections and several unnumbered tunes. Most of the numbered tunes appear in all of the partbooks (although sometimes with variations in the numbering), but the unnumbered tunes generally appear in only a few of the partbooks. Usually the unnumbered tunes are fit into empty staves or pages among the numbered tunes, so it is possible that the other players had these added tunes on loose sheets that have been lost, or perhaps the musicians wanted the melody easily available. There are also instances where a number and title were entered at the top of a page, but no music was copied.
There are partbooks in the collection for the following instruments: 1st and 2nd E♭ cornet; 1st and 2nd B♭ cornet; solo alto E♭ horn; alto E♭ horn; 1st and 2nd B♭ tenor horn; 1st and 2nd B♭ bass horn; E♭ tuba; and drum/cymbals. A few partbooks are likely missing, since the band contained about sixteen members.
The music found in the folders is not present in the partbooks, with one exception (Col. White's quickstep). Several items consist of a signature of folded sheets with the music for that tune entered as single parts for the various instruments one after the other, and in some cases also containing a scored version of the piece. Because most band music was unpublished, especially as band arrangements, this type of item represents the way that band music circulated among bandleaders, who would then copy out the parts for their own band, or have the players copy out their parts, and then send the packet to the next person on the list.
This collection is housed in the Special Collections of Memorial Library at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.
About half of the pieces in this collection are identified as quicksteps. At the time of the Civil War, quickstep was a generic term applied t a broad class of duple meter (either 2/4 or 6/8) compositions and arrangements. They were what we would now call marches and their main purpose was to carry the band and troops along while marching. (At that time, marches were stately pieces (usually 4/4, or occasionally in 12/8, meter) meant for processions and ceremonial occasions.) Quicksteps were also commonly also used in concerts and serenades. Some tunes have "quickstep" as part of their titles and in some it was simply understood. The word was frequently abbreviated to QS or Q.S.
Because moving troops was the main duty of a Civil War band, their appetite for quicksteps was insatiable. There were eventually so many arrangements that frequently they were not given titles; just numbers in the band book (this was also common with waltzes and polkas). Tunes of all sorts (from hymn tunes to popular sentimental ballads to excerpts from European opera and concert music) were adapted to the quickstep idiom. In addition, quickstep medleys have five or six tunes strung together with little or no transitional material and the added tunes were virtually as popular as the first one. In this collection two good examples of quickstep medleys are "The Battle Cry of Freedom" (paired with "Kingdom Coming") and "Weeping Sad And Lonely (When This Cruel War Is Over)" (paired with "Hoist Up The Flag").
There are also several numbers either written or arranged by Claudio Grafulla, a prominent bandleader and composer of band music, including "Centennial quickstep," "Attila quickstep," and "Colonel White's quickstep."
As would be expected, there are patriotic tunes, including "The star spangled banner," "America," and "Hail Columbia." Several of the partbooks contain musical notations for various military purposes, such as reveille, tattoo, and cheers. Also present is an arrangement of "Dixie," by Dan Decatur Emmett, which was popular in the North as well as in the South, followed by "Ned Kendall's Favorite Reel".
The third group of musical material represents sacred music, including "Pleyel's hymn," "Notting Hill," and "Come, ye disconsolate," by Samuel Webbe. There are at least three different funeral marches.
The composers of almost all of these pieces are not identified in the partbooks themselves. Some have been identified by using various catalogs and reference sources, but it is likely that the unidentified tunes in this collection are unique. Since Kimberley is known to have composed, it is likely that some of the arrangements are by him.