The following article is an abstract taken from the book THE HISTORY OF THE MARCH by Dr. Karl Koenig. Dr. Karl Koenig, PH.D, a member of Walden University's first graduating class, is a musician, a jazz historian, and the founder of Basin Street Press (, which publishes musical arrangements and books about jazz. He is also a member of the Lake Arrowhead Early Jazz Band, based in Running Springs, California. In the 1970's he was a member of the United States Air Force band and played piano and accordion. He has written several books relating to early band music in America and has also compiled a book with over sixty patriotic songs. He is a well known authority on the history of jazz and Dixieland music in America, and we are delighted he has given permission for the following article to be published in the newsletter.


LOUISIANA  BRASS BANDS AND HISTORY IN RELATION TO JAZZ HISTORY By Dr  Karl Koenig PH.D. We will examine in this essay the brass band movement in Louisiana and the surrounding area of New Orleans, beginning in the Civil War era. It has been written that because of the surplus brass instruments after the war (slaves having access to these instruments) jazz instrumentation was developed. This fact will be investigated once we explore the history of Civil War musical history in New Orleans and surrounding areas.


The evolution of jazz coincides with the popularity of brass bands in the United States, and with the development, acceptance and popularity of a new valve system for brass instruments. Throughout the United States brass bands could be heard in most every town and hamlet during the latter part f the 19th Century. The first true brass band in the United States was in 1835 with Allen Dodsworth as director. The first Black slave brass band was (to my knowledge at this time) the Juvenile Brass Band of Charleston, South Carolina in 1856. This band toured the United States and was very well received. During the Civil War many civilian brass bands joined the army and traveled with army regiments, playing as they moved from place to place, exposing their music to all. The south had an agricultural economy. The North, an industrial economy. The Southern population was also more rural than urban, its population spread over a wider area than the numerous urban population centers of the North; thus the South had fewer larger cities. The South's social life centered around either the large agricultural area: (mostly plantations) or the few large Southern cities. During the Civil War the small towns that surrounded the New Orleans area were exposed to the bands of the Union occupational forces of the Gulf Coast Command (approximately 30 bands). These Regimental bands stationed in and around the New Orleans area were very conspicuous, playing not only concerts of both patriotic and popular music but in the execution - of the many military ceremonies that were common and popular during the Civil War. These Union military bands were not the only brass bands in and around New Orleans during the war-years. There were a surprising number of brass bands in the city and in the country towns surrounding the city. Nearly every town in Louisiana had a band of music. One example: Thibodaux - Occupied during the Civil War by Union form, Thibodaux had brass bands during and after the war. The Philharmonic Brass Band was performing in Thibodaux during the years directly after the Civil War. This band was first mentioned in the Thibodaux Sentinel on March 3, 1866. The Philharmonic Brass Band (a white band) is mentioned playing for a local funeral. The many bands of the country did, contrary to past thoughts, play for funerals. There are many newspaper accounts of brass bands playing for funerals in the country. These processions were not long processions as most cemeteries in the country were located very near the church. The various accounts mention the brass bands playing to the cemeteries but do not mention the brass bands playing after the interment.


The tradition of playing lively music on the way back from an interment is clouded in mystery as to when it began. Funeral march music was used in ancient Israel. One comparison can be seen in modern times in the military process when marching in review. A typical dress parade, as executed by an infantry regiment early in the Civil War was described as thus by a soldier. "The troops are drawn up in line of battle and the order Parade Rest' given by each Captain to his command. The band starts off; that is, marches down and back in front of the regiment, playing slowly down and a quick step back." I am not suggesting that the ceremony was the ancestor of Black funeral tradition, but only that parallels can be drawn from the past. Perhaps this repeated military ceremony, observed many times in occupied New Orleans, did leave an impression on marching bands and their tradition. It is not the exact parallel of a negro funeral procedure, although it did musically speaking possess parallels of slow music going, fast music coming back. How much influence did military band funerals effect New Orleans band tradition? New Orleans was occupied by Federal forces throughout most of the Civil War, the only Southern State occupied for such a long length of time. Its citizens were exposed to a large amount of military ceremonies not usual in other southern cities, and New Orleans was exposed to the charisma of Patrick Gilmore. (More on his later.) Unlike other southern cities, life was near normal in New Orleans during the war. New Orleans was always a festive city and its many celebrations continued. The many military bands with their reviews and concerts were assimilated into New Orleans cultural life and accepted as such. The festive nature of the Union musical activities fitted into the musical tradition of the city.


International improvements on brass instruments influenced military music during the Civil War. The zenith of the brass band movements was occurring during the American Civil War. The movement's influence is seen in the adoption of the improved European invented brass instruments and the use of Dodworth's backfire instruments. Brass instruments with their bells facing backwards were used by the military band of both the North and the South. These brass instruments were constructed with the bells pointing back over the musician's shoulder so the music produced could be heard best by the marching columns which followed the band. These 'backfire' bands were not for the benefit of the spectators as bands are today. There are numerous pictures of these backfire brass instruments. In fact, most all existing pictures of Civil War bands show bands holding or playing backfire instruments. The regimental band of the 26th North Carolina, in civilian life the band of the Moravian settlement, famous for brass band music, was from Salem, North Carolina, and had been in existence since 1831 and served throughout the war. It had the following instrumentation and personnel: Samuel T.1V.ichey - leader and Eb cornet A. P. Gibson - 1st cornet Daniel T. Crouse - 1 st tenor Joe O. Hall - 2nd comet, Alexander C. Meinung - 2nd Bb tenor Augustus Hauser - 1st alto Julius A. Leinback - Eb bass William H. Hall - 2nd Eb alto Backfire style brass instruments were invented and patented in 1838 by Allen Dodworth. They were manufactured in Vienna and imported to America by the Dodworth family. As they were designed for the benefit of marching bands, even the inventor did not recommend them for concert purposes. This subject of backfire instruments versus frontal bells is discussed in Allen Dodworth's brass band book in 1853. He states:

In selecting the instruments, attention should be paid to the use intended; if for military purposes only, those with bells behind, over the shoulder are preferable, as they throw all the tone to those who are marching to it, but for any other purposes are not so good. For general purposes, those with the bell upward, like the saxhom, are most convenient... care should be taken.

All other bands that picture soldiers with backfire instruments are too numerous to give a complete list, but include: The Brigade Band of Stonewall Jackson of Stauton, Virginia, The 13th Wisconsin Band, directed by L. W. Eastman, The band of the 10th Veteran Reserve Corps, of Washington, D. C., and The 107 Infantry Band. An excellent picture of three musicians of the 4th Michigan Infantry shows a good view of a backfire bass horn and two backfire tenor horns. These backfire type instruments came to the United States around 1840 and disappeared around 1870. Brass instruments in general had the same basic design and were built in the family of musical range, from the high Eb cornet to the low bass horn. After the war, when military music was not needed, the regular bell front instruments became popular again. The backfire instruments disappeared and were replaced by brass instruments whose main purpose was playing for concerts and dances. Since 1845, there existed a family of brass instruments known as the saxhoms. In France the instrument maker Adolphe Sax, today famous for the saxophone family of instrument (an instrument built to bridge the gap in timbre between the brass and woodwind timbre), was issued a patent for a set of valve bugles or comets made in all ranges, from the high Eb comet to the Bb bass, named appropriately, saxhorns. Their bore was somewhat narrower than that of the flugelhorn, resulting in a more brilliant timbre desired by most brass bands. The most common saxhorns used in the concert bands of the pre and post Civil War times were: Eb soprano, Bb soprano, alto horn (in Bb or C), tenor horn (in Eb or F) and the baritone/bass, (in low Bb or C). The inventor of the valve system for brass instruments is said to have been Heinrich Stozel but there is some doubt as Frederick Blummel claims to have sold the idea to Stolzel. The patent, however, was issued to Stolzel in 1818. The invention of the valve system revolutionized brass playing. The perfection of brass playing technique prior to the development of valves dictated many years of continuous practice, devoting much of this time to lip technique. Now, with the new valve instruments, playing became more co-ordination technique than lip technique, resulting in quicker perfection of musical ability and a large amount of good brass players. This mechanical perfection spread through the family of brass instruments and led to a patent of the family of saxhorns by Adolphe Sax in 1845 that was previously mentioned. These instruments gave an improved uniformity of tone and replaced all the larger laterally-holed instruments, the natural horns and the other horns that had been used. The serpent and the ophicleide fell out of use. The introduction of the valve system also made it possible to interchange players from one instrument (brass) to another more easily, which had considerable bearing on amateur brass bands and led to the popularization of brass instruments. One can read numerous accounts of amateur bands securing a complete set of these newly developed brass instruments. This newly found impetus developed in the amateur brass band movements of the United States around the 1880's when numerous bands began re-instrumenting their bands. It was not a surplus of Civil War instruments that made instruments available (they would have been mostly the backfire type) but the availability of the new style valved brass instruments that made brass playing a quicker technical process in perfecting brass playing technique. The perfection of valves on brass instruments enabled composers to use the tone colors of the brass range of instruments and the player need not change crooks to enable him to change key. He was now able to play needed notes of the chromatic scale, thereby eliminating the necessity of frequent rests to change crooks. Three valves made possible a complete chromatic scale, giving freedom of modulation which allowed brass instruments to play the most complicated chromatic passages and undertake modulations into different keys with greater facility.


In the early part of the war, each regiment was authorized a band. In July of 1862, a military order was issued that allowed military bands only at the Brigade level. Many regiments found means of evading the official military order and managed to keep a band at the regimental level Because of this military order. The best musicians of the regimental bands usually were transferred to the Brigade level; this movement of musicians improved the quality of Brigade bands but weakened the regimental bands. The primary function of a military band is for official ceremonies and for the march. When not fulfilling their military function, Brigade bands commonly gave concerts at twilight which were greatly enjoyed by the camp personnel. Federal bands had the money and the support of the government. At least half of the Federal Regiments had bands when the war began. It was said that the War Department spent $4,000,000 a year on bands. In July of 1862 there were 618 bands in service. The ratio was one musician to every 41 soldiers. Most of these bands contained 22 pieces. Federal musicians drew higher pay than privates and after their concerts, the hat was passed around gaining the band extra money. The potential of financial gains attracted many famous civilian bands. There were critics that were against this excess spending on bands and numerous critical protests ended regimental bands. Thereafter, only brigades had official bands, consisted of only 16 musicians. (Most Confederate bands had but 3 or 4 pieces and these musicians received no such handsome treatment as Federal musicians.)


Opposite to the numerously mentioned Federal bands during the Civil War, references to Confederate bands are few. The lack of Confederate bands probably is due to a lack of trained southern musicians, a lack of brass instruments in the south, and the necessity of troops to increase the smaller number of Confederate troops in the front line units. There was music in the regiments but it was in the form of glee clubs, violinists, guitarists and banjoists. Many Confederate units had little or no music. The great difficulty in getting instruments and the lack of trained musicians made it almost impossible to ascertain the exact number and the instrumentation in an average Confederate band, causing an assortment of instruments with the qualifications of the musicians varying widely. There was a Confederate regulation governing bands. Coming out in the year 1861-1862, this regulation stated that:

When it is desired to have bands of music for regiments, there will be allowed for each, 16 privates to act as musicians, in addition to the chief musician authorized by law, provided, the total number of privates in the regiments,. including the band, does not exceed the legal standard.

Confederate bandsmen, like their counterpart in the Union forces, were usually assigned to assist the regimental surgeon behind the lines. In the book The Color Guard by Hosmer, he states: "The ambulance corps is made up largely of the musicians; but music! We never hear it now, not even the drum and fife. It is too stern a time for that." Hosmer quotes a drummer by the name of Cripps describing an improvisory technique of the fife players, a sort of jazz' type improvisory/variation playing technique: "Some on' em play plain, and some on 'em put in the fancy touches; but I kind o' hate to see a man flourish. Why can't he play straight, without fillin up his tunes?'

Cripps also describes what a good drummer was during the Civil War:

Now Hodge alone can make as much noise as all the rest on we put together. Its astonishing' but some of these fellows can't strike right. 'Taint - no drummin' to hit with the sticks all over the head; you ought to hit right in the middle. A tip-top drummer won't vary more'n two or three inches from both his sticks, hittin' right in the middle of the head. I know 'Hodge well enough - a stout, straight boy. I have noticed the fine rhythm of his almost invisible sticks,- and the measured, vigorous cadence of his feet as he beats time.

The Louisiana Battalion of Washington Artillery. brought with them to Richmond the J. V. Gessner Brass Band from New Orleans as their band. It consisted of J. V. Gessner-leader, T. Gutzler, Ch. W. Struve, J. Arnold, Jno. Deutsh, Jno. Geches, Peter Trum, Jno. Lorba, Thos. Kostmel, J. H. Sporer, Charles Meir with buglers F. P. Villanvasana and J. Kingslow. Upon arriving in Richmond the procedure followed by the band is described:

We were now marched in a comfortable frame of mind through the streets of Richmond, led on by the exhilarating notes of Gessner's Brass Band, which accompanied us from New Orleans, and we spread any of the Confederate or holiday troops.


Military and patriotic songs made up the majority of music played by the service bands during the war. There was a controversy whether band concerts should include martial music. It was asked, 'should programs be made up largely of operatic airs and dance tunes or should they contain mostly patriotic and martial music?' Martial music usually won out but by 1864 band programs at concerts were better balanced. One band program included the following: "A Grand March, Quickstep 'Queen of Roses', Overture from 'Zanetta,' Bolero from 'MeSicilian Vespers', Quadrille of Strauss,. a Polka and a medley of patriotic airs.' Some of the popular titles were: -'Love not, ' Katy Darling,' 'Annie Laurie,' 'Ain't you Glad to Get - Out of the Wilderness,' 'Pop Goes the Weasel,' 'Starry Flay,' 'Old Folks at hone,' 'My Old Kentucky Home,' 'The Girl I Left Behind Me,' 'Midnight Hour,' 'Gay and Happy  and 'someone to Love.' Also, there were the transcriptions from the classics: selections from Bohemian Girl, Maritana, and an American overture, Dodworth's band concert in New York presented the following concert: "Quickstep, -'Thou Art Far Away,' Finale of La Traviate, Fantasie on Un Belle: in Masachere' by Verdi and Miserere from D. Trovatore," One of Patrick Gilmore's first promenade concerts in New Orleans on January 26, 1864: " 'Grand March.,of Bellini,' 'Waltz,, & song,' 'Robin Ruffand, . (Gilmore's pen name) 'The Soldiers Return arch' including 'When Johnny Comes Marching Hone,' composed by Patrick Gil.more"