Music has done its share, and more than its share, in winning this war.
– General Philip H. Sheridan, U.S. Army
History of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry’s Regimental Band
American musicians of the 1800s created the sound track for a nation—not only trumpeting the sendoffs for Northerners as they marched from small farm towns and big cities to fight for the Union during the Civil War, but to spark the courage of those same patriots as they stepped face first into cannon fire at battles from Gettysburg to Atlanta and beyond.
The band attached to the 47th Regiment of the Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry received its start thanks to a man still widely referred to as “The Father of Band Music in America”—Thomas Coates. A native of Easton in Northampton County, Pennsylvania, Coates quite literally ran off to join the circus as a young boy. Performing first with the Dodsworth Band, he eventually headed another famous ensemble—the one which thrilled the crowds at Barnum’s Hippodrome Circus.
Sometime before 1850, he joined the Easton Band as a musician—an affiliation that would ultimately put him on track to become not only the conductor of that ensemble, but the conductor of the 47th Pennsylvania’s regimental band as well. Known at the time as Pomp’s Cornet Band, the Easton Band was a performing ensemble with a distinguished history. Described by Matthew Schropp Henry in his 1898 History of the Lehigh Valley as “one of the oldest musical organizations in the country,” the band’s roots dated back to 1818 when an organization named the Artillerist Band became “the first band or musical association ever formed in Easton.” The first conductor was John D. Weiss, and its 25-member roster included the musical sounding Melchior Horn, as well as Jonathan Lick, Peter Pomp, William Bixler, John Branham, George Luckenbach, George and Joseph Sigman, Joseph Snyder, and Samuel Yohe. The ensemble bolstered the spirits of Easton residents when war was declared in 1812, and it also performed for the Marquis de Lafayette in 1824.
On 1 July 1833, the 19-member Easton Band named Peter Pomp as its conductor, and changed its name to the Citizens’ Band. William H. Pomp was a member, as were Luckenbach, Snyder, Philip Reichard, Frederick Seitz, Andrew T. Sigman, and Benjamin Stem.
From 1838 to 1842, when the ensemble became an all-brass band, the organization was known as the Philharmonic Society. In 1842, under the leadership of William H. Pomp and the baton of Peter Pomp, the ensemble was called the Easton Brass Band.
A decade later (1852), the ensemble was still managed by William H. Pomp but now dazzling audiences under the baton of Professor Thomas Coates. Renowned as Pomp’s Cornet Band, the instruments used by its members were each made of German silver.
In April 1861, following the fall of Fort Sumter to the Confederate Army, Coates and his bandsmen gave 180 local soldiers a rousing sendoff as they answered President Abraham Lincoln’s directive to quell a burgeoning rebellion by America’s southern states. Boarding a train at the Lehigh Valley depot, the volunteer militia men were headed for Harrisburg and Baltimore en route to defend their nation’s capital. Many missed being designated officially as “First Responders” by just one day and became known, instead, as “Three Month Men”—those who began serving before even greater numbers would join the cause just a few short months later.
Soon after his ensemble sent the early responders on their way, Thomas Coates also enrolled for military duty, and mustered in at Camp Curtin in Harrisburg on 14 August 1861. Many under his baton followed closely behind—mustering in that same month as musicians for the official band of the Pennsylvania Volunteers, 47th Regiment.
Following a brief training period in light infantry tactics at Camp Curtin in Harrisburg, Dauphin County, the volunteer soldiers of the 47th Pennsylvania were sent by train to Washington, D.C. There, they were granted a brief respite at the Soldiers’ Retreat in the nation’s capital before being marched off to their new camp.
Beginning 21 September, they were stationed about two miles from the White House at “Camp Kalorama” on the city’s Kalorama Heights near Georgetown. Henry Wharton, a field musician with the 47th Pennsylvania’s Company C, who became a frequent chronicler of the regiment’s activities throughout the war, provided an update regarding the regiment’s progress for his hometown newspaper, the Sunbury American, on 22 September:
After a tedious ride we have, at last, safely arrived at the City of ‘magnificent distances.’ We left Harrisburg on Friday last at 1 o’clock A.M. and reached this camp yesterday (Saturday) at 4 P.M., as tired and worn out a sett [sic] of mortals as can possibly exist. On arriving at Washington we were marched to the ‘Soldiers Retreat,’ a building purposely erected for the benefit of the soldier, where every comfort is extended to him and the wants of the ‘inner man’ supplied.
After partaking of refreshments we were ordered into line and marched, about three miles, to this camp. So tired were the men, that on marching out, some gave out, and had to leave the ranks, but J. Boulton Young, our ‘little Zouave,’ stood it bravely, and acted like a veteran. So small a drummer is scarcely seen in the army, and on the march through Washington he was twice the recipient of three cheers.
On 24 September 1861, the musicians, officers and enlisted members of the 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry became part of the U.S. Army as its men were officially mustered into federal service with all of the pomp one might expect.
On 27 September, the 47th Pennsylvania was assigned to Brigadier-General Isaac Stevens’ 3rd Brigade, which also included the 33rd, 49th and 79th New York regiments. By afternoon, they were on the move again. Armed with Mississippi rifles supplied by the Keystone State and led by the regimental band, the 47th Pennsylvania marched to Camp Lyon, Maryland on the eastern side of the Potomac. At 5 p.m., they joined the 46th Pennsylvania in charging, double-quick, across a chain bridge, and marched on for roughly another mile before being ordered to make camp.
The next morning, they broke camp and moved again. Marching toward Falls Church, Virginia, they arrived at Camp Advance around dusk. There, about two miles from the bridge they had crossed a day earlier, they re-pitched their tents in a deep ravine near a new federal fort under construction (Fort Ethan Allen). They had completed a roughly eight-mile trek, were situated fairly close to General W. F. Smith’s headquarters, and were now part of the massive Army of the Potomac. Under Smith’s leadership, their regiment and brigade would help to defend the nation’s capital from the time of their September arrival through late January when the men of the 47th Pennsylvania would be shipped south.
Once again, Musician Henry Wharton recapped the regiment’s activities, this time via a 29 September letter home to the Sunbury American in which he noted the 47th had changed camps three times in three days:
On Friday last we left Camp Kalorama, and the same night encamped about one mile from the Chain Bridge on the opposite side of the Potomac from Washington. The next morning, Saturday, we were ordered to this Camp [Camp Advance near Fort Ethan Allen, Virginia], one and a half miles from the one we occupied the night previous. I should have mentioned that we halted on a high hill (on our march here) at the Chain Bridge, called Camp Lyon, but were immediately ordered on this side of the river. On the route from Kalorama we were for two hours exposed to the hardest rain I ever experienced. Whew, it was a whopper; but the fellows stood it well – not a murmur – and they waited in their wet clothes until nine o’clock at night for their supper. Our Camp adjoins that of the N.Y. 79th (Highlanders.)….
We had not been in this Camp more than six hours before our boys were supplied with twenty rounds of ball and cartridge, and ordered to march and meet the enemy; they were out all night and got back to Camp at nine o’clock this morning, without having a fight. They are now in their tents taking a snooze preparatory to another march this morning…. I don’t know how long the boys will be gone, but the orders are to cook two days’ rations and take it with them in their haversacks….
There was a nice little affair came off at Lavensville [sic], a few miles from here on Wednesday last; our troops surprised a party of rebels (much larger than our own.) killing ten, took a Major prisoner, and captured a large number of horses, sheep and cattle, besides a large quantity of corn and potatoes, and about ninety six tons of hay. A very nice day’s work. The boys are well, in fact, there is no sickness of any consequence at all in our Regiment….
Sometime during this phase of duty, as part of the 3rd Brigade, the 47th Pennsylvanians were moved to a site they initially christened “Camp Big Chestnut” for the large chestnut tree located within their lodging’s boundaries. The site would eventually become known to the Keystone Staters as “Camp Griffin,” and was located roughly 10 miles from Washington, D.C.
On 11 October, the 47th Pennsylvania marched in the Grand Review at Bailey’s Cross Roads. Also around this time, companies D, A, C, F and I (the 47th Pennsylvania’s right wing) were ordered to picket duty after the left-wing companies (B, G, K, E, and H) had been forced to return to camp by Confederate troops. In his letter of 13 October, Henry Wharton described their duties, as well as their new home:
The location of our camp is fine and the scenery would be splendid if the view was not obstructed by heavy thickets of pine and innumerable chesnut [sic] trees. The country around us is excellent for the Rebel scouts to display their bravery; that is, to lurk in the dense woods and pick off one of our unsuspecting pickets. Last night, however, they (the Rebels) calculated wide of their mark; some of the New York 33d boys were out on picket; some fourteen or fifteen shots were exchanged, when our side succeeded in bringing to the dust, (or rather mud,) an officer and two privates of the enemy’s mounted pickets. The officer was shot by a Lieutenant in Company H [?], of the 33d.
Our own boys have seen hard service since we have been on the ‘sacred soil.’ One day and night on picket, next day working on entrenchments at the Fort, (Ethan Allen.) another on guard, next on march and so on continually, but the hardest was on picket from last Thursday morning ‘till Saturday morning – all the time four miles from camp, and both of the nights the rain poured in torrents, so much so that their clothes were completely saturated with the rain. They stood it nobly – not one complaining; but from the size of their haversacks on their return, it is no wonder that they were satisfied and are so eager to go again tomorrow. I heard one of them say ‘there was such nice cabbage, sweet and Irish potatoes, turnips, &c., out where their duty called them, and then there was a likelihood of a Rebel sheep or young porker advancing over our lines and then he could take them as ‘contraband’ and have them for his own use.’ When they were out they saw about a dozen of the Rebel cavalry and would have had a bout with them, had it not been for…unlucky circumstance – one of the men caught the hammer of his rifle in the strap of his knapsack and caused his gun to fire; the Rebels heard the report and scampered in quick time….
Wharton also reported that all members of the regiment were healthy but, sadly, he was mistaken.
The first member of the regiment to die was both a musician and the youngest member of the entire regiment. Drummer boy John Boulton Young (“Boulty”) was just 13 when felled by smallpox at the Kalorama eruptive fever hospital in Georgetown on 17 October 1861. His passing was deeply mourned by his superior officer, Captain John Peter Shindel Gobin, who wrote several poignant letters which described the boy’s death and burial. Beloved by his fellow soldiers, parents, friends, and neighbors, Boulty’s memory continues to be honored by his hometown; his coat and drum, lovingly preserved by regimental officers, are still cared for by members of the Northumberland County Historical Society.
Pageantry and Hard Work
On Friday, 22 October, the 47th engaged in a Divisional Review, described by Schmidt as “about 10,000 infantry, 1000 cavalry, and twenty pieces of artillery all in one big open field.” Less than a month later, in his letter of 17 November, Henry Wharton revealed more details about life at Camp Griffin:
This morning our brigade was out for inspection; arms, accoutrements [sic], clothing, knapsacks, etc, all were out through a thorough examination, and if I must say it myself, our company stood best, A No. 1, for cleanliness. We have a new commander to our Brigade, Brigadier General Brannen [sic], of the U.S. Army, and if looks are any criterion, I think he is a strict disciplinarian and one who will be as able to get his men out of danger as he is willing to lead them to battle….
The boys have plenty of work to do, such as piquet [sic] duty, standing guard, wood-chopping, police duty and day drill; but then they have the most substantial food; our rations consist of fresh beef (three times a week) pickled pork, pickled beef, smoked pork, fresh bread, daily, which is baked by our own bakers, the Quartermaster having procured portable ovens for that purpose, potatoes, split peas, beans, occasionally molasses and plenty of good coffee, so you see Uncle Sam supplies us plentifully….
A few nights ago our Company was out on piquet [sic]; it was a terrible night, raining very hard the whole night, and what made it worse, the boys had to stand well to their work and dare not leave to look for shelter. Some of them consider they are well paid for their exposure, as they captured two ancient muskets belonging to Secessia. One of them is of English manufacture, and the other has the Virginia militia mark on it. They are both in a dilapidated condition, but the boys hold them in high estimation as they are trophies from the enemy, and besides they were taken from the house of Mrs. Stewart, sister to the rebel Jackson who assassinated the lamented Ellsworth at Alexandria. The honorable lady, Mrs. Stewart, is now a prisoner at Washington and her house is the headquarters of the command of the piquets [sic]….
Since the success of the secret expedition, we have all kinds of rumors in camp. One is that our Brigade will be sent to the relief of Gen. Sherman, in South Carolina. The boys all desire it and the news in the ‘Press’ is correct, that a large force is to be sent there, I think their wish will be gratified….
On 21 November, the 47th participated in a morning divisional headquarters review overseen by the regiment’s founder, Colonel Tilghman H. Good, followed by brigade and division drills all afternoon. According to Schmidt, “each man was supplied with ten blank cartridges.”
Afterward, “Gen. Smith requested Gen. Brannan to inform Col. Good that the 47th was the best regiment in the whole division.” As a reward—and in preparation for bigger things to come, Brannan obtained new Springfield rifles for every infantryman of the 47th Pennsylvania.
Into the Deep South
In January 1862, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers were ordered to Annapolis, Maryland and southward via the steamer Oriental from 27 January to February 1862. Upon arrival, they were assigned to garrison Fort Taylor in Key West, Florida and protect civilians loyal to the Union.
During the weekend of Friday, 14 February, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers introduced their presence to Key West residents as the regiment marched behind its regimental band, parading through the streets of the city. That Sunday, many of the regiment’s soldiers attended to their spiritual needs by participating in services at a local church. During this phase of duty, soldiers from the regiment felled trees, built new roads and helped to strengthen the fortifications at the federal installation while continuing to drill and hone their fighting skills.
But there were lighter moments as well. According to a letter penned by Henry Wharton on 27 February 1862, the regiment commemorated the birthday of former U.S. President George Washington with a parade, a special ceremony involving the reading of Washington’s farewell address to the nation and the firing of cannon at the fort, and a sack race and other games on 22 February. The festivities then continued two days later when the 47th Pennsylvania’s regimental band hosted an officers’ ball at which “all parties enjoyed themselves, for three o’clock of the morning sounded on their ears before any motion was made to move homewards.” This was then followed by a concert by the regimental band on Wednesday evening, 26 February.
From mid-June through July, the 47th Pennsylvanians were ordered to Hilton Head, South Carolina and attached to the Beaufort District, Department of the South. Duties, at times, were hazardous as men were sent out on picket assignments that put them at increased risk from sniper fire.
Meanwhile, back in Washington, D.C., the bean counters were busy tallying up the costs of a war now entering its second year. Deeming regimental bands an unnecessary expense in light of those rising federal expenses, the U.S. Congress passed legislation on 17 July 1862 ordering that all such bands be promptly, but honorably mustered out. Signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln, the U.S. War Department effected this change via General Order 91, issued on 29 July 1862. As the musicians of Regimental Band, 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry packed and readied for their return home in early September 1862, the 47th’s Commanding Officer, Colonel Tilghman H. Good, expressed both disappointment and respect in a letter to the ensemble:
Headquarters 47th Regt. P.V.
Beaufort, S.C., Sept. 9, 1862
Gentlemen of the Band,
In accordance with an enactment of Congress and an order from the War Department, you have been regularly mustered out of the service of the United States, and are consequently detached from the regiment. I had vainly hoped when you were with us, united to do battle for our country, that we should remain together, to share the dangers and reap the same glory, until every vestige of the present wicked rebellion should be forever crushed, and we unitedly return again to our homes in peace, and receive of our fellow creatures the welcome plaudit, ‘well done’.
But fate has decreed otherwise, and you are about to bid ‘farewell’, and in taking leave of you, gentlemen, I beg leave to compliment you on your good deportment and manly bearings whilst connected with the regiment, and when you shall have departed from amongst us the sweet strains of music which emanated from you and so often swelled the breeze during dress parade, shall still ring in our ears.
Invoking heaven’s choicest gifts upon you collectively and individually, I bid you god speed on your homeward voyage and through all your future career. May your future course through life be as bright and happy as your past has been prosperous and safe.
I am, Gents,
Your obedient servant,
T. H. Good
Col. 47th Regt. Penna. Vols.
It didn’t take long, however, for those in charge to realize the error of that decision. The music performed by regimental bands buoyed spirits and strengthened backbones, and band personnel provided added value by helping medical staff by carrying wounded comrades from fields of battle and comforting those who would never again feel the tender embrace of loved ones.
So, because the war was not yet won and the work of the 47th not yet done, the leaders of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers pulled together private funds to support their own band, and named Anton (Anthony) Bush as the new Bandmaster in 1862. According to historian Lewis Schmidt, “[t]he order discharging the bands included no provision authorizing musicians for the companies, but two musicians might be enlisted for each company and paid and rated as privates, providing 20 men for the new unofficial band, supported by the regiment’s private funds in the form of subsidies to the musicians.”
Around this same time, Regimental Order No. 206 was issued by Colonel Tilghman Good at Beaufort, South Carolina, detailing the commanding officer’s plans for his field musicians—the fifers and drummer boys assigned to each individual company who were viewed as separate from the musicians assigned to the regimental band:
I. All the field musicians will for the time being be dropped from the morning reports of their companies.
II. They will be enrolled in a separate squad under the charge of the drum major. Commanders of companies will cause them to report to him immediately.
III. Pvt. H. V. Heckman, Company E, is hereby detailed on daily duty as a cook for the field musicians. Commanders of companies will furnish him with the numbers of rations due the musicians drawn in kind.
By June 1863, two former men from the Easton Band plus a full brass section from Allentown joined the 47th at Fort Taylor, Key West.
In a letter to the Sunbury American on 23 August 1863, Henry Wharton described Thanksgiving celebrations held by the regiment and residents of Key West and a yacht race the following Saturday at which participants had “an opportunity of tripping the ‘light, fantastic toe,’ to the fine music of the 47th Band, lead by that excellent musician, Prof. Bush.”
This second ensemble served with the 47th until end of the war. During that time, the band traveled from Key West to Louisiana, as part of the only Pennsylvania regiment engaged in the Red River Campaign, from Louisiana to Virginia to join in Philip Sheridan’s tide-turning Shenandoah Campaign, and to Washington, D.C. to help a nation heal while mourning its fallen President.
Through it all, regimental musicians were frequently in the line of fire. As a result, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers’ Regimental Band incurred several additional casualties—including Bandmaster Bush who was discharged in 1864, following his injury during the Red River Campaign.
Most survived, though, and returned home to start families. Daniel Dachrodt, named drum major at the age of 17, ultimately became the ensemble’s last surviving member.
* Note: Although a 2011 article about Daniel Dachrodt and his brothers, which was published in Easton, Pennsylvania’s The Express-Times, stated that Daniel Dachrodt served with Company H of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers, his entry in the Civil War Veterans’ Card File at the Pennsylvania State Archives indicates that he served as a member of the 47th Pennsylvania’s Regimental Band, and that he re-enlisted in December 1862 with the 47th’s Company K.
PENNSYLVANIA VOLUNTEERS — 47TH REGIMENTAL BAND REENACTORS
As with many Civil War-era regiments, a reenactment group has dedicated itself to bringing to light the history of the Regimental Band which served with the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers. Founded independently of the project which created the website you are viewing, it is known as the Coates Brass Band, and has performed annually at Civil War commemorative services in Key West, Florida and Cedar Creek, Virginia—a key site of Sheridan’s 1864 Shenandoah Valley Campaign.
Of note, Coates Band members have also recorded a CD of Civil War-era music: Quickstep: Brass Band Music of the American Civil War Featuring the Music of Thomas Coates (MSR Classics).
To learn more about the band’s concert schedule or to order the CD, visit the band’s Facebook page.
1. Allentown Leader, The. Allentown, Pennsylvania: Various Dates:
- “Death of a Famed Musician.” Allentown: The Allentown Leader, 14 October 1895.
- “Monument in Memory of Thomas Coates.” Allentown: The Allentown Leader, 19 May 1911.
- “Not Merited Until After Death.” Allentown: The Allentown Leader, 17 July 1896.
2. Bates, Samuel P. History of Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-5, Vol. I. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: B. Singerly, State Printer, 1869.
3. Burial Ledgers, in Record Group 15, The National Cemetery Administration, and Record Group 92, U.S. Departments of Defense and Army (Quartermaster General). Washington, D.C.: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration: 1861-1865.
4. Civil War Muster Rolls, in Records of the Department of Military and Veterans’ Affairs (Record Group 19, Series 19.11). Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.
5. Civil War Veterans’ Card File. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State Archives.
6. Condit A.M., Rev. Uzal. The History of Easton, Penn’a from the Earliest Times to the Present, 1739-1865. Washington, D.C.: West & Condit, 1885.
7. Henry, Matthew Schropp. History of the Lehigh Valley: Containing a Copious Selection of the Most Interesting Facts, Traditions, Biographical Sketches, Anecdotes, etc., etc., Relating to Its History and Antiquities; with Complete History of All Its Internal Improvements, Progress of the Coal and Iron Trade, Manufacturers, etc. Easton, Pennsylvania: Bixler & Corwin, 1860.
8. Interment Control Forms, in Record Group 92, U.S. Office of the Quartermaster General (Record Group 92). College Park, Maryland: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.
9. Pennsylvania Veterans’ Burial Index Cards. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.
10. Registers of Deaths of Volunteers, U.S. Adjutant General’s Office. Washington, D.C.: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, 1861-1865.
11. Schmidt, Lewis. A Civil War History of the 47th Regiment of Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteers. Allentown, Pennsylvania: Self-published,1986.
12. “The Civil War Bands,” in “Band Music from the Civil War Era.” Washington, D.C.: U.S. Library of Congress, retrieved from LOC website, September 2015.
13. Times, The. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Various Dates:
- “Famous Musician Dead.” Philadelphia: The Times, 13 October 1895.
- “Personal.” Philadephia: The Times, 25 March 1876.