Military Music

Illustrated cover depicting rows of soldiers standing around tents and a flag pole under the title "Signourney's Quick Step."
Cover of “Sigourney’s Quick Step, Dedicated to Capt. H. H. Sigourney, the Officers & members of the New England Guards, By a Member. Composed & Arranged by S. Knaebel for the Brass Band.

Boston Public Library Photo

In the 19th century, summertime was encampment season. Units would march out to the country for a week or so and train. However, these encampments were also social events, marked by dinners, balls, and band concerts, as many of the wealthier units had their own bands.

One such unit was the Boston-based New England Guards, also known as the 4th Battalion, MVM, which was founded in 1812, and became the 44th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry during the Civil War. In the 1830s and 1840s, they commissioned a quickstep march, usually dedicated to their commanding officer, that could be used on the field or for dancing.

The cover of the music often had an image of their summer encampment, as in this example of Sigourney’s Quick Step from 1838, which depicted their camp at Woburn.

Today, the tradition of music in the Massachusetts Volunteer Militia is carried on by the 215thArmyBand, the Massachusetts National Guard band.

Part of a series of articles titled Citizen Soldiers.

Salem Maritime National Historic Site

Last updated: June 28, 2022