Civil War Bands and Music

by Sandra Merville Hart

Music was very important to both soldiers and citizens during the Civil War.

Bugles and drums were used to convey orders on the battlefield because they could be heard over the din of battle. Regimental bands played on long marches to entertain the troops and keep their spirits up.

Fiddles, banjos, fifes, and guitars were also popular instruments in regimental bands that played before and during battles to bolster the soldiers’ spirits.

When opposing sides camped near each other before battles, they were often close enough to hear each other’s bands playing. Union and Confederate bands took turns playing songs that supported their own side. This happened on the eve of the Battle of Stones River. When bands played “Home! Sweet Home!” both sides sang together. One can only imagine how their voices stirred the hearts of every listener as they joined together in song, all bound by mutual yearning for their families.  

On the Homefront, Civil War songs ignited patriotic feelings in citizens.

After the war began, Union soldiers traveled with their regiments to Washington DC, commonly called Washington City at that time, for training. The noise level escalated with the city’s expanding population as troops camped on every available field.

One of the benefits of all the regiments in the Union capital was the music. Bands gave concerts for the enjoyment of citizens. For instance, the United States Marine Band played in the White House garden on Saturday afternoons. Citizens flocked to concerts such as these and sang along with such songs as “Yankee Doodle” and “Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean.”

The characters in my novel, Avenue of Betrayal, Book 1 of my “Spies of the Civil War” series, enjoy band concerts in the story. My hope is that these scenes transport readers back to concerts on the White House Garden in 1861, and also show that not everyone in the city was loyal to the Union.  


(Introduction by) Crawford, Richard. The Civil War Songbook, Dover Publications, Inc., 1977.

“Music of the American Civil War,” Wikipedia, 2022/02/01 ttps://

Nolan, Jeannette Covert. Spy for the Confederacy: Rose O’Neal Greenhow, Julian Messner, Inc., 1960.


2 thoughts on “Civil War Bands and Music

  1. Your book sounds like a great read, and I love your book cover, it is beautiful! Thank you for sharing this great post. Have a great weekend and stay safe.


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