Post War


The citizens of Galena, Illinois had prepared a homecoming for it’s favorite son, Ulysses S. Grant, on August 18, 1865.  No detail was overlooked including the music that would mark the festive occasion.  After talking with many returning army veterans they felt that the best band possible would be the 1st Brigade Band.  Would they come?  Oscar replied with a resounding “yes”.  The only problem was a band wagon.  The boys had sold off their old band wagon before re-enlisting, and a new one could not be built in time.  The solution came from the nearby town of Shullsburg, Wisconsin.  The band from Shullsburg reasoned that if they could not be there at least their wagon could and happily loaned it to the Brodhead boys.  The local newspaper in Galena ran a special edition recounting the momentous event taking great pains to point out the wonderful brass music provided by ….”The 15th Corps Band from Shullsburg” – since that’s what the name on the wagon said.  As to what the guest of honor thought one can only speculate as Grant never made mention of it.  History is left to draw on the ONLY comment General Grant ever made about music.  It was sometime before the war when Grant said that he knew only two tunes, one was Yankee Doodle and the other wasn’t.  The man was tone deaf!

Brodhead Silver Cornet Band

Post war life took it’s toll on the band, scattering the original members all over the country.  Kimberley and Smith were two who emigrated west to the new territories, though reunions were held and players kept in touch.  New players filled the vacant ranks and for many years the people of Brodhead took pride and enjoyment from their music makers.  The band would hold fund drives for a new set of instruments; handing down the old ones to new young players to learn on.  For a long time it was the Brodhead Silver Cornet Band complete with modern bell front and bell up instruments with policeman’s style uniforms.  It remained so until after the turn of the century when it eventually died out; probably a victim of “progress” in the form of the Talking Machine and radio as many bands were.  Died that is until 1964, when the town of Galena contacted Fred Benkovic, a musical instrument collector from Milwaukee about re-creating that 15th Corps band for a re-enactment of Grant’s return to Galena.  He did just that, and then?…….but that’s another story.

Edward L. Pierce

NOTE: Editor’s additions for clarity appear in brackets:[ ]
An Artillaryman’s Diary, by Jenkin Lloyd Jones; published 1914 by the Wisconsin History Commission
Brodhead Historical Society, Chicago Historical Society, State Historical Society of Wisconsin, The Wisconsin Veteran’s Museum, The Brodhead newspapers, Mills Music Library – University of Wisconsin-Madison, Greg D. Rupnow, Fred Benkovic, Paul Peterson, Gordon Odegard, and the friends and relatives of the men of these bands who preserved the words, music, and instruments for posterity so that we today can have “a band of far more than shadowy existence”.