I've have a cool book over here which has quotes from Diary entries and letters from soldiers about military bands/music during the war. I would like to share a few with you all.
This first one was written by an unknown infantryman with the 24th Massachusetts Regiment in a letter home in April of 1862:
"I don't know what we should have done without our band. It is acknowledged by everyone to be the best in the division. Every night about sun down [Patrick] Gilmore gives us a splended concert, playing selections from the operas and some very pretty marches, quicksteps, waltzes and the like, most of which are composed by himself or by Zohler, a member of his band. Thus you see we get a great deal of new music, notwithstanding we are off here in the woods."
Writing of his experiences in the Confederate army, Lieutenant Lot D. Young of Kentucky wrote:
"[From our position] we could see extending for miles his [Sherman's] grand encampment of infantry and artillery [which presented] the greatest panorama I ever beheld. Softly and sweetly the music from their bands as they played the national airs were wafted up and over the summit of the mountain. Somehow, someway, in some inexplicable and unseen manner, "Hail Columbia," "America" and "The Star Spangled Banner" sounded sweeter than I had ever before heard them and filled my soul with feellings that I could not describe or forget. It haunted me for days, but never shook my loyalty to the Stars and Bars."
When Federal authorities were considering the elimination of regimental bands in 1862 because the cost was too great, Alonzo Quint, Champlain of the 2nd Massachusetts Regiment, protested this cool message:
"Those who advocate this [the discharge of regimental bands] cannot have an idea of their value among soldiers. I do not know anything particular of the science of practice of music...but I see the effects of a good band like ours, continually. It scatters the dismal part of camp life; gives new spirit to the men jaded by or on a march; wakes up their enthusiasm. Could you see our men, when, of an evening, our band comes out and plays its sweet stirring music, you would say if retrenchment must come, let it be somewhere else..... let the men have their music."
This one was written by the commander of the 1st Maine Cavalry (I hate not having a name) about his experience at the battle of Dinwiddie Court House. He saw General Sheridan rounding up all the bands under his command so he could put them on the firing line along with his infantry. The Confederates did the same thing, and the battle of the bands took place:
"Our band came up from the rear and cheered and animated our hearts by its rich music; ere long a rebel band replied by giving us southern airs; with cheers from each side in encouragement of its own band, a cross-fire of the "Star Spangled Banner," "Yankee Doodle," and "John Brown" mingled with "Dixie" and the "Bonnie Blue Flag."
Lieutenant William M. Owen, adjutant of the Washington Artillery from New Orleans, a unit that camped beside the 1st Virginia Regiment at Manassas, wrote:
"He [Colonel Moore, Commander of the 1st Virginia Regiment] had an excellent band, better, I think, than ours, and each gave excellent music at guard-mounting and dress parade. "Listen to the Mocking-bird" was the favorite air of the Virginians."
Garofalo, Robert and Elrod, Mark, A Pictorial History of Civil War Era Musical Instruments and Military Bands. Pictorial Histories Publishing Company; Charleston, West Virginia., 1985.