July 1 to July 3 1948, marked the 85th Anniversary of the historically significant Battle of Gettysburg. Nancy and I searched her diaries and local newspapers from 1948 to learn how that important date was acknowledged in Gettysburg. Strangely, we found nothing.
In our search, however, we discovered a reference to Guy Allison, a reporter from Glendale, California who claimed that a Confederate brass band played polkas and waltzes to inspire the troops during Pickett’s Charge. We should have been skeptical. What troops would be inspired to go into battle listening to waltzes?
According to an article by Logan Tapscott in The Gettysburg Compiler, 10 regimental bands entertained and inspired both Union and Confederate troops at various times during the three-day battle, but Tapscott offered no evidence that a brass band was playing before or during Pickett’s Charge.
Musicians were often pacifists who cared for the wounded in addition to performing their duties in the band. In reality, band members were much too busy treating the wounded and assisting the surgeons to play, but according to the article in the Compiler the 11th North Carolina band was ordered to perform during the fighting on the McPherson’s Ridge on July 2nd.
When Nancy and I were growing up in Gettysburg and on many occasions since, we have visited Bloody Angle on the Battlefield and imagined Pickett’s Charge when over 12,000 Confederate troops marched proudly and bravely toward Cemetery Ridge in formation with flags flying.
We never imagined a band playing as Pickett’s Charge unfolded Now, based on the Compiler article, we feel certain none existed.