The Stonewall Brigade Band: 160 years and beyond

aug county historical societyThe 160-year history of Staunton’s own Stonewall Brigade Band will be detailed through photographs and historical artifacts in an Augusta County Historical Society exhibit opening May 15 at the R. R. Smith Center for History and Art in Staunton.  Entitled The Stonewall Brigade Band – 160 Years and Beyond, the exhibit will tell of presidential appearances, wars, saxhorns, uniforms, and the enduring community support that has made the band the oldest community band in the nation.

The opening reception for the exhibit is 4 to 6 p.m. Thursday, May 28, will spotlight some of the band’s unique musical instruments – a replica of one of the original saxhorns, the nation’s first over-the-shoulder tuba, and a “double bell euphonium.” The reception, at the Smith Center, will also feature light refreshments – and a battered old bugle.  The bugle was used in combat during the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Mexican War, and the Civil War. A Staunton man was killed using it to signal a charge in 1862.

The Stonewall Brigade Band exhibit will remain at the Smith Center until August 22 and will also be highlighted by a presentation by Bob Moody, band director, on the unit’s remarkable history, and by two band performances in the Smith Center Garden.  The schedule for those events will be announced later.

Originally formed as the Mountain Saxhorn Band in 1855, the Stonewall Brigade Band got its current name during the Civil War when it acted as the staff band for Confederate General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson.  After the war the unit added woodwind instruments to become a concert band – but still functioned in parades as well.

The band played for the planting of trees on Arbor Day, 1889, in what is today Gypsy Hill Park, the first of a series of concerts at the park that continues to this day.

Over the years, the Stonewall Brigade Band has played for World Fairs in Chicago and Louisville, and performed in six Presidential inaugural parades.  Today the band offers summer concerts in the park, a Christmas Concert, and music for a variety of area events though the year.

The ACHS was founded in 1964 to study, collect, preserve, publish, educate about, and promote the history of Augusta County and its communities. The society marked its 50th year in 2014.  More information is available online at www.augustacountyhs.org.

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