The Original Beck Band (1830 – 1876)
On October 1 1830, the Beck Band was formed in Philadelphia by the eight Beck brothers, William, Jacob, Levi, Henry, J. Madison, Charles, George and Anthony. In time, they were joined by the three Beck nephews, J.G. Stevenson Beck, Antrim Beck and A. Walter Beck. When Anthony Beck died in April 10, 1908 at the age of 84 years old, he was the last of the original eight Beck brothers.
The band conductor, Marcus Aledo, was still living in Philadelphia at that time as were Antrim Beck and A. Walter Beck. The brothers were members of the Old Hope Hose Company of the Volunteer Fire Department housed in the old 2nd and Pine Street market house in Philadelphia. In October 1830, they marched in their first parade in firemen’s uniforms, and were nicknamed the “Old Hope Hose Band” from then on. Originally, the Beck Band was an all-woodwind instrument company touring the entire country; in time, they added the brass horns with Henry Beck and Anthony Beck becoming renowned for their performances on the French horn (and later on the Eb alto horns). They played at conventions, operas and presidential inaugurations becoming known as one of the best of its kind. They were mentioned as comparable to the Dodworth New York Band, and were known as innovators in band uniforms and dress. The last public engagement of the Beck Philadelphia Band was during the national centennial in Philadelphia1s Fairmont Park in 1876.
The Original 28th Pa Regimental Brass Band (1861-1862, 1863)
In May 1861 with the onset of the Civil War, three of the Beck brothers (Jacob, Anthony, and George) and nephew (Antrim) mustered into Co. A, 20th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry under the command of Colonel William Gray as ninety-day volunteers. George Beck, age 41, had the rank of Second Sergeant; Anthony Beck, age 37, a private and musician; Jacob Beck, age 21, a private and musician, and Antrim, age 21, also a private and musician. A month earlier, in April 1861, a second Beck nephew, J. G. Stevenson Beck, had mustered into the 19th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry which was under the command of Colonel Peter Lyle also known as the “Second Regiment Infantry Militia”.
After mustering out of the 20th PA on August 6th, three of the Becks along with other Beck Band musicians, such as James L. Warwick (band leader), Franklin Boltz, Thomas Farrington, William IL Haines, Robert W. Levan and Samuel Murray mustered into the 28th Pennsylvania on August 30th, 1861 for three years then under the command of Col. John W. Geary. Indeed, two of Geary’s sons, Edward L Geary and William L. Geary, also joined the 28th Pennsylvania Regimental Band at that time. At 8 PM on September 1st, three Becks and the Band boarded a train in Philadelphia for Sandy Hook, MD where they joined the 28th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry already stationed at Point of Rocks, MD. George Beck mustered into the 28th PA in December 1861. The Beck Band remained with the 28th PA for one year as their official regimental brass band staying with the regiment during its postings to Harper’s Ferry, Point of Rocks, and Northern Virginia.
The General Order #91 of July 1862, however, ordered all regimental bands to disband as unused military forces who had become too costly to maintain. The Order ended the Beck Band members’ musical association with the 28th PA on September 9, 1862 the day that the entire Band was honorably discharged from military duty. The Band left as the 28th PVI and the 12th Corps joined the Army of the Potomac on September 17 in the bloodiest single-day battle of the Civil War at Antietam River (Sharpsburg, MD). Edward R. Geary had left n September 1862 to accept the commission of 2nd lieutenant with Knapp’s Pennsylvania battery – one member of the band, Franklin Boltz had died in July 1862 at Winchester, VA during one of the campaigns of the 28th PA. The rest of the Band members returned to Philadelphia to civilian life and to the original the Beck Philadelphia Band and fire brigade parades.
The three Beck brothers and their two nephews, Antrim and J.G. Stevenson Beck, and a number of their Philadelphia Band musicians, however, did not stay away from the War for long. On May 28, 1863, they all re-enlisted for nine months with the Philadelphia Brigade (the former California Brigade) that had lost its brigade band during the battle of Chancellorsville. Due to their continued association with Philadelphia fire brigades, their friends in the 72nd PA (Baxter’s Fire Zoaves made up entirely of Philadelphia firemen) invited the Band to join the US 2nd Brigade, 2nd Division, 2nd Corps of the Army of the Potomac. They participated with the 2nd Corps in the battle of Gettysburg and stayed with them at the Corps’ encampment in Culpepper County, Virginia until November 20th, 1863 when they all were honorably discharged from the military.
For the next thirteen years, the Becks and fellow musicians continued playing engagements in Philadelphia and along the East coast as a premiere concert and parade band primarily playing for the veterans of the 28th PVI and GAR (Grand Army of the Republic) events, such as burial and memorial services, and Civil War veterans’ parades. The final engagement of the original 1830 Beck Band took place at the Philadelphia 1876 Centennial celebrations in Fairmont Park though the Beck brothers and fellow bandsmen continued to play in area bands for the rest of their lives.
The 28th Pa Regimental Brass Band Today * (1991 – 2005, 2011 -)
In 1991, Ken and Bruce Cavender with several other musicians from the 28th PVI (Mifflin Guard) re-enacting historical association and Sons of the Union Veterans of the Civil War (SUVCW), Anna M. Ross, Camp #1, founded the 28th Pa regimental brass band in honor of the original 28th Pa brass band. Over the next fourteen years, the Cavender brothers with 14 members constituted a Civil War cornet saxhorn brass band with the following goals in honor of the memory of the Beck brothers, nephews and musicians of the original 28th PA Regimental Brass Band (Philadelphia Brigade Beck Band, No. 1): 1. To acquire and preserve period brass band instruments. To collect, study, and perform original musical scores of early and mid-19th century American brass bands of both town and military vintage. 3. To seek funding to support a continuous study of the 19th-century history of the brass band movement in America with particular attention to musicians, bands and performances of the “town band” in the Civil War era. 4. To perform the wide variety of 19th-century band concerts, parades and field music re-enactments with period instruments, authentic musical scores and period uniforms for the public’s edification and education.
By 2005, seven members of the “28th Pa Regimental Brass Band” had left the Band. The original 28th Pa Regimental Brass Band had become the “Beck Band” or the Philadelphia Brigade Band (aka 12th NJ band) in 2008. The “seven” then reformed themselves under several different names as a concert and field band similar to the original 28th Pa regimental band. In 2011, the “seven” officially renewed its incorporation as the “28th Pa Regimental Brass Band” under the original name and by-laws. They focused on re-creating the field aspects and public experiences of their Civil War musical ancestors through living history re-enactments of GAR parades, visiting veterans’ hospitals, and participating in field events in the Greater Delaware Valley area. The revived “28th Band” now consists of fourteen saxhorns and one percussionist using mainly Civil War era instruments. Its present members are: Bandleader W. Kenneth Cavender, Rich Fedosh, Tracy Fedosh, Jeff Heagy, Eric Hutchinson, Tom Mort, Tom Ricks, Glenn Ryer, Sharif Sazzad, Ron Taglairino, Elliot Topper, Tom Twardowski, Lester Walter, and Ed Yarmark.
The Band members wear the sky-blue pants, dark blue frock coats and forage hats of the Union volunteer infantry with brass shoulder scales and white gloves while in military concert, or as a “town band” – in the field, the band wears the sky-blue pants, blue four-button sack coat, and forage hats. All Band members are associated with the 28th PVI Historical Society with some members active in the Sons of the Union Veterans of the Civil War (SUVCW), Anna M. Ross Camp #1, Philadelphia Pa.
* The 2008 to present “28th Pennsylvania Regimental Brass Band” has no relationship, nor identification with the “Beck Band” (aka Philadelphia Band, or 12th NJ Band).
Historical Sources: US National Archives and Records Administration, Union Veterans Records, Civil War Pension Rolls, Samuel P. Bates, History of Pennsylvania Volunteers
1861-1865, 5 vols., Harrisburg, PA: 1869-71, Frank H. Taylor, Philadelphia
In the Civil War 1861-1865, Philadelphia, PA: 1913, and Andy Waskie, Philadelphia and the Civil War: Arsenal of the Union, Charleston, SC: 2011.
Rev. August, 2012