BORN IN 1832, Edwin Thomas “E.T.” Baldwin grew up in Manchester and Nashua. A natural musical talent, he thrived on the formal education he received from several good music instructors, and also enjoyed playing brass instruments and the snare drum in the Nashua Band. He started his professional career in 1850 in Nashua, and the next year established himself in Manchester where he was a church organist, music teacher and dealer in pianos and other keyboard instruments.
In the fall of 1859 E.T. began teaching 20 or so young Manchester men to play brass band instruments. By the summer of 1860 he managed to shape the rookie group into a proficient musical ensemble—Baldwin’s Cornet Band. The band was hired to play at several Republican Party gatherings held in support of the party’s presidential candidate, Abraham Lincoln, who would be elected in November 1860.
On April 13, 1861 the United States Army surrendered Fort Sumter in South Carolina to the attacking Confederates. This was war, so on April 15 President Lincoln called for raising 75,000 troops for the Union army. From May 1-7 the new First Regiment of the New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry (also known as First N.H. Regiment) mustered on the fairgrounds in Concord.
Baldwin’s Cornet Band was invited to spend time there entertaining the recruits. The regiment’s commander, Colonel Mason Tappan, enjoyed the band so much that he encouraged the men to join up for the three-month enlistment period in order to form the regimental band. Nearly every member of Baldwin’s band enlisted. They brought their uniforms and instruments with them to camp, and the Manchester government showed its support by supplying them with money to buy revolvers. E.T. Baldwin stayed behind temporarily, likely due to his business commitments.
The Manchester Cornet Band accompanied the city’s recruits to Concord but left after arriving in camp. On May 2, one of this band’s principal members, Francis Harvey “Saxie” Pike, enlisted.
He, like several members of Baldwin’s band, was a mechanic at the Amoskeag Manufacturing Company. He was a seasoned fife player and drum major, so was given the special position of Principal Musician, Fife Major of the First N.H. Regiment. Per his request, he was issued a custom-made 5-foot long baton with a shiny brass head (now in the collection of the Manchester Historic Association).
The 1,000 men of the First N.H. Regiment arrived in Baltimore, Md., by train on May 27, 1861. To board the train headed for Washington, D.C., the soldiers had to march through the city to another station while surrounded by crowds of angry Southern sympathizers. When the Sixth Massachusetts Militia had marched along the same route on April 19, 1861 rioting had broken out, resulting in the deaths of 16 people.
The First N.H. Regiment’s band, led by drum major Saxie Pike, headed up the long column of marching soldiers. Saxie was an amazing sight with his bright blue coat adorned with brass buttons and gold cord, and his tall black “shako” hat topped with a large peacock feather.
As the band played “Yankee Doodle Dandy” and other rousing patriotic tunes, Saxie strode forward, seemingly fearless, swinging his great baton energetically. He and the band cleared a path through the agitated throngs, allowing the regiment to pass through unharmed.
The next morning the Union Army paraded up Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington past the White House where President Lincoln reviewed the troops. The First N.H. Regiment was again led by Saxie Pike and the regimental band. When Ohio Sen. Benjamin Wade saw Saxie strutting down the street, he was impressed. He asked his friend Sen. John Sherman of Ohio “Who is that?” Sherman replied that it was the drum major. Wade commented, “Well, if the people could see him they would make him a general.”
Later that day Saxie Pike was invited to the White House where he met Vice President Hannibal Hamlin, who complimented him on his bravery in Baltimore, and offered him a bottle of champagne.
Unfortunately, E.T. Baldwin missed all this excitement. He finally made his way south to Washington where he enlisted on June 4, 1861, and then joined up with his bandsmen in the First N.H. Regiment’s camp near Washington.
Next week: The rest of E.T. Baldwin’s story.