In June 1861 at the beginning of the Civil War most of the members of Baldwin’s Cornet Band had already arrived in Washington, DC, and were encamped outside the city when their leader, Edwin Thomas “E.T.” Baldwin joined them. He had enlisted in Washington on June 4, 1861, nine days after his bandmates, now organized as the military band for the First N.H. Regiment, had marched through crowds of hostile anti-Union civilians in Baltimore, Md. The band’s bravado in guiding the regiment through the city, led by the colorful drum major “Saxie” Pike, became legendary.
During the following weeks the soldiers of the First N.H. served in Virginia and Maryland but didn’t encounter any significant fighting. The men headed home as soon as their three-month enlistment ended on August 2, 1861. E.T. Baldwin mustered out in Concord on August 9 and returned to Manchester. He did not reenlist.
This was the end of the First N.H. Regiment and of its regimental band. According to the unit’s history published in 1890, “Not a member of the band was known to be under the influence of liquor during their time of service. Mr. Baldwin’s band, for the gentlemanly bearing of its members, the chaste character and beautiful rendering of its music, deserved and received highly complimentary notice as one of the best in the army. Most of its members were excellent singers, and as vocalists added greatly to the interest of the religious services when in camp.”
The Civil War ended in 1865. In 1869 a great musical festival was held in Boston, organized by the famous Irish-American bandmaster and composer Patrick Gilmore. According to the “Official Programme,” the National Peace Jubilee to “Commemorate the Restoration of Peace Throughout the Land” was “The Grandest Music Festival Ever Known in the History of the World.” To house the event a temporary hall, the Coliseum, was constructed near the intersection of Boylston and Dartmouth streets in Boston, the present site of the Boston Public Library in Copley Square. The wooden building held 50,000 people. The cost of construction was paid entirely through ticket sales.
The Peace Jubilee took place over five days, from June 15 through 19, 1869. The afternoon concerts featured an incredible orchestra of 1,000 musicians. In the preceding months, E.T. Baldwin dedicated himself to preparing the singers from Manchester and Nashua who would participate in the 10,000-person chorus. He volunteered his services, asking only that the singers do their best to represent their cities.
The highlight of the first concert was the performance of the “Anvil Chorus” from the opera “Il trovatore.” At the right moment in the piece 100 Boston firemen in bright red shirts hammered on 100 anvils, while 15 artillerymen fired guns outside the hall, and all the fire bells were rung throughout Boston. This spectacle was followed by a rousing rendition of “My Country ‘tis of Thee.”
In addition to serving as the organist and music director of the First Congregational Church in Manchester, E.T. Baldwin taught generations of music students, some of whom went on to become professional pianists and organists. He also gained a good reputation as a composer.
Some of his pieces were published as sheet music, including “sacred quartets” such as “I will lift mine eyes unto the hills,” and sentimental tunes for popular consumption, including “I’ll go with thee to thy island home.”
Author George F. Willey wrote this about E.T. Baldwin in his “Semi-Centennial Book of Manchester 1846-1896,” “Music has always been to him a high and sacred art to be intelligently pursued and not lightly treated as a past time…(He is) everywhere known as a staunch upholder of the true and genuine in music, as one who would educate the community, and particularly the young, to a purity of taste.”
E.T. Baldwin’s first wife Mary and their three-year- old daughter died in 1859. He married Sarah C. Kendrick of Nashua in October 1861. The couple had three children, Edwin K. (born 1862); Emma L. (born 1864); and Thomas C. (born 1865). Edwin became an organist and choirmaster and Thomas a violinist and singer. E. T. Baldwin died in 1904 at age 71, and is buried in Manchester’s Valley Cemetery.
Next week: Walter Dignam and the Manchester Cornet Band.