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Civil War Blog

A project of PA Historian

The Repasz Band

Posted By on June 7, 2011

 

The Repasz Band of Williamsport, Lycoming County, Pennsylvania, which claims to have been founded in 1831, is one of the oldest, if not the oldest, continuously operating community bands in the United States.  In 1844, the band accompanied the Pennsylvania delegation to the Whig Party Convention in Baltimore and played for the nomination of Henry Clay for the presidency.  The band traveled from Williamsport, located on the West Branch of the Susquehanna River, down river past the Lykens Valley area by canal boat on its journey to Baltimore, the railroad not having been completed by that time.  See post noting Pennsylvania Canal.

When the Civil War broke out, the Repasz Band enlisted in the 11th Pennsylvania Infantry as the regimental band, this time traveling by railroad for the muster in at Harrisburg on 26 April 1861.  When their three months service was completed, the men were mustered out and returned to Williamsport.  Again they enlisted, this time on 21 September 1861 at Elmira, New York, in the 29th Pennsylvania Infantry – again as the regimental band. Service this time was for less than  one year and the group was mustered out on 19 July 1862.  After 1862, the War Department officially discouraged individual regiments from recruiting men specifically to play in regimental bands as the belief was that soldiers should be fighters first and utilized as such.  As a group, the band members did not join a specific regiment until 1864 when most enlisted in the 8th Pennsylvania Cavalry on 3 September 1864.  Toward the end of the war the 8th Pennsylvania Cavalry was merged into the 16th Pennsylvania Cavalry.  Because the band members who served in the 8th Pennsylvania Cavalry are not listed as band members, it is difficult to determine what soldiers made up the band and references to the band of the 8th Pennsylvania Cavalry are difficult to find in the official records.  However, those men from the Repasz Band who joined the 8th Pennsylvania Cavalry have stated that they played the “Star Spangled Banner”, “The Battle Cry of Freedom” and “Rally Round the Flag” at the surrender at Appomattox – and in reply, Confederate bands played “Bonnie Blue Flag” and “Dixie.”

After the war, the men returned home to Williamsport, where they continued as a formal organization using the Lycoming Opera House as a home.  Unfortunately all the records, souvenirs and mementos of their wartime experience were lost when the opera house was destroyed by fire.

Daniel Repass

Three members of the Repasz (or Repass) family were prominent in the military bands of the Civil War.  Daniel Repass (1813-1891) was the band leader.  His two sons, Milton Repass (1840-1888) and George Repass (1836-1898) were band members.  The elder Repass remained behind when his two sons joined up with the 8th Pennsylvania Cavalry – the sons hoping to serve as band members in that mounted regiment.

A wood cut has survived showing the Repasz Band during the Civil War.

A photo shows the Repasz Band as it appeared in 1886

Click on photo to enlarge.

By 1886, nearly every Pennsylvania community had bands that were formed from veterans who had played in Civil War bands.  In the post tomorrow, the band that was formed in Gratz, Dauphin Co., Pennsylvania, will be discussed.

In 1901 a special march was written for the Repasz Band by Charles C. Sweeney and Harry J. Lincoln.  The cover of the piano copy is pictured below.

At the top of this post, the current Repasz Band of Williamsport can be seen and heard playing the Repasz March in a YouTube video.

Barry Stocker of Klingerstown, Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, is a Civil War historian and re-enactor and is presently researching the Repasz family and all Pennsylvanians who served in regimental bands.  Barry is also a member of the current Repasz Band.  His research includes many men from the Lykens Valley area who are included in the Civil War Research Project.  No doubt many Lykens Valley area veterans who served in regiments that had their own bands, especially if they met and knew members of the Repass family, were inspired by the experience and took that back to their own communities.  In a prior post on this blog, The Unknown Military Musician, the portrait of one such veteran was discussed.  Any reader with information on any Civil War military band or musician is urged to contact Barry or post a comment here.

Repass portraits are courtesy of Barry Stocker.  Piano sheet music cover is from Wikipedia and is in the public domain because its copyright has expired.  Repasz Band pictures are from the Repasz Band web site.   Some of the information for this post was taken from the Civil War Research Project or was supplied by Barry Stocker.


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