The 161st Indiana Volunteer Infantry Regimental Band

Contributed by By Glenn Coker


For more information about music of the Spanish American War period, click here!
To read a letter written by Capt. John Stotts of the 161st Indiana Volunteer Infantry, click here!

General:

The 161st Indiana Volunteer Infantry became part of Maj. Gen. Fitzhugh Lee's Seventh Army Corps, and spent the period of the Spanish American War at Camp Cuba Libre in Jacksonville, Florida. Later, the unit became part of the occupation forces in Cuba.

As with all military units, it depended on its band for entertainment and to ease the homesickness that many of the men felt being far away from home for the first time. This is the story of the 161st Volunteer Infantry Regimental Band.
 

Band History:

"Shortly after the formation of the regiment at Camp Mount, the proper steps were taken preparatory to the regimental musical organization.  A careful search through the different companies brought forth several fair musicians and they at once secured instruments, some owning their own, and some using instruments rented by the officers from dealers in the city; during the remainder of the month of July an d up to August 12 the boys lent their efforts toward furnishing band music for the regiment and visitors.  Upon leaving Indianapolis for Jacksonville, the rented instruments were returned, and those who owned them shipped theirs home.  After Mr. Beck, of Columbus, Indiana, after several other conclusions, concluded that the sand of Florida would certainly destroy his already failing eyesight, Mr. Antonio Montani, of Indianapolis, was appointed chief musician (band master) and Mr. H. M. Lord, of Mt.  Vernon, Indiana, as one of the principal musicians."

The band of the 161st Indiana Volunteer Infantry. The sergeant at right may be Edgar Stiers, of Co. H. The gent second from the left in the rear row is probably Fred Walker.

"Arriving at Jacksonville [Camp Cuba Libre] it was several days before a new set of band instruments was received, and when they did arrive they were of a very interior grade; however some progress was made under Mr. Montani's direction."

"The Second Mississippi Regiment had been furnished by their state with a fine set of Boston musical instruments, .valued at three thousand five hundred dollars, and prior to leaving for home on September 12, the instruments had been turned to account with the Government, and late in the night of September 11, Major Megrew returned from a conference with Chief Quartermaster Pond bearing an order for the Second 'Mississippi instruments to be turned over to the quartermaster of the One Hundred and Sixty-first Indiana, and on the morning of the 12th they were in the possession of the One Hundred and Sixty-first Regimental Band."

"About this time Mr. Montani's health began to fail, and on this account, and also on account of sickness in the band,  no progress was made, although the organization was sufficient for the needs at this time."

"On October 21st, the regiment was ordered to Savannah, and after arrival there Mr. Montani secured his discharge.  The position of director fell to principal Musician Harry M. Lord, and under him the band took a fresh start and accomplished much. Mr. Lord was taken sick two weeks later, however, and was sent to the division hospital. At this juncture it was evident the One Hundred and Sixty-first Indiana would go to Cuba, and Captain Stott started for Indiana, the result being that several good musicians were secured.  Mr. E. S. Williams, of Winchester, solo cornetist, being appointed chief musician, and Frederick Walker, from Shelbyville, as principal musician; much needed music was secured and the band made great strides.  Arriving in Cuba, Mr. G. A. Hay, cornetist, was appointed principal musician to succeed Mr. Lord, who had been furloughed and discharged.  Although handicapped by some sickness the band never lost a member.  They withstood the climate of Cuba admirably, and returned to Savannah March 29. 1899, with the regiment.  The band was scheduled for one concert each week division headquarters, the majority of which were given Several concerts were played at St. James Park in Jacksonville, and one at the Windsor hotel; two were given at DeSota in Savannah, and one at General Lee's reside in Marianao, Cuba.  Music was also furnished for the One Hundred and Sixty-first reception at Marianao on the evening of March the 20th, besides several concerts furnished after the return of the regiment to America.  As a band this ranked second to none in the Seventh Army Corps All are as proud of their record as the men are of the record of the regiment during the Spanish-American war."

Members:

Warren, Bronson, baritone.
Byers, John, snare drum.
Braselton.  E. K., solo alto.
Coffey, Albert, fourth alto.
Darnell, Charles, slide trombone.
Dumenil, Ellsworth, slide trombone.
Hammock, John, first B-flat cornet.
Harris, W. S., first clarinet.
Hoar, John, bass drum.
Hay, G. C., solo cornet.
Huffman, Ed., tenor trombone.
Jakes, David, second clarinet.
Lance, Ed., third alto.
Lunow, Martin, slide trombone.
McCloud,- John, E-flat clarinet.
Meissner, A. C., E-flat bass.
Reinhart, Walter, second B-flat cornet.
Paxton, George, piccolo.,
Rucker, H. V., E-flat bass.
Walker, Fred, baritone.
Williams, E. S., solo cornet.
Webb, M. S., second alto.
Leland, Charles, drum-major.
Cocker, Joe, cook.

ERNEST S. WILLIAMS:

Ernest Williams"Mr. Ernest S. Williams, chief musician, was appointed to his position December 3, 1898.  He is the son of S. E. Williams, one of the foremost musicians of the state, and was born at Fountain City, Indiana, on the 27th day of September,  1881.   He received his education in the school s of Winchester, Indiana, but at a very early age it came apparent that he was, by his natural gifts, fitted above everything else for the musical profession. At the early age of seven, under the direction of his father, he began the study of the rudiments and the practice of the cornet.   Mr. Williams has had connection with the leading bands of the state, and since his appointment as c,hief musician in the One Hundred and Sixty-first Indiana he has proven efficient and acceptable in every particular, bringing the band to a recognized position as one of very best of the Seventh Army Corps.  One of Mr.Williams' latest and best compositions is the "March of the One Hundred and Sixty-first," which he has just published and dedicated to the members of that regiment."

Joseph Cocker:

Joseph Cocker, who served as the cook for the band, was born in Ottawa, Canada in about 1865 and was a cook by profession.  He had been living in New York and had a wife, Sarah, living in Brooklyn, but had found his way to Savannah, Georgia. In Savannah, he enlisted in the 161st Indiana Volunteer Infantry on December 8, 1898. Mr. Cocker was 5 feet, 7 1/2" tall, and had a tattoo on his right forearm which consisted of his initials and a U.S. Flag.


Bibliography:

The history of the band is quoted from: Biederwolf, William Edward, History of the One Hundred and Sixty-First Regiment Indiana Volunteer Infantry. (Logansport: Wilson, Humphreys & Co., 1899) 426-431.

The information on Joseph Cocker is based on his enlistment form, contributed by Glenn Coker.

The information on Edgar Stiers (see photo) has been provided Robert Stovell. It is speculative based on his height, his membership in the unit, and his appearance.

The information on Fred Walker was provided by Pat Walker and Harry Earl Walker.


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