The Band of the California Battalion is an accurate portrayal of a battalion or brigade level band of the Union Army during the Civil War. The instrumentation is completely different from the modern concert band. The Civil War era band did not utilize woodwind instruments. Amongst the brass instruments, there are no French Horns or Trombones. These omitted instruments were much too fragile to stand up to rigorous field usage.
The band is made entirely of a single family of brass instruments called sax horns. These instruments were developed by Adolph Sax who later developed the saxophone. The sax horns blended together with a mellow tone quality when played softly or bright and brassy when played loudly.
A group such as this would be expected to provide music for all military occasions. A typical band would play for military formations, parades, dances, social events, religious services, and during actual battles.
Nothing during this period in history kept a soldier marching and fighting like a good meal and a good band. Many regiments owe their success to the motivation provided by their bands.
This type of band remained popular from about 1845 to the 1880s. Its dominance was eclipsed by the wind orchestra or concert band instrumentation popularized by band leaders like John Philip Sousa. The wind orchestra required around 50 musicians and thus was not practical or economical for field usage. This larger band became a fixture of the permanent army post rather than following the soldiers into battle.
The Band of the California Battalion has the appearance of a band that has been in the field for some time. The flashy parade garb has given way to standard infantry and cavalry uniforms. Due to casualties, replacements had to be garnered from other branches of the service. You will notice uniforms of the infantry, cavalry, engineers, medical service, and even a naval cadet. The band kept the army together so top priority was given to keeping the musical ensemble intact.