On Tuesday Nov. 19, “The President’s Own” retraced its historic steps as it traveled north for the 150th
Anniversary of the dedication of the national cemetery at the Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania. Marine Band Director Col. Michael Colburn led the band in a special observance of President Abraham Lincoln’s immortal “Gettysburg Address.” The Dedication Day events began with a prelude by the Marine Band at the brick rostrum located near the Taneytown Road entrance to the Soldiers’ National Cemetery. The ceremony began with a wreath-laying in the cemetery immediately followed by a service at the rostrum.
In anticipation of the original dedication of the cemetery in early November 1863, Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles approved a request by an “agent of the grounds” to have the Marine Band present at the ceremony. “The [Navy] Department has no objection to the Band being sent to Gettysburg, Pa., to take part in the ceremonies to this sacred purpose,” Secretary Welles wrote in a letter to the officers of the Marine Corps dated Nov. 3, 1863. The band proceeded by train to Gettysburg, via Baltimore and Hanover Junction, on Nov. 18. Overseen by Leader Francis M. Scala, the 27 members of the band, including John Philip Sousa’s father, trombonist Antonio Sousa, serenaded President Lincoln with a lunchtime concert on the train.
The next day, the members of “The President’s Own” performed the hymn “Old Hundred” during the consecration and dedication of the soldiers’ cemetery at Gettysburg, honoring those who served. According to an article in the Washington Daily Morning Chronicle, it was played “with great effect, in all its grand and sublime beauty.”