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Profile of Patrick Sarsfield Gilmore



December 25, 1829


County Galway, Ireland


September 24, 1892 in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.A. due to heart attack

Also Known As:

Patrick Sarsfield Gilmore was a bandleader, cornet soloist, songwriter, also known as the "Father of the American Band" and "Father of Military Bands." He was married to Ellen O'Neill. He was music director for several important historical events like the Dedication of the Statue of Liberty in 1886. The traditional countdown to the New Year in Times Square, New York was started by Gilmore and his band. Madison Square Garden was originally called Gilmore's Garden because he often held concerts there.

Type of Compositions:

Gilmore is mainly known as a bandmaster but he also wrote war time songs, among them his famous "When Johnny Comes Marching Home" which is believed to have been inspired by "Johnny We Hardly Knew Ye,” an Irish marching song.


Gilmore learned to play the cornet as a young boy under Patrick Keating, a retired bandmaster. His first taste of performing came from joining youth bands and singing at their church choir. In 1849, at the age of 19, his family moved to Boston where Gilmore was further exposed to music and performing. There he headed the Ordway Music Store's band instrument department. He went on to lead the Charlestown, Massachusetts Town Band in 1852, followed by the Suffolk Brass Band.

Notable Works:

Among his known works are "When Johnny Comes Marching Home," "The Everlasting Polka," "22nd Regiment March," "Music Fills My Soul With Sadness," "Good News from Home," "God Save the Union," "Seeing Nellie Home" and "We are Coming Father Abraham."

Interesting Facts:

During the inauguration of President James Buchanan, Gilmore; then leading the Salem Brigade Band, performed in honor of the President. The Boston Brigade Band, which he briefly directed in 1853, was reorganized and renamed as Patrick Gilmore's Band. During the war, Gilmore and his band enlisted and served under Massachusetts' 24th Regiment. After the war, Gilmore went back to Boston and established the Gilmore and Wright musical instrument manufacturing company.

Other Interesting Facts:

Gilmore also organized several concert series such as the National Peace Jubilee on June 15, 1869 and the World Peace Jubilee in 1872 which featured an even bigger ensemble. Gilmore later formed a new band called the 22nd New York Regiment Band. They had their first concert on November 18, 1873 followed by performance tours across the United States and then internationally. Gilmore's song "When Johnny Comes Marching Home" was originally published under a pseudonym - Louis Lambert. He was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1970.

Music Samples and More Information:

  • Music and Lyrics of "When Johnny Comes Marching Home"
  • More information from the Patrick Sarsfield Gilmore Society.
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