History of the 144th Army Band

The 144th Army Band is one of the more colorful units in the state of Illinois. An important part of Illinois military history, the band can trace its roots to 1861 and the 33rd Illinois Volunteer Regiment Band. The 33rd Illinois Volunteer Regiment Band was mustered out in 1862 but they left a legacy of professionalism.

Many American historic events occurred with the support of a military musical unit. Prior to the signing of the Declaration of Independence, colonial soldiers marched to the music of fifes and drums. During the Civil War, military leaders on both sides relied on military musicians to entertain troops, position troops in battle, and stir the troops on to victory.

Augustus Woodward and C.S. Elder, both of Lexington, Illinois led the 33rd Illinois Volunteer Regiment Band, a unit within the 33rd Illinois Volunteers. The band consisted of 17 bandsmen. The band was mustered on August 15, 1861 and mustered out on August 16, 1862. Due to financial issues within the military, bandsmen were a financial liability and the government could no longer afford the higher wage paid to the musician.

The band provided enjoyment to the regiment, many bands continued service without authorization, and the officers and men of the unit paid the added expense. The Regimental Band was a major part of the soldier's life while fighting against many odds. The band played music that reminded them of home, kept their spirits high, and added to their emotional well-being. The Regimental Band led soldiers into battle and to their death as well.

Although the Army Act of 1869 abolished regimental bands, regimental commanders continued to maintain bands. These bands usually consisted of men detailed for that purpose. They were paid from the regimental fund or by subscription. In 1894, a War Department general order authorized one sergeant and 20 privates per band, plus the chief musician or leader. By 1899, the Army had 41 bands and the number of musicians in each band was increased to 28.

In 1916, Illinois National Guard was mobilized at Camp Logan, Texas, and there, except for four units, was reorganized into the 33rd Division under the command of Major General George Bell, Jr. The Band became known as the 33rd Division Band and it was attached to the newly formed 33rd Division.

The division, along with the other National Guard divisions, was ordered to convert from the square to the triangular formation between January and February 1942. On 21 February 1942 the division was re-designated the 33rd Infantry Division. The 33rd Infantry Division got WW II campaign credit for the New Guinea Campaign and the Luzon Campaign in the Philippines, when they fought the Japanese. The division formed part of the occupation forces of the Japanese home islands and was inactivated there on 28 February 1946.

In October 1982, a groundbreaking ceremony was conducted for a new armory to be built on Camp Lincoln, in Springfield, Illinois. The two-story, 55,000 square foot building would feature a drill floor, indoor rifle range, medical examination facilities, offices, and rehearsal and instrument storage areas. Since 1980, the band has called this new facility home. The band was attached to the Joint Force Headquarters from 1968 through 2008. JFHQ provides personnel, transportation and logistical support for all units of the Illinois Army National Guard in executing mobilization plans to ensure members efficiently reach their mobilization stations. JFHQ consists of 750 soldiers.

In 2008, the 144th Army Band was detached from JFHQ and was assigned to the new 65th Troop Command Brigade. The 65th Troop Command provides mission command to assigned units focusing on personnel, logistics, and training. The 65th Troop Command coordinates and provides resources and support to assigned units, Soldiers, and families in preparation for, conduct of, and in recovery from their state and federal missions. Additionally, serves as the primary Joint Task Force performing defense support to civil authorities. The 65th TCB consists of over 2800 soldiers, is the 2nd largest major command in the Illinois Army National Guard, is comprised of 17 different branches and 67 different military occupational specialties, and is widely geographically dispersed throughout the state in 19 separate armories.

In 2018, the band was moved from its location at the North Armory on Camp Lincoln to the Calumet Armory (Donnelly Building) in the South Loop, Chicago. The armories in Chicago are markedly larger than other facilities in Illinois often housing entire battalions of Soldiers. The Donnelly Building (Calumet Ave) was constructed in 1993. The 144th Army Band is one of six units housed at the Calumet Armory.

The mission of the Band is to provide musical entertainment for the morale of soldiers and support the local communities when possible. The band has a wide range of musical capabilities from Ceremonial band, Marching band, Concert band, Dixieland Combo, Stage band, Jazz Combo, and a variety of small musical groups. The band is comprised of some 35 "citizen soldier" musicians from all over the state of Illinois and the surrounding area. Many of the members are students, music teachers, or otherwise associated with the music field in their civilian pursuits.

The 144th Army Band represents the National Guard at a variety of civilian and official military functions throughout the State of Illinois. The Band performs at parades, concerts, dances, and receptions for military dignitaries. During annual training periods, they perform concert tours throughout the State for the civilian communities or provide entertainment to the Illinois Army National Guard units during their annual training.

Shoulder Sleeve Insignia

Distinctive Unit Insignia