The Robert Moxley Band was a group of African-American musicians, mostly local slaves, who formed a military-style brass band in the years before the Civil War. The band held regular concerts in what is now Jacob Wheaton Park. In 1863 the U.S. Government began recruiting African-Americans into the army in segregated units. (During this period, the navy accepted black recruits who served in integrated crews with white sailors and Marines). After hearing the band play in Hagerstown, an army official was so impressed with the group that he arranged to enlist the band as a unit to serve together. During its service, the band was named the "Number One Brigade Band, United States Colored Troops". The band made appearances at recruiting events, mostly in black communities as an instrument to inspire African-Americans to enlist. After service in the Siege of Petersburg, Virginia in 1864, the band was transferred to the west and was mustered out of service at Brownsville Texas in April, 1866. Many Hagerstown and Washington County African-Americans served in the Union army and navy during the War.
African-Americans held a special pride in their service during the war that ended slavery. The Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.) was an organization of Union Civil War veterans, much like the
V.F.W. or American Legion of today. It was generally a segregated organization. Hagerstown had two G.A.R. Posts: Reno Post #4 (a white post), and Lyon Post #31, which served as a home for black G.A.R. members. Lyon Post met on the first and third Thursdays of the month. Few records survive, however it is clear through newspaper reports and surviving event programs that Lyon Post participated in many of the civic events of the day regardless of the institutionalized discrimination its individual members experienced in their daily lives.