God Save the South: an update on Confederate music

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God Save the South, Halphin setting


The Library of Congress Civil War Sheet Music Collection has five different items called “God Save the South!” These are attributed to three different composers. Not all of them name the author of the words.

I have searched the collection by the keyword “Confederate,” obtaining a list of 493 items sorted by title. As it is impossible to resort that list, I have been working on a spreadsheet that I can sort in whatever ways are necessary. I am at the step of determining whether items with the same titles represent the same music or not. This post is only a preliminary report.

Two of these five items turn out to be different copies (with slightly different covers) from the same publisher (Baltimore: Miller & Beacham, 1861), with words and music by Earnest Halphin. The music and the text of the first verse fit on a single page. Verses 2-8, without music, occupy another page.

A different arrangement has only five verses, printed on a single page. This copy has no cover and no copyright statement. Therefore it is impossible to determine any publication data. The caption merely says “by Earnest Halphin.” That appears on the side of the page usually reserved for the composer. In the absence of “words and music by Earnest Halphin,” the author appears not to be acknowledged.

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God Save the South, Ellerbrock setting

Another edition, which appeared two years later, has music by Chas. W.A. Ellerbrock and words by Earnest Halphin. The cover identifies no publisher, but the copyright notice says that it was entered in the District Court of Maryland. While I am no expert on printing, it appears to me to be another Miller & Beacham publication.

It would be interesting to know why a Baltimore publisher, especially if it was Miller & Beacham, saw fit to issue a new tune instead of simply reprinting the earlier song. The two tunes are very similar in character. Both are in 3/4 time. To my taste, neither piece is any more interesting than the other either in terms of melody or harmony. They’re both in the same key, and share the same high note. The lowest note in Ellerbrock’s tune is a fifth lower than Halphin’s lowest note, so we can rule out trying to get a more singable tune as reason to issue a new one.

Meanwhile, in 1862, the Charleston, South Carolina firm of Geo. F. Cole issued a piece of the same by a Mrs. F.L.R., arranged by M.L. Reeves with words by “A Baltimorean.” Halphin was a Baltimorean. And sure enough, the Charleston publication is a third tune, this time in common time, to the same text.

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God Save the South, Mrs. F.L.R. setting




Here is the first verse

God save the South,
God save the South,
Her altars and firesides,
God save the South.
Now that the war is nigh
Now that we arm to die
Chaunting our battle cry,
Freedom or Death!

If you want, you can read the other verses here

Source and photo credit: results page from a search of the Library of Congress Civil War Sheet Music Collection

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