Divided loyalties?

Civil War Music

This edition of a Northern song was published in the Confederate capital. Not all Civil War songs were partisan. This one expresses a universal sentiment.

My posts about Confederate music of the Civil War are all based on a spreadsheet of songs in the Library of Congress’ sheet music collection. It took a long time to compile it, and there are just under 500 items labeled as representing the Confederate side. There are 1950 pieces in the same collection identified as representing the Union side. I finally broke down and paid someone else to prepare a spreadsheet. I have just now had a chance to glance at it.

Some names familiar to me from the Confederate spreadsheet also appear on the Union spreadsheet. For example, two music publishers in Baltimore (George Willig and Miller & Beacham) published music for both sides. The Louisville firm of Tripp & Craig published a piece with words and music by Will S. Hays called “The Union Forever for Me!” Hays also wrote “My Southern Sunny Home,” published initially by the New Orleans firm of A. E. Blackmar. George Frederick Root’s song “The Vacant Chair,” initially published in Chicago by Root & Cady, also appeared in editions by two different Southern publishers.

While it’s way too early to reach any definitive conclusions, it appears that at least in the border states, some companies and individuals were content to supply music for both sides in the war. Profit before principle? Not necessarily.

Publishers may have felt the need to satisfy the tastes of long-time customers on both sides of the conflict. And just because the nation was polarized into two armed camps does not mean that everyone took sides, or that everyone maintained the same opinions throughout the war.

Some of Root’s music shows up in the Library of Congress collection as representing the Confederate side because someone was careless inputing the data, but it is no surprise that both sides appreciated “The Vacant Chair.” The pain of the loss of a loved one to war is universal.


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