Shared songs of the Civil War

Although at war, the Union and Confederacy shared a common history, language, and at least partly, cultural heritage. By 1863, they also shared war weariness and the grief of lost loved ones. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that they shared at least two songs that year. A Northern and a Southern composer both set the poem that starts “All Quiet along the Potomac Tonight.” Northern and Southern publishers both issued “Who Will Care for Mother Now?” … Continue reading

Patrick Gilmore and the Massachusetts 24th regiment

Various army regiments on both sides of the US Civil War had bands. Some of them were quite good and enjoyed an excellent reputation. Only a few played under leaders who were famous before the war broke out. One of them, the Massachusetts 24th, played under Patrick Gilmore. Patrick Gilmore Irish-born Patrick Gilmore became well known as a cornet player in Boston. At 23, he became leader of the Boston Brass Band as successor to keyed bugle virtuoso Ned Kendall. Later, the Salem Brass Band offered him a considerable raise. In December 1856, he invited the popular Kendall to be … Continue reading

The musical warfare of Confederate ladies

During much of the nineteenth century, the piano in the parlor served as the home entertainment center. Families bonded around it by singing popular songs together. They entertained guests there, too. Women especially were expected to be accomplished musicians and performers entertaining whatever guests showed up. Americans also frequently serenaded outside each other’s homes, either singing or playing instruments, as a tribute or compliment. These practices became politicized during the Civil War. Publishers on both sides churned out patriotic songs. The homes that did not acquire and learn a significant quantity must have been a distinct minority. … Continue reading

We Wait beneath the Furnace Blast: Civil War protest music

On January 17, 1862 the Hutchinson family intended to perform for the First New Jersey Regiment at Fairfax Courthouse, Virginia, but members of other units crowded into the room, too. The Hutchinsons were evangelical Christians with a passion for temperance, women’s rights, and the abolition of slavery. They did not sing merely to entertain and amuse. They sought to deter their audiences from sin and also influence their politics. A new, unpublished song That night in Fairfax they sang a setting of “We Wait beneath the Furnace Blast,” a recent abolitionist poem by John Greenleaf Whittier that he wrote to … Continue reading

D.P. Faulds: Border State music publisher

Louisville, Kentucky, located across the Ohio River from Indiana, was home to a thriving music publishing industry throughout the middle of the nineteenth century, D.P. Faulds being one of the more prominent. It issued music representing both sides of the Civil War, as did other Border State publishers. Four slave states, Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland, and Delaware voted down attempts to secede from the Union. They became known as Border States. Pro-Union and pro-Confederate sentiment ran high in all of these states, and troops from all of them served on both sides of the war. Is it any wonder that music … Continue reading

Divided loyalties?

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, … Continue reading

The Bonnie Blue Flag, by Harry Macarthy

In its short existence, the Confederate States of America adopted two official flags. The Southern Cross flag so familiar today was adopted only in 1863 after it became apparent that the original Stars and Bars looked enough like the American Stars and Stripes to confuse soldiers in battle. No song about either flag ever approached the popularity of Harry Macarthy’s tribute to the Bonnie Blue Flag, which was never an official Confederate flag at all. The flag Search for “Confederate Flag” on Google, and you might find one or two references to the Bonnie Blue Flag, but it’s not the … Continue reading

The Battle Cry of Freedom: best song of the Civil War?

Several songs of the Civil War remain well known to this day. Perhaps the best known today is “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” but certainly the preeminent war song of its own day was “The Battle Cry of Freedom,” by George Frederick Root. “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” with its religious allusions, quickly found a place in hymnals, which it retains to this day. “The Battle Cry of Freedom” is nothing but a war song, yet many of you reading this are probably humming it right now. What is it about this song that has given it such … Continue reading

Slave music and the Civil War

Since the American Civil War was fought over the issue of slavery, no survey of Civil War music can be complete without careful attention to slave music. Slave music didn’t arise from the war, of course. It had existed in one form or another for the entire two-century history of slavery. The war itself, while it was in progress, had little effect on slave music. Afterwards, when the slaves received their freedom, most of them were anxious to leave slave culture, including its music and performance practice, behind them. Slavery as an institution In the course of the American Revolution, … Continue reading

Civil War field music: fifes and drums

Military music during the American Civil War was a blend of old and new instruments and ensembles. Brass bands like the 26th North Carolina Regiment Band or the 1st Brigade Band, Wisconsin represented fairly recent instrumental combinations. The bugle was also a recent invention. Fife and drum bands, on the other hand, reached their heyday in the Revolutionary War and saw their last military action in the Civil War. The United States Marine Band was established by an Act of Congress in 1798. Don’t be thinking John Philip Sousa just yet. The original band comprised 32 fifers and drummers. An … Continue reading