POPULAR SONGS OF THE CIVIL WAR
By Ramona Garcia, Fairfield, Ct., USA
The songs of the Civil War contain distinct echoes of that era. These songs expressed or came to express a multitude of emotions associated with this great conflict: patriotism, martial pride, death, homesickness, loneliness, love, and hope. As reflections of this conflict these songs provide a more human approach to and understanding of the Civil War era. Charles Hamm in Yesterdays: Popular Song in America acknowledges that:
The Civil War has left a heritage of music that reflects those times in the most vivid way. Indeed, this music was so intimately involved with the events of the time that it became part of them.
Hamm's observation could serve as the theme for this paper.
The songs of the Civil War were indebted to the traditional, often sentimental ballads written and published during the 1830's, 1840's and 1850's. One model for the popular song grew out of these ballads. The ties between American songs and European music could be seen in these sentimental songs. Many of the composers who wrote these songs were Europeans who had come to America.
The most famous of these composers was the British-born Henry Russell. Russell received his musical training and education in England and Italy. He was a member of a juvenile opera troupe in London. As a young man he broadened his musical horizons by travelling to Italy where he met Bellini, Rossini and Donizetti. In Italy he absorbed the music of Italian opera.
With his solid background in European music Russell decided to come to North America and establish his career. He was not very successful in Canada, so he came to New York. In 1835 he decided to compose descriptive songs which reflected the influences of Italian opera and such composers as Bellini. His first song was Wind of the Winter's Night, Whence Comest Thou? Other similar songs included The Maniac, The Old Arm Chair, My Mother's Bible and Woodman, Spare That Tree. Sentimental lyrics were one characteristic of Russel's songs which insured their popularity.
In addition to being popular Russell's songs were widely performed. Numerous copies of sheet music were sold. More significantly these songs helped create the popular song. Russell's songs represented the sentimental ballad tradition which provided a model for the songs of the Civil War.
The popular songs of the civil War were also indebted to the minstrel show songs. Minstrel songs represented a sizeable chunk of American popular song during the antebellum period. These songs reached their audiences through performances and sheet music sales. With the development of the plantation song the style and content of minstrel songs changed. The eventual result of this change was the creation of a new kind of song.
The minstrel show tradition was influential in the development of popular music because it reached wide audiences. The antebellum minstrel show was a complete musical and theatrical show whose songs were performed and accompanied by the banjo, tambourine, violin, and bones. Two famous minstrel shows that had sizeable followings and extensive repertoires were the Virginia Minstrels and Christy's Minstrels.
The Virginia Minstrels provided their share of popular songs by employing the creative and performing talents of Frank Bower, William Whitlock, Dick Pelham and Daniel Emmett. These gentlemen wrote and/or performed numerous songs including Uncle Gabriel, Goin Ober de Mountain, Boatman Dance, Fine Old Colored Gemman and Old Dan Tucker.
Christy's Minstrels were equally prolific in their musical output. Mary Blan and The Gal with the Blue Dress On were only two of the songs that Christy's Minstrels made popular. If the Virginia Minstrels were able to call upon the talents of Daniel Emmett, Christy's Minstrels had Stephen Foster who added Old Uncle Ned and Louisiana Belle to their repertoire.
With a repertoire of popular songs and avid audiences attending minstrel show performances, minstrel songs reached greater numbers of people through sheet music sales. Consequently when the tone, style and content of minstrel songs changed, other types of popular music were affected. The plantation song was a different kind of minstrel song influenced by the sentimental ballad tradition. Negroes were portrayed sympathetically and humanely. Female slaves inspired the greatest number of songs including Angelina Baker, Miss Lucy Neal, Ella Roe, Darling Nelly Gray and Foster's Melinda May. A verse from Lucy Neal illustrates the similarities between plantation songs and sentimental ballads.
One day I got a letter, And jet black was the seal It was de announcement ob de death Of my poor Lucy Neal.
Except for the dialect Lucy Neal was similar in content and style to contemporary sentimental ballads.
The sheet music sales of the plantation songs influenced other composers to create new popular songs which dropped the dialect and slave characters but retained the sentimental and emotional content. Songs like Annie Lisle, Lilly Dale, Nora O'Neal, Aura Lee, Gentle Annie, Listen to the Mocking Bird and George Root's The Hazel Dell depict the tragedies and emotional upheavals of humanity as a whole rather than the slaves.
Minstrel show music had come full circle. The minstrel song, influenced and shaped by contemporary sentimental songs, led to the creation of the plantation song. The plantation songs' popularity influenced other composers to write new popular songs. These new songs blended the minstrel show and sentimental ballad traditions to provide another model for the popular songs of the Civil War.
Like minstrel songs and sentimental ballads, Stephen Foster's songs provided additional models for Civil War songs.His influence on songs of the Civil War stemmed from his ability to blend the two musical traditions of the minstrel song and the traditional ballad and to write a new type of popular song.
Foster's first songs were the traditional sentimental songs of that era. His sentimental songs were not financially successful. These earlier compositions reflected Foster's absorption of the music of Weber, Mozart, Beethoven and the sentimental ballads of Charles E Horn and Henry Bishop. Foster's first efforts included Open Thy Lattice Love, Stay, Summer Breath, Once I Loved Thee Mary Dear, Willie My Brave, Molly, Do You Love Me? and What Must Fairy's Dream Be.
Foster's sentimental songs reflected European musical influences. These songs gave him his earliest taste of success and enabled him to develop his individual musical style. His minstrel songs included Away Down South, Susanna, Uncle Ned and Oh! Susanna, in addition to the already mentioned Old Uncle Ned and Louisiana Belle.
Foster was not content with just writing popular minstrel songs in the traditional mould. He wanted to leave his mark on the minstrel song genre. Like the plantation songs Foster's new minstrel songs dropped dialect and emphasized emotion. These songs which sympathetically portrayed the slave included Old Folks at Home, Massa's in de Cold Ground, Farewell My Night. The success of Foster's new minstrel songs lay in their universal themes of "nostalgia for lost youth, home, friends".
With his transformation of the minstrel song by employing universal rather than black themes, Foster was now ready to write new songs. Like his earlier pieces, these songs included The Voice of By-gone Days, Farewell, Old Cottage, Wilt Though Be Gone, Love?, Come With Thy Sweet Voice Again, Linger in Blissful Repose and such masterpieces as Jeanie With the Light Brown Hair and Beautiful Dreamer. This new type of popular song which grew out of Foster's experience with minstrel show songs and traditional sentimental songs provided another model for the songs of the Civil War.
The eighteen songs that constitute the body of this report have been divided into six categories. Yet the people of the Civil War era who sang these songs didn't recognise certain of their favourite pieces as representative of artificial categories. This man-made categorisation was devised by such authors/compilers as Irwin Silber in Songs of the Civil War, Willard A and Porter W Heaps in The Singing Sixties and Richard Crawford in The Civil War Songbook. The first six songs represent the stirring patriotic outpourings of the North and South. The next three numbers illustrate the sentimental longings for peace, love, home and family. Four songs were selected to portray the soldier's lot, and three songs deal with the soldier's death. Finally, two numbers were chosen to provide a last work on this great conflict: either for reconciliation or continued hostility of feelings.
Of the three pieces chosen to represent the Union, The Battle Cry of Freedom, The Battle Hymn of the Republic, and We are Coming Father Abraham didn't appear on the scene until 1862.
In 1862 Lincoln called for more men for the army and the navy, and George Root responded by writing The Battle Cry of Freedom. George Frederick Root, composer, musician, and instructor, spent the first twenty-four years of his life in his native state of Massachusetts. He was a professionally trained musician whose early career aspirations were in the field of music education and the preparation of music instructors.
In 1850 Root, now living in New York, broadened his musical horizons by taking a trip to Europe. He received vocal training during his stay. By 1851 he was ready to start composing. Soon he was composing songs like Hazel Dell and Rosalie, the Prairie Flower.
By 1859 Root made the last and probably most successful move of his career to Chicago, Illinois. He went to work in his brother's music firm Root and Cady. Shortly after the Civil War started, Rood composed The First Gun Is Fired. This piece was the first of a unique collaboration between George Root and the Civil War which resulted in Forward, Boys, Forward, Tramp! Tramp! Tramp!, Just Before the Battle, Mother, The Vacant Chair, and the immortal The Battle Cry of Freedom which was first performed by the Lombard Brothers in Chicago. Shortly afterwards the Hutchinsons performed the song in New York City.
The Battle Cry of Freedom was a definite bestseller. Sheet music sales reached the 3,500,000 mark by 1864.
The Battle Cry of Freedom was so popular even the Confederacy had their version. The lyrics of the Confederate version emphasized southern rights and Northern tyranny. Ironically the phrase Shouting the Battle Cry of Freedom was retained. Maybe the South felt this phrase could refer to her own struggle for independence.
Root's musical inspiration burnt out soon after the Civil War ended, but for five glorious years he left an indelible mark on the Civil War and American music. On his death in 1895 the New York Sun succinctly summed up George Root's contribution: "George Root did more to preserve the Union than a great many brigadier generals, and quite as much as some brigades".
Like The Battle Cry of Freedom, We Are Coming Father Abraham was its author's answer to Lincoln's appeal for volunteers. James Sloan Gibbons was the son of a Quaker doctor. Consequently one of Gibbon's interests was the anti-slavery crusade. His other passion was for the financial world, and when he was twenty-five years old he left Delaware for New York City. He was partly responsible for establishing the Broadway Bank and the Ocean Bank. He also wrote a number of books dealing with financial topics and themes including The Banks of New York, their Dealers, The Clearing House, and the Panic of 1857, The Public Debt of the United States, and a booklet Organization of the Public Debt and a Plan for the Relief of the Treasury.
In 1862 he turned from prose to poetry with We are Coming Father Abraham printed by the New York Evening Post. The poem soon became popular. L.O. Emerson, Stephen Foster, and the Hutchinson Family Singers each provided their own musical setting for Gibbon's poem. ON the original sheet music cover of the L.O. Emerson setting, William Cullen Bryant is listed as the lyricist. Bryant soon set the record straight by letting it be known that Gibbons had written the words.
Unlike the preceding two pieces The Battle Hymn of the Republic was not the result of a specific event. The author Julia Ward Howe, Poet, lecturer, and essayist spent the first twenty-four years of her life in New York City. She married Samuel Gridley Howe in 1843 and after a year of European travel they settled in Boston. In between having six children she wrote two books of poetry, Passion Flowers and Words for the Hour, two travel books, A Trip to Cuba and From the Oak to the Olive, and a drama The World's Own.
In 1861 Dr and Mrs Howe went to Washington, D.C. During their stay Mrs Howe and some friends went to see a military review outside Washington. On their way back to Washington she and her companions started singing a variety of war ballads including John Brown's Body.This piece was originally Say, Brothers, will you meet us on Canaan's Happy Shore? written by William Steffe of South Carolina about six years before the Civil War. New lyrics were provided by the Twelfth Massachusetts Regiment about their sergeant John Brown. Finally the lyrics changed again to refer to the more famous John Brown.
One of her companions, Rev. Clarke, asked her to write new lyrics to the song. Mrs Howe woke up early the following morning with the lyrics practically ready to be written down.
I lay quite still until the last verse had completed in my thoughts, then hastily arose, saying to myself, "I shall lose this if I don't write it down immediately." I searched for a sheet of paper and an old stump of a pen which I had had the night before and began to scrawl the lines almost without looking, as I had learned to do by often scratching down verses in the darkened room where my little children were sleeping. Having completed this, I lay down again and fell asleep, but not without feeling that something of importance had happened to me.
James T Field, editor of the Atlantic Monthly, gave Julia Ward Howe's poem its name. In 1862 The Battle Hymn of the Republic appeared in the Atlantic Monthly and Julia Ward Howe was given five dollars and immortality for it. Julia Ward Howe died at the age of ninety-two slightly less than fifty years after she had written The Battle Hymn of the Republic.
Of the three songs chosen to represent the Confederacy Dixie, The Bonnie Blue Flag and Maryland My Maryland had been published by 1861.
Dixie was composed and performed for the first time in New Orleans by Daniel Decatur Emmett, composer, entertainer, and erstwhile chicken farmer. His musical training was self-acquired. He was a self-taught fiddler, banjo player, and learned to perform on the fife and drum during a short stint in the army.
In 1843, Emmett, Billy Whitlock, Frank Bower and Dick Pelham formed the Virginia Minstrels. The Virginia Minstrels was the culmination of Emmett's fascination with black music. This quartet of blackface performers was well received in New York and Boston. Emmett's years with the Virginia Minstrels were musically productive resulting in a number of songs: De Boatman's Dance, Old Dan Tucker, My Old Aunt Sally and Blue Tail Fly.
In 1859 Emmett, one of the stars of Bryant's Minstrels, wrote Dixie. The number and variety of printed versions available were a measure of its popularity.
Dixie didn't remain in Northern hands for long. By December 1860 the piece had been presented in Charleston by a minstrel troupe. New lyrics were also written by CSA General Albert Pike. Pike's military lyrics turned Dixie into a Southern rallying song.
Pike's poetic talents are evident in these new lyrics.
Emmett also provided new lyrics in an attempt to place Dixie back in northern hands, but his new lyrics were not successful.
Dixie was now the Confederacy's song.
The second piece chosen to represent the Confederacy is The Bonnie Blue Flag. The author Harry B Macarthy, an English born singer and songwriter, made his career in the South. He was twenty-seven years old when the Civil War started. He performed in a number of Southern theatres and recital halls in Richmond, New Orleans, Mobile, Petersburg and Wilmington. In 1861 Macarthy wrote new lyrics to the song The Irish Jaunting Car which he called The Bonnie Blue Flag and sang for the first time in Jackson, Mississippi. The seven verses of the song provide a chronicle of the formation of the Confederacy. The emphasis was on the protection of Southern rights and property.
There were a number of Union responses to The Bonnie Blue Flag with such titles as A Reply to the Bonnie Blue Flat, Our Beautiful Flag or The Bonnie Red, White and Blue, The Flag with Thirty-four Stars, The War Song for '61, Shoulder Arms and Down with the Traitors' Serpent Flag. Some of these pieces used the same music as The Bonnie Blue Flag while others had their own music. The most powerful lyrics come from The Stars and Stripes of Old.
In addition to The Bonnie Blue Flag Macarthy also wrote Missouri! or, A Voice form the South and The Volunteer or, It is My Country's Call. Ironically Macarthy destroyed his reputation by abandoning the Confederacy towards the end of the war by heading North instead of returning to England. Before this ignominious end The Bonnie Blue Flag had reached people in the North, Canada and England as well as the South.
Like The Bonnie Blue Flag only the lyrics were new for Maryland, My Maryland. Born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1839, the author, James Ryder Randall, pursued a career in poetry, journalism, and teaching. He eventually secured a position as an English and Latin instructor at Poydras College in Louisiana. He wrote the poem Maryland, My Maryland in response to "the attack on the 6th Massachusetts as it marched through Baltimore and the wounding of one of his classmates when the troops fired on the crowd." Maryland, My Maryland was printed in the New Orleans Delta.
It reached Baltimore through the pro-Southern newspaper The South. Jennie Cary of Baltimore decided to use the music from Lauriger Horatius which is very similar to Tannenbaum O Tannenbaum for Maryland, My Maryland. Jennie, Hetty, and their brother escaped to Virginia. Their cousin Constance Cary Harrison described a performance of Maryland, My Maryland for the Southern troops: -
We [Constance and Jennie] both sang it amid a little group of visitors in September, 1861, standing in the doorway of Captain Sterrett's tent at Manassas, the men of the Maryland line facing us in the dusk of evening.
This was in answer to the request sent in from the soldiers to their friend, Captain Sterrett, "that they might hear a woman's voice again." I can hear now the swing of that grand chorus, as the men gradually caught up the refrain and echoed it, and by next day, to our joy and pride, the whole camp at Manassas was resounding with My Maryland!
The three songs chosen to represent the concerns, hopes and fears of loved ones back home are Lorena, The Vacant Chair and Weeping, Sad and Lonely were published in 1862. Lorena was probably published in 1857.
Weeping, Sad and Lonely was a collaborative effort of lyricist Charles Carroll Sawyer and composer Henry Tucker. Tucker had written music for a variety of pieces including Our Color Guard, I Know My Mother's Hand, Dear Mother, I've Come Home to Die, My Boy, How Can I See You Die and Waiting For the Loved One. Charles Carroll Sawyer wrote both lyrics and music for a number of songs including Who Will Comfort Me, He Was Not Afraid to Die!, I Dreamed My Boy Was Home Again, Coming Home; or the Cruel War Is Over and When the Boys Come Home!
Sawyer's lyrics avoided taking sides. Consequently his pieces were well received in both the North and the South.
Sheet music sales for Weeping, Sad and Lonely reached the million mark. With slight adjustments Weeping, Sad and Lonely safely made the trip down South.
Numerous editions of the sheet music were published in the Confederacy.
Weeping, Sad and Lonely generated response in the form of new songs. These included When This War Is Over I Will Come Back to Thee, Yes, I Would the War Were Over, Yes, Darling, Sadly I Remember and from the C.S.A. When Upon the Field of Glory.
Originally published in 1862 and selling for twenty-five cents Weeping, Sad and Lonely, The Vacant Chair was popular in the Confederacy and the Union. The Vacant Chair was originally a poem written by Henry S Washburn to commemorate the death of John William Grout, a young soldier from Massachusetts. John was to have spent Thanksgiving with his family but had been killed in battle in October of 1861. When the family sat down to Thanksgiving dinner, John's chair was noticeably empty.
In 1862 George Root provided the musical setting for Washburn's poem. The Vacant Chair was popular in the Confederacy and the Union because it reflected the genuine concern people felt for their loved ones who were fighting. The most poignant verse in The Vacant Chair contains these lines:
True they tell us wreaths of glory Evermore will deck his brow, But this soothes the anguish only Sweeping o'er our heartstrings now.
John William Grout may be a hero, but it offers little consolation to his grieving family. There will still be a gap in their lives.
The original sheet music was published by Root and Cady in Chicago in 1862. The Vacant Chair cost thirty cents. The sheet music cover contains miniature pictures illustrating different Root and Cady songs. The picture illustrating The Vacant Chair is just above the title. It shows the entire family gathered for dinner with the young soldier's empty chair in the foreground.
Sheet music sales reached 100,000. The Southern music firms of J H Hewitt, J C Schreiner & Son and Davies & Sons published the sheet music for the Confederacy. Other songs were written to capitalise on the enormous popularity of The Vacant Chair including Sleeping in the Valley, There's a Dear Vacant Chair by the Hearthstone, Oh, We Miss You at Home and Kiss Me Before I Die, Mother.
Unlike the preceding two songs Lorena had four years to build up an audience before the Civil War began. Lorena was the collaborative effort of Rev. H D L Webster and Joseph P Webster. The piece was originally a poem which the minister wrote to commemorate his lost love. Joseph P Webster provided a musical setting for the poem.
Confederate Songs (continued)
Southerners were particularly partial to Lorena.
Mrs Chestnut harboured somewhat different feelings towards the song:
"Maggie Howell says there is a girl in large hoops and a calico frock at every piano between this place and the Mississippi, banging on the out-of-tune thing -- and looking up into a man's face who wears [the] Confederate uniform. Very soiled is that uniform and battle-stanied, but the man's heart is fresh enough, as he hangs over her, to believe in Lorena."
And in a later entry of her diary Mrs Chestnut states: "I could but laugh at Lorena".
Despite Mrs Chestnut's views the Southern music firms of Schreiner, J A McClure and Blackmar accounted for five sheet music editions of Lorena, and both Websters decided to join forces and capitalise on its success with Paul Vane; or Lorena's Reply.
Of the four songs chosen to deal with the multifaceted theme of the soldier's existence Just Before the Battle, Mother, When Johhny Comes Marching Home Again, Tenting on the Old Camp Ground and Marching Through Georgia appeared from 1863 to 1865.
Just Before the Battle, Mother was written by George F Root in 1862. In his autobiography George F Root expressed his reasons for writing it.
"As I have said, when anything happened that could be voiced in a song, or when the heart of the Nation was moved by particular circumstances or conditions caused by the war, I wrote what I thought would then express the emotions of the soldiers or the people. Picturing the condition and thoughts of the soldier on the eve on an engagement, I wrote Just before the battle, Mother and Within the sound of the enemy's guns".
Root couldn't resist using some of the lyrics to give some additional publicity for his Battle Cry of Freedom.
Just Before the Battle, Mother was published by the Root and Cady music firm of Chicago in 1863. The piece cost twenty-five cents. The sheet music consisted of the title in decorative letters with a sketch of the U.S. flag in the corner. By 1864 sheet music sales for had reached the 100,000 mark.
Just Before the Battle, Mother was equally successful in the Confederacy. Both lyrics and music remained intact wherever it was performed or printed in the Confederacy. J W Davies & Sons of Richmond, Virginia published the sheet music in 1865. Richard Harwell in Confederate Music erroneously states that the piece was by Henry Clay Work. The Southerners decided to profit from its success with such similar pieces as Mother Is the Battle Over by Benedict Roefs.
Surprisingly enough Just Before the Battle, Mother had international appeal. The piece was first performed in Britain by the Christy Minstrels. The British loved it so much that they tried to take credit for writing the song. They claimed it was a British song dating back to the Crimean War. Even Root himself couldn't resist capitalising on the popularity of his song with Just After the Battle.
When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again also has an interesting history. The lyrics were unquestionably written by Patrick Gilmore using his pen name Louis Lambert. The source of the music remains an unanswered question. The original music was either from an Irish or Negro song. Neither theory can be positively proven.
Despite the pen name Gilmore's identity can be proven. He was an Irishman with a lifelong fascination for bands and band music. He received his musical education from the local military bandmaster in Athlone, Ireland. Gilmore came to Canada as a cornetist in this military band. In 1850 he went to Salem, Massachusetts to launch his career as a bandmaster. Shortly after this he organised Gilmore's Band. This band toured the country.
When the Civil War started he became the band leader for the 24th Massachusetts Regiment. Two years later he was promoted to manage the Department of Louisiana's military bands. Gilmore primarily wrote band music, songs and dance music. When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again remains Gilmore's most famous piece.
The sheet music was published in Boston by Henry Tolman & Company in 1863. The piece cost thirty cents. The title and the names of Gilmore's Band and Louis Lambert appear on the cover in decorative lettering. Interestingly enough, Louis Lambert is credited with both the lyrics and the music. The piece is dedicated To The Army & Navy of the Union and was first performed by Gilmore's Band.
When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again was popular in the North and the South. the piece inspired numerous imitations including a Confederate version For Bales and an untitled version inspired by the Army of the Potomac. Finally the Spanish-American War gave it a new lease on life.
Unlike When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again the mood of Tenting on the Old Camp Ground is pensive. It was written by Walter Kittredge in 1863. Unable to interest a music firm in publishing the sheet music he gave the piece to the Hutchinson Family to perform. The piece immediately caught on and was enormously popular. Oliver Ditson Company agreed to issue the sheet music.
The sheet music was available in the North, costing thirty cents. In addition to Oliver Ditson & Co. of Boston, J Church, Jr. of Cincinnati, W A Pond o& Co. of New York, J C Haynes & Co. of Boston and J E Gould of Philadelphia are listed as publishers and distributors. The sheet music cover contains the title and the names of Kittredge and the Hutchinson Family in decorative letters plus sketches of tents in the lower corners. By 1865, 100,000 copies of sheet music were in circulation.
The reason for its enormous popularity was its desire for peace. In 1863 people were in the mood for a more sensitive, less militant war song.
Tenting on the Old Camp Ground was also well received in the Confederacy. The piece appealed to Northerners. Confederate music publishers never issued the sheet music for this. Possibly when the piece became popular in the South, the exigencies of the war hindered any effort to publish the sheet music. The lyrics for the Southern version were quite different from Kittredge's original piece save for a few lines which remained somewhat intact.
The songs popularity insured a hole of imitators. One of these imitations was J W Turner's We're Tenting on the Old Camp Ground. This piece never really caught on with the public who preferred Kittredge's song. Walter Kittredge also wrote The War Will Soon Be Over and When They Come Marching Home. These pieces were never as popular as his masterpiece Tenting on the Old Camp Ground.
By 1865 the end of the Civil War was in sight. Henry Clay Work's Marching Through Georgia was the result of General Sherman's extremely successful Georgia campaign. Probably the best critique of this song was given by Work's colleague and mentor, George Root.
Born in Connecticut in 1832, Henry Clay Work spent his childhood in Illinois. His father was imprisoned for helping runaway slaves to escape. When he was thirteen years old, Work and his family went back to Connecticut. He was a self-taught musician whose first effort was We Are Coming, Sister Mary, and by 1862 had written Kingdom Comin which was well received and revealed Work's talent for using Negro dialect. This latest song brought Work into fruitful partnership with the music firm of Root and Cady.
Confederate Songs (continued)
The next three songs deal with the deaths of soldiers. All Quiet Along the Potomac Tonight, The Drummer Boy of Shiloh and Somebody's Darling appeared in 1861, 1862 and 1864 respectively.
All Quiet Along the Potomac Tonight was originally a poem entitled The Picket Guard by Mrs Ethel Beers from Massachusetts. The poem appeared in Harper's Weekly on November 30, 1861. It was popular in the North and the South and consequently both northern and southern composers provided music for it.
John Hill Hewitt composed the music for the souther version of All Quiet Along the Potomac Tonight. Hewitt seems to have been the Confederate equivalent of George F Root. He spent the first twenty-one years of his life in the North, having been born in New York in 1801. He attended West Point and received some of his musical education from the bandmaster. He moved to the south in 1822, and except for one brief stay up North, he lived in the South for the rest of his life.
During the Civil War Hewitt was busy writing plays and songs. He always had a passion for music and theatre. He wrote numerous plays dealing with the war including The Battle of Leesburg, The Courier; or The Siege of Lexington, The Exempt! or Beware of the Conscript Officer!, King Linkum the First, The Roll of the Drum, and The Scouts; or, The Plains of Manassas. He also wrote a number of songs dealing with the war and the South including Dixie, the Land of King Cotton, You Are Going to the Wars, Willie Boy!, When Upon the Field of Glory, an Answer to When This Cruel War is Over, The Stonewall Quickstep, The Soldier's Farewell, The Young Volunteer and The Unknown Road. Hewitt's setting for All Quiet Along the Potomac Tonight went through three sheet music editions in the Confederacy.
The North had their pick of at least four versions with music by David A Warden, H Coyle, J Dayton and W H Goodwin. These northern versions often retained the original title of The Picket Guard. Oddly enough the cover for one of the sheet music editions published in Baltimore in 1863 lists neither the composer nor the lyricist, although it does use the title All Along the Potomac Tonight.
Despite its many musical settings the song is fundamentally an excellent piece of poetry. The inevitability of death, in this case the death of a picket, pervades the whole poem.
With or without music, The Picket Guard can stand on its own.
Another popular piece was William Shakespear Hay's The Drummer Boy of Shiloh. Hay was to write the lyrics and music to other songs during the war including The Old Sergeant, Oh, I Wish This War Was Over, The Unhappy Contraband and Our Boys have All Come Home. He was employed by a Louisville music store proprietor and publisher D P Faulds. Faulds issued the first sheet music edition of The Drummer Boy of Shiloh. The song was very popular and inspired a number of similar songs including The Drummer Boy of Vicksburg, The Drummer Boy of Nashville, Little Harry the Drummer Boy and The Dying Drummer Boy. The song was popular in the Confederacy and Blackmar and Brother music form of Augusta, Georgia published the sheet music in 1863.
The sheet music cover for the northern edition shows the dying drummer boy surrounded by his comrades saying his last prayers. The piece cost fifty cents and one of the distributors was the Root and Cady music firm. The sheet music cover for the southern edition also shows the dying drummer boy saying his last prayers but this illustration is not as effective as the cover for the northern edition. Other publishers/distributors in the Confederacy included J W Randolph and Jas. Woodhouse & Co. of Richmond, Virginia, J W Burke of Macon, Georgia, and HC Clark of Mobile, Alabama.
Hay's musical career boomed in the years following the Civil War. He wrote a number of popular songs including We Parted by the River Side, Write Me a Letter from Home, Driven from Home, I'll Remember You, Love, in My Prayers, Nobody's Darlingand Molly Darling. Sheet music sales for Write Me a Letter from Home and We Parted by the River Side each reached the 300,000 mark. Nevertheless William Shakespeare Hay is probably best remembered for The Drummer Boy of Shiloh.
The last piece, Somebody's Darling, was originally a poem written by Marie Ravenel de LaCoste of Georgia. The poem first appeared in print in 1864. Miss de LaCoste took her poem to Hermann L Schreiner of J C Schreiner & Son music firm of Savannah requesting that it be turned into a song. Schreiner forwarded the piece and the request to John Hill Hewitt.
The southern sheet music edition was published in 1864 by J C Schreiner & Son of Macon and Savannah, Georgia and Schreiner & Hewitt of Augusta, Georgia. It was also popular in the North. The number of northerners who provided music for this song included Mrs E K Crawford, Leon C Weld, A J Abbott, William Cumming and C Everest.
Oh, I'm a Good Old Rebel and The Blue and the Grey were chosen to represent songs written in the years following the Civil War.
Oh, I'm a Good Old Rebel was only one of several songs in which the South expressed feelings of outrage and bitterness at her defeat. The piece was originally the song Joe Bowers with new lyrics by Innes Randolph, a former Confederate army officer. The predominant themes of these new lyrics were anger and a refusal to accept reconstruction of the South. Randolph employed a poor white or cracker manner in his lyrics.
The song was very popular with its southern audiences. It eventually entered southern oral tradition where the piece remained basically intact with an occasional new stanza added. The song achieved some international acclaim from no less a person than the future King Edward VII then the Prince of Wales. He often called upon the Duchess of Manchester to sing it for him.
Other similar songs included The Wearing of the Graywith H L Schreiner's new lyrics set to the Wearin' of the Green and A E Blackmar's Carolina. Nevertheless, Oh, I'm a Good Old Rebel was probably the most powerful expression of southern anger, outrage, defiance and intractability.
The sheet music lists no publisher or publication date and although Randolph's name doesn't appear on the sheet music, his initials do. The song was probably published in 1866 by A E Blackmar of New Orleans. The sheet music cover consists of a sketch of the Good Old Rebel. This rather gaunt and brooding man is seated on a fallen log. No price is given for the sheet music. The song is Respectfully dedicated to the Hon. Thad. Stevens. With this dedication, Randolph seems to have had the last word.
The last piece, The Blue and the Gray was originally a poem written by a northerner, Francis Miles Finch, in 1867. Finch, a Yale graduate, was a lawyer by profession. He eventually sat on New York State's Court of Appeals. His inspiration came from a story in the New York Tribune describing the unselfish efforts of the ladies from Columbus, Mississippi, in decorating and caring for the graves of northern and southern soldiers.
Finch couldn't resist turning the story into a poem. This story's material, themes, and emotions would be the essential ingredients in this song. The poem appeared in the September 1867 issue of the Atlantic Monthly and was well received in both the North and the South.
John Hutchinson, of the Hutchinson Family Singers, set the poem to music. Hutchinson ensured the song's popularity by performing it often in a variety of places. Once after he had performed the number, three former C.S.A. generals approached him and said: Mr Hutchinson, that song is a passport to you anywhere in the South. Hutchinson also sang the piece for the Confederate vice president Alexander H Stephens.
These songs were probably disseminated in three ways: sheet music, songsters and broadsides. Broadsides were single sheets containing only the lyrics. Songsters were collections of lyrics in book form. Sheet music contained both music and lyrics.
The stories behind each of the songs in this paper illustrate their obvious uniqueness. Their association with the Civil War is what sets them apart form other songs of that era. Whether as outpourings of patriotic fervour or longings for home, hearth and peace, the songs of the Civil War reflect his era.
These songs hopefully make it easier to understand the impact the war had on people of that era.
Ramona Garcia, Fairfield, Ct., USA
The above articles first appeared in the ACWS Newsletter, February-October 2001.
Ed: I would like to thank Ramona Garcia, Fairfield, Ct., USA for this article about Civil War Music.