the civil war in song
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The CIVIL WAR in SONG. Music has always been an important part of American society and it was no different during the Civil War. The causes of the Civil War, as well as the day-to-day experiences of the soldiers were captured in the music of the times….

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Music has always been an important part of American society and it was no different during the Civil War.
The causes of the Civil War, as well as the day-to-day experiences of the soldiers were captured in the music of the times….

Military bands were called upon to play at recruitment rallies and their patriotic marching tunes were sometimes a great incentive to inspire young men to enlist.


Regimental bands of the Confederate and Union armies served their units in many ways. They were highly effective in attracting new recruits, and morale boosters of the first magnitude -- playing lively marches and quicksteps to lift the spirits of war-weary soldiers on the march, and to inspire them just before and sometimes during battle.


During the winter of 1862-1863, the two great armies were camped near each other at Fredericksburg, Virginia, separated only by the expanse of the Rappahannock River. One cold afternoon, a band in the Union camp struck up some patriotic tunes. They were answered from across the river by a Confederate band.


As the war dragged on, families yearned to see their young men come home. Many songs were written expressing the desire for an end to the conflict…


Both armies listened to the musical battle and would cheer for their own bands. The duel finally ended when both bands struck up the tune of "Home, Sweet Home" and the men of both sides who were so far from their homes,cheered as one.


Soldiers in both armies had their own favorite songs to sing and listen to. Sometimes they sang while marching to keep up their spirits. Union soldiers liked patriotic and sentimental songs. The Battle Cry of Freedom was a Union favorite. Some other popular tunes were The Battle Hymn of the Republic, John Brown\'s Body, and Tramp! Tramp! Tramp!


One of the most appealing among the hundreds of songs concerning the life of the soldier in the army was All Quiet Along The Potomac. During the long periods between major battles and campaigns, a soldier\'s main assignment was the lonely one of picket and sentry duty.


The song was based on an actual incident claimed as having taken place during the time of inactivity following the first Battle of Bull Run [ July, 1861], while the forces of both sides were gathering strength. For many days the newspapers could merely report in their headlines "All Quiet Along the Potomac," for there were no major battles to describe, and the people were in a tense period of expectation of great events in the future.


To listen to this song, click on the website below:


George Frederick Root (1825-1895)was an important composer, teacher, and publisher who studied in Europe. Root wrote some of the best-known songs of the Civil War period -- songs remembered today. They include "Tramp! Tramp! Tramp!" "Just Before the Battle, Mother" and "The Battle Cry of Freedom."The latter song was a campaign song for Lincoln in the 1864 election.


To listen to the “Battle Cry of Freedom,” click on the website below:


About 1856 William Steffe of South Carolina wrote a camp-meeting song with the traditional "Glory Hallelujah" refrain. The tune had such an infectious swing that it became widely known. John Brown\'s body lies a-mouldering in the grave used the tune and soon became popular among the Union troops. In December 1861, Julia Ward Howe heard this version being sung, and at the suggestion of a friend, she wrote the new words for Steffe\'s tune, now known as "Battle Hymn of the Republic."


To hear this song, click on the website below:


Daniel Decatur Emmett, was born in Ohio. When he was sixteen he ran away to join a traveling circus, his act being to present songs of his own composition, with banjo accompaniment.


Later, he traveled widely, singing and playing the banjo and violin. Emmett was so successful that in 1842 he and three companions formed the Virginia Minstrels, the first black-face minstrel company in the United States.His song “Dixie’s Land” became a favorite of Confederate soldiers.


To listen to Dixie’s Land, click on the website below:


The soldier was not forgotten in songs expressing a depth of personal feeling. "Tenting on the Old Camp Ground" appealed particularly to them, not as an exciting battle song, but as a description of what they were thinking.


Its author was Walter C. Kittredge of New Hampshire. He had been drafted in the Union army in the early months of 1863, and expected soon to leave for the front. He had been a professional singer, so it was natural that, thinking of the coming separation from his wife and daughter, he composed a song expressing his emotion....


To hear this music, click on the website below: