The American Civil War: A Handbook of Literature and Research

By Robin Higham; Steven E. Woodworth | Go to book overview
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47 Musical and Narrative Recordings

Susan Hamburger


THE SONGS

The Civil War spawned a wealth of books, articles, motion pictures, photographs, and music. Nowhere else is the war brought home so poignantly as in the music played and sung by the Northern and Southern soldiers. Rallying, stirring, maudlin, religious, humorous, banal--songs expressed the emotions felt by the men at war and their loved ones back home.

The music of the Civil War falls into several categories: vocal, instrumental band, contemporary, patriotic, martial, sentimental, and standards, variations, and parodies. The song of the 1860s was a simple vocal ballad, not a dance tune or piano solo. Soldiers sang songs they grew up with, new songs written specifically about the war by professional songwriters and amateurs, and parodies or adaptations of songs identified with the other side.

Both Northern and Southern publishers printed small songbooks (pocket-sized songsters) and broadsides for the soldiers to carry off to war and sheet music for the folks at home to sing from in their parlors ( War Songs of the American Union; Songs and Ballads of Freedom; The Bugle-Call; Soldiers' and Sailors' Patriotic Songs; The Southern Soldier's Prize Songster). Various military units had instrumental bands that performed traditional and original marching tunes.

Civil War songs exist in published songbooks ( Crawford, The Civil War Songbook [ 1977]; Silber, Songs of the Civil War), printed sheet music and broadsides (especially the Lester S. Levy Collection of Sheet Music at Johns Hopkins University), and manuscript collections in libraries and archives throughout the

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