Bugle Resounding: Music and Musicians of the Civil War Era

By Bruce C. Kelley; Mark A. Snell | Go to book overview

”Old Times There Are Not Forgotten”
AN OVERVIEW OF MUSIC OF THE CIVIL WAR ERA

Bruce C. Kelley

On June 3, 1862, the diarist Mary Boykin Chesnut wrote:

I sat down at my window in the beautiful moonlight and tried hard
for pleasant thoughts. A man began to play on the flute with piano
accompaniment; first “Ever of Thee I Am Kindly Dreaming”; then
“Long, Long, Weary Day.” At first I found it but a complement to the
beautiful scene, and it was soothing to my wrought-up nerves; but
Von Weber's “Last Waltz” was too much. Suddenly I broke down.
Heavens, what a bitter cry! Such floods of tears! The wonder is there
was any of me left.1

The raw power and emotion of the American Civil War seared our national conscience and transformed American culture. It is estimated that one in sixteen men of military age died in the North, and one in five in the South.2 The economic, political, and social effects of the war and its aftermath likewise transformed the nation's music to such an extent that its role in the conflict remains to this day a topic of passionate interest. Reenactors on authentic or reproduction period instruments currently perform music of the Civil War at numerous festivals, and hundreds of thousands of Web sites are devoted to the

1. Mary Boykin Chesnut, A Diary from Dixie, ed. Ben Ames William (New York:
D. Appleton, 1905; reprint, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1961), 232 (page references
are to reprint edition).

2. Maris A. Vinovskis, “Have Social Historians Lost the Civil War?” in Toward a
Social History of the American Civil War: Exploratory Essays,
ed. Maris Vinovskis
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), 1–30.

-1-

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