The War Between the States was complex. If you wish to understand the events, you should refer to a textbook. Music of the time, however, helps us delve into people’s thoughts and opinions on the war, slavery, and many other important issues in our country’s history. Prior to the civil war, American music followed its European roots. During the civil war, American music began to develop in its own way, largely influenced by the music of the African-Americans. The war produced many well-known songs.
These songs were important in their time and they are still known to many people today. Music was important to the Union and also to the Confederacy. The troops sang on battlefields, around campfires and while marching. They sang to make themselves feel better when things were not going well. Each side would often borrow the other’s lyrics and / or tunes from the others’s songs. The songs, which were sung by the soldiers, were about what was taking place at the time.
They were about soldiers leaving home, life in camp, the suffering of being on the battlefield and celebrating victories. Soldiers sang as they marched. They sang to cheer themselves up. They also were known to serenade the other side.
Sometimes battles were stopped so that troops could listen to the music. The northerners sang various types of songs-rallying songs, sentimental favorites, emancipation spirituals, campfire favorites, and patriotic songs. The union songs show us the way unity developed in the North. Early songs talked of purpose and asked for valor. In example, George Root, a composer who wrote more civil war songs than any other composer of that time, wrote, “The First Gun is Fired” in response to the battle of Sumter. The southerners sang songs in these genres -rallying songs, sentimental favorites, campfire favorites, and patriotic songs.
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During the early days of the war, the rebel troops, inflicted defeats on the union and sang marching songs of victory. During this time of hope for the south, some of the best war songs were written. Since each side copied songs from the other side, many songs have at least two versions. Northerner, George Root, wrote a famous rallying song called the “Battle Cry Of Freedom.” The song was about the flag, which was a very important symbol at the time. There are many legends about this song and its influence on the troops of the union army. The song was extremely popular throughout the war.
It ended up being parodied in the south. Both sides used the song as a marching song. The most popular marching song of the Union troops was “John Brown’s Body Lies a Mould’ ring in the Grave.” written by Thomas Bishop. Abolitionist, Julia Ward Howe, who wrote words to the tune and made it into “The Battle Hymn of The Republic”, heard this song. The song has become one of the most well known of patriotic songs. Another popular song was “Dixie’s Land.” It was a northern minstrel song, which caught on in the south.
The writer of the piece, Daniel Emmett, was upset when it was used during the inauguration of the southern president Jefferson Davis. You can infer from this that everyone liked the same type of music and the two sides were not very different deep down. For the recordings that I made to accompany this paper I chose “John Brown’s Body” and “Dixie’s Land.” We used instruments that would have been used during the Civil War to play the songs- banjo, guitar and mandolin. At the Gettysburg museum I saw the guitars that soldiers carried to the war.
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They were small, parlor guitars that were usually played with gut strings. The banjos of the period were also strung with gut strings. I chose “John Brown’s Body” because it expresses the abolitionist point of view. “Dixie’s Land” is an example of a song that, while written by a northerner, became extremely popular in the South.
Music is an important aspect of life. It is used to express thoughts, opinions and feelings. During a time of war it can unite and incite. The music can commemorate important people and events.
In times of sorrow it can comfort. Despite the differences between the North and the South, people shared a love of music, as well as a common musical culture. The music of the Civil War period illustrates the many uses of music during times of war.