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At Ease: Making Spirits Bright . . . with some Civil War Music


Civil War Music

Sending some bright and cheery music your way with some sounds of the Civil War holiday season tucked in as well. From sentimental to marching songs, the American Civil War inspired a wide variety of music and lyrics. Some are still popular patriotic songs while others have slipped into the shadows or the historical music archives. We hope you enjoy some tunes on this chilly Thursday in December! Don't forget to vote (end of email) to help us kick off January 2021 with some stories about winter camps in Central Virginia.

 

Your Answers...

Bonnie Blue Flag and Battle Hymn of the Republic each tied with 3 votes. There was a great variety of favorite songs in the voting. Since the text is a little small to read, here's a list or you can always click on the graph image to view it larger.

  • All Quiet on the Potomac

  • Tenting Tonight on the Old Campground

  • Richmond is a Hard Road to Travel

  • Dixie

  • Bonnie Blue Flag

  • Ol' Dan Tucker

  • Battle Cry of Freedom

  • Battle Hymn of the Republic

  • Shenandoah

  • Hang Jeff Davis from the Sour Apple Tree


 

Parlor Music

Combining Civil War music and sounds from the Christmas season, here is a recording of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen and When Johnny Comes Marching Home played on harp. Not an instrument played in camp, but harp is mentioned in some civilian accounts from the era!


 

Richmond is a Hard Road to Travel

This Confederate song written by John Reuben Thompson in 1863 has many verses poking fun at the Union armies' attempts to reach Richmond. The second to last stanza and chorus features the Battle of Fredericksburg: Last of all the brave Burnside, with his pontoon bridges, tried A road no one had thought of before him, With two hundred thousand men for the Rebel slaughter pen, And the blessed Union flag waving o'er him; But he met a fire like hell, of canister and shell, That mowed his men down with great slaughter, 'Twas a shocking sight to view, that second Waterloo, And the river ran with more blood than water. Then pull off your coat and roll up your sleeve, Rappahannock is a hard road to travel Burnside got in a trap, which caused him for to grieve For Richmond is a hard road to travel, I believe! (Bobby Horton performed the entire song which can be heard here.)

Sketch of a wrecked wagon (Library of Congress)

 

Multiple Songs...Same Tune

Did you know that both sides "stole" songs during the Civil War? For example, there are Union and Confederate versions of Battle Cry of Freedom, Dixie, Weeping Sad and Lonely, Wait for the Wagon, and other songs. Sometimes, the lyricists just changed a couple of words, and other times they rewrote the whole piece. Maryland, My Maryland is a classic with a Confederate appeal and a Union response song as both sides struggled for the border state in song. And the debate continues: is it Maryland, My Maryland or O Christmas Tree? Here's an instrumental version

Unidentified members of a band in partial uniform, Civil War era. (Library of Congress)

 

Central Virginia Battlefields Trust's mission is to preserve, protect, and educate about Civil War hallowed ground at Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, The Wilderness, and Spotsylvania.

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