Musicof Civil War Between the North and South
TheAmerican Civil War that occurred between the Union, and theConfederacy had diverse impacts on the soldiers of both sides.Although the warring parties had different ideologies, music servedas a common phenomenon among the soldiers of both sides. Amidst thestrong campaigns and loss of lives, music played a great role in thewar. While many soldiers carried rifles and swords, others used drumsand fifes to keep the spirit of the war high. The music played duringthe Civil War was a result of the growing popularity among thecivilian population before the battle. Therefore, it was natural forthe soldiers to incorporate music with the war (Wardrop 48). In fact,both sides needed new recruits as the war continued. The past yearshad brought music amidst the daily life of a member of the public,the battle only heightened its acceptance and influence (Goldfield54).Thus, music played an important role during the recruitment period.The Union’s recruitment exercises were known to include regimentalbands. The present research will seek to discuss the similarities anddifferences between the music played by the Union and theConfederacy, the characteristics of the songs and their importancetoward the course of the war.
Similaritiesand Differences of the Civil War Music Between the North and theSouth
Musicduring the war was common between the warring parties both soldiersbrought musical instruments to war. However, melody among theregiments was not official for both sides until 1861 when the wardepartment approved inclusion of brass bands into the troops (Wardrop49). The Confederacy also took the initiative to include brass bandsto their regiments. However, the addition of brass bands differedbetween the North and the South as the latter had more band memberscompared to the former. For instance, a northern band consisted oftwenty-four members while the southern band had fewer members, whichincreased as the war dragged on.
Moreover,the music between the two parties grew in demand. The songwritersfrom both sides, the South and North, were in demand and are known tohave published more songs during the Civil War than any othermaterials. Some of the notable songwriters included George Root whowrote the first song of the war and continued to produce severalothers during the course. The popularity of the songs went beyond thetwo sides. For instance, the Confederacy sang the song “God Savethe South." The melody was popular in that they sang it as aconfederacy anthem. However, the song “Dixie” was more popular inthe South as well as the North. At one time, the president orderedthe Northern general to play the song “Dixie” (Wardrop 49).Although it came as a surprise, the president said it was a sign ofwinning the war and taking the Confederate song as federal property.
Furthermore,the music in both sides was used for different purposes. The tworivals played different music for diverse occasions. For instance,the Union’s bands learned more than forty songs, which were playedon the battlefield, after winning, or losing a fight and calling thesoldiers to a meal. In both sides, the band members were givenspecial status (Weiss). They both wore distinctive uniforms and weregiven special treatment. It was so since the band members includedyoungsters, barely in their teenage years.
Lastly,although every side had its music, similar tunes were often played indifferent versions by the bands. For instance, the song “TheSpangled Banner” belonged to the Northern army, while the Southchanged the lyrics to the tune and branded it “The Southern Cross”(Weiss). Other songs from both sides were changed and sung to fiteither the northern or the southern army as the Civil War dragged on.
Characteristicsand Effects of the North and South Civil War Music
Themusic played during the Civil War by the Northern and Southern armieshad different characteristics and effects on the soldiers during thewar. Some of the popular songs of the war included:
UnionCivil War Music
JohnBrown’s Body-This was a song that was popular with the Union soldiers. The tune isknown to have been composed by a group of Union soldiers who werereferring to a popular abolitionist named John Brown. The song isconsidered a folk melody since there is no particular writer who canbe attributed to it. Before its use in the Civil War, the song waspreviously common in camp meetings (Weiss). The Union soldiers usedit as a marching song and in referring to one of their sergeants,John Brown. The soldiers sang the song as they marched and used tomake jokes that motivated them during the war.
Furthermore,the song had a strong effect on the Union soldiers as it was used toexplain the causes of the war and the need for abolition. Part of thesong’s lyrics read: “John brown’s body lies a-moldering in thegrave, but his soul goes marching on” (Trodd 307). The Northernarmy was opposed to the slavery in America, which was supported bythe South. John Brown was a union leader who championed for theabolition of slavery meaning that the soldiers sang the song toremember his efforts of elimination and the need to fight in theCivil War (Trodd 309). The melody was popular during the battle thatit was adopted by diverse authors who wrote different versions of thesong.
BattleHymn of the Republic-The song is considered as a patriotic one and was popular with theNorthern army during the Civil War. George Root wrote the song in1862, and it championed for patriotism and abolition of slavery inAmerica. Often, the music was referred to as “Rally Around theFlag.” The track played an important role in the Union soldiers asit helped increase their morale in the course of the war (Nudelman55). Moreover, it championed for the need for unionism and abolitionof slavery. The Northern army believed that the abolition of slaveryand patriotism were necessary to the future of the country.
Ontop of that, the music is also known to have been used not only bythe army but also in the presidential campaigns in support ofPresident Abraham Lincoln. The popularity of the song also saw itbeing adopted by the Confederacy who changed the lyrics to refer toDixie. Consequently, the effects of the song went beyond the CivilWar (Trodd 309). The song has been used in various popular works,such as movies and patriotic gatherings. The public during the CivilWar considered the song as appropriate for the period, and itexpressed the feeling of many people among the Northern population.
ConfederacyCivil War Music
“Iwish I were in Dixie”-The song is one of the most popular pieces from the Civil War periodand has since been incorporated into the American folk songs.However, the song was not a folk song originally as it was written byDaniel Emmett for the blackface minstrel shows in the 1850s (Trodd310). The song sang during the Civil War had lyrics describing astory of a southerner, who was homesick. Initially, the song was donein old African-American vernacular English and was considered by theNorth as one that supported slavery in the Southern states of thecountry.
Themelody’s popularity in the South made it be sung in differentversions including “Dixie’s Land,” “I wish I were in Dixie,”and “Dixie the Land of King Cotton.” The acceptance of the song,however, was not only in the South, but it also gained popularity inthe North (“I Wish I Was in Dixie Civil War Song Lyrics”). At onetime, President Lincoln ordered the song to be played after thesurrender of a Southern General to signify the dominance of the Unionand the freedom the country could receive after the federalgovernment governed all the states.
Criticsof the Civil War music consider the “Dixie” song to haverepresented the views of the Southern states. In that case, thesestates used the track to describe why slavery should not have beenabolished and in support of the segregation based on racial lines inAmerica. The music has since been incorporated into the American folksongs, and, in the current American society, the word “Dixie” isoften used to describe the Southern states of the United States(Weiss).
“GodSave the South”-It was the first song published by the Confederacy during the CivilWar. The song was meant to counter the Northern “Battle Hymn of TheRepublic,” which was intended to foster patriotic spirits among theNorthern army. The song, “God Save the South,” was considered apatriotic piece in the South as it brought out the feeling ofidentity with the South (“Civil War Music: God Save the South”).The tune also identified with George Washington who was a Southernrebel against the British colonization and brought the FirstRevolution. The relationship with George Washington made the Southbelieve that the Civil War was the second American Revolution.
Moreover,the song played a significant role to the morale of the Southernarmies. The soldiers sang the song to improve their self-esteem andconfidence by making them believe that God will come to save theConfederacy and, hence, building hopes of winning the war. Thepopularity of the song in the South saw it considered as anunofficial anthem for the Confederacy states. Some states evenpublished the song as the Confederacy anthem. Despite this, thepopularity of the music, “Dixie,” was higher and the song wasconsidered a natural anthem for the Southern states (“Civil WarMusic: God Save the South”).
Importanceof the Civil War Music Between the North and the South
Musiccomposed and played during the American Civil War had a significantrole not only to the soldiers of the two warring factions but also tothe American civilian society in the North and the South. Some of thekey roles played by music during the Civil War included:
Asoldier’s life during the Civil War was hectic in general,notwithstanding the side of affiliation. The soldiers had to endurelong marches to new towns and battleground areas. The long-distancemarching could often be annoying and demotivating for many soldiers(Kreitner 259). The authorization of brass bands within regimentscame as a reliever as the songs kept the soldiers active during alltimes. Confessions from the Civil War soldiers indicated that therewas no way a side could have an active army without music. Music alsoplayed a major role in army camp life. Letters from the soldiersindicated that singing was an integral part of the camp life. Forinstance, the bands had music to remind the soldiers when to wake up,take lunch, go to church, and stop drilling.
Duringthe war, a soldier’s life included being at the battle front or incamp nursing wounds in hospitals. Those not wounded often sufferedfrom homesickness making the soldier’s life sad. On that note, toensure that the soldiers were active and motivated, songs played animportant part (Kreitner 259). Many of the soldiers who were woundedin the battle described music in hospitals through their letters homethat music served as a better form of medicine than the rations theyreceived in hospitals. As a result, from the soldiers’ memoirs,singing during a march made the soldiers think they were musiciansand not soldiers.
Expressingof American Society’s Feeling About the Conflict
Variousmusic was composed and published during the Civil War. Both sidesideally had their songs, which they sang to express their feelingregarding the battle. For instance, the Northern army used the song“Battle Hymn of The Republic” to express their patriotic feelingand the need to abolish slavery in the United States. The songsupported abolitionist views and unionism. On the other part, theSouthern army used the song “Dixie” to express their lack ofwillingness to end slavery in the states of the South (Walch). Themusic was composed humorously in African-America vernacular Englishand was considered to favor slavery.
Thesongs composed during the Civil War were not only used by the armybut also by the American Society. For instance, the Southerncommunity used songs as an act of defiance against the Northerntroops. As the war continued, the armies of the North gained anadvantage over the South, and the troops could march through theconquered cities. Often, the women from the Southern cities couldsing pro-Southern songs to annoy the Northern armies. In the city ofNew Orleans, for instance, individuals singing pro-Southern songswere often fined or thrown in jail (Kreitner 260). Most ladies fromconquered Southern towns often sang the “Bonnie Blue Flag” everytime Northern soldiers marched through their towns.
MusicWas Part of the War
Althoughunknown to many, music played by the Confederacy and the Union bandswas part of the Civil War and it contributed to the outcome of thewar. The size of the band singing during a march could scare off theenemy as well as rally troops to victory. Stuart, one of the Generalsfrom the general’s confederacy loved and used music even inbattlefields (Walch). In fact, many accounts from the war describegeneral Stuart as being jovial and brought life to his troops.
Atone time during the Civil War, there was an incident that wasreferred to as the “Battle of the Stones River Bands.” Duringthis event, the bands from the warring sides on the opposite aspectof the battleground played pro-North songs while the Confederacy bandsang pro-South songs. Both armies cheered after the end of theirband’s song until both groups played a common song that expressedboth army’s homesickness (Walch). Both teams sang the “Home SweetHome” to finish the stones river bands duel.
Althoughmost of the Civil War music was composed to unite the enemies, somesongs were aimed at bonding the warring factions and bring peace tothe country. for instance, Will Hays composed the song “let us havepeace.” The song was aimed at describing the need for the warringparties to consider peace and stop the conflict. Also, the song, “TheOld Arm Chair,” was written by Henry Russell to describe the lossof Lieutenant John William (Kreitner 261). Russell’s song definedthe cost of the war through the loss of important lives. However, themelodies did little to stop the war.
Themusic composed during the civil war was however used to unite thecountry. for instance, after the war, President Lincoln ordered thesong “Dixie” to be played, this signified the freedom offered bythe federal governance to the Confederacy states. The president saidthat after capturing a rebel army they also had captured a rebel tuneand they were free to listen to the tune and federal power. The bandsformed during the war were also used to play during concerts andparades (“The Importance of Music During the Civil War”). Manybands were formed during the Civil War, both from the Confederacy andUnion sides. The bands were, thus, used to perform during ceremoniesand encouraged national unity.
Allin all, music played an integral part during the American Civil War,a role that underlines the necessity of music. As witnessed from thebattle, the melody was important in combating homesickness. Notably,a soldier’s life is often dull and may harbor horrible experiences.To combat homesickness, the soldiers sang tunes, such as “HomeSweet Home.” The song was necessary to raise the droopingmotivation of the soldiers due to the weariness of the war. Manysoldiers considered music as a natural form of healing. Thus, musicplayed in the camp hospitals was viewed as a better form of medicinethan the medical rations that the soldiers received. The AmericanCivil War also saw the formation of various music bands that werelater important in developing the American society’s musicalculture. Many of the songs from the American Civil War have beenincorporated into the American popular culture. For instance, thesong “Dixie” popularized by the Confederacy armies has beenintegrated into the American folk songs. Moreover, the word Dixie hasbeen integrated into the American vocabulary and can be used todescribe the Southern states. Lastly, music has a significantinfluence on the public and can be used to influence the course ofany conflict. In the American Civil War, some songs were written tofoster peace between the warring parties. Although not many songswere writing during the conflict, music can be used to describe theeffects it had on the people and, hence, foster peace. Some of theCivil War songs, although rebel in nature, were sung during the endof the battle and they helped foster peace.
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