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Civil War Era Music

Civil war downloadable word document: here 
The Civil War era contained a tremendous amount of music. Many tunes were newly composed but some were handed down through our diverse cultural traditions. Some were a combination of old and new, such the Lincoln campaign tune, “Lincoln and Liberty” which used new lyrics with the older Celtic tune, “Rosin the Bow.” The themes included civilian life, soldier’s life, domestic scenes, abolition, Negro Spirituals, Stephen Foster parlor music, dance tunes and the minstrel tradition. 

”Civil War Era Music” is a concert format. For those venues desiring historical commentary, the presentation includes some lecture, with welcomed questions/discussion. While many of the audiences are older, it is appropriately adaptable for all ages, including children and families. This program also dovetails well with historical demonstrations or re-enactments. I will dress in period civilian clothing upon request. 

Music, by its nature, is engaging. Pacing and variety are keys to an enjoyable performance. Therefore, it is best to switch up sentiments and instrumentation from tune to tune. For instance, George F. Root’s spirited Battle Cry of Freedom” (banjo/vocal) could be followed by Walter Kittredge’s calming, “Tenting Tonight on the Old Campground” (harmonica) which could be followed with Henry Clay Work’s driving “Kingdom Coming” on the hammered dulcimer. I use some humor, because everyone feels warmed with an occasional laugh. It is important to be smiling, attentive and welcoming to the audience. 

A sampling of music for this presentation includes: 
Battle Cry of Freedom (1862) 
Old Dog Tray (Pennsylvania’s own Stephen Foster 1853) 
The Glendy Burk (Stephen Foster 1860) 
Hard Times Come Again No More (Stephen Foster 1855) 
Kingdom Coming (1862) 
Children of the Battlefield (from Gettysburg 1864) 
Lincoln and Liberty (1860) 
Oh Freedom (undated Negro Spiritual) 
The Bonnie Blue Flag (1861) 
Love from the Heart (undated traditional Virginia Reel) 
No More Auction Block (undated Negro Spiritual) 
Lorena (1857) 
Tenting Tonight on the Old Campground (1863). 
Jenny Lind Polka (1846) 

Besides vocals, instrumentation includes the hammered dulcimer (made be me), button accordion, harmonica and banjo. As an instrument maker, I include information about the origins of these instruments, recognizing our diverse culture.

No More Auction Block For Me

Tom sings and plays the banjo and button accordion.  This Negro Spiritual was sung during the Civil War by troops of the 1st South Carolina Volunteers, the first federally authorized African-American regiment comprised of former slaves.   This is documented by Thomas Higginson, who served as a colonel in the 1st South Carolina Volunteers. In 1870, he authored “Army Life in a Black Regiment” detailing the song.  According to “American History Through Song, Civil War Songs” (1989) by Keith and Rusty McNeil, the spiritual uses a traditional Ashanti melody from Western Africa. 

Yellow Rose of Texas/Ring the Banjo

Tom sings and plays the banjo, harmonica and button accordion.  "The Yellow Rose of Texas": The Center for American History at the University of Texas has an unpublished early handwritten version of the song, perhaps dating from the time of the Battle of San Jacinto in 1836. The author is unknown. The earliest published version, by Firth, Pond and Company of New York and dated September 2, 1858, identifies the composer and arranger as "J.K."; its lyrics are almost identical to those in the handwritten manuscript.  "Ring the Banjo" was composed by Stephen Foster in 1851.