CLUE: AMERICA S DEADLIEST SONGS:
AN EXPLORATION OF MUSIC FROM THE CIVIL WAR
The Battle Hymn of the Republic and Dixie are the two main answers people give when asked what songs they most relate to the civil war. The Clue actually showed many others relating to the civil war, the insight their words give, and even variations of the Battle Hymn of the republic.
One song for example, The Battle Cry of Freedom, kept talking about the Union soldiers rallying around the flag. This was indicative of the northerners in America that felt slavery was completely opposite the principles on which this country was built. It showed their unison to fight the Confederates and for what they stood. It shows how the northerners felt they were on a freedom call, and were very zealous about what they had to do. Basically, the Union soldiers saw themselves as freedom fighters.
People were also in love with their state, and for what their state stood. Another song, Maryland, My Maryland was simply about the love that the songwriter had for his state. He discusses the bloodshed in his state, and the problems his state faced briefly. It was a way he got out his feeling for the whole situation. As American s studying the Civil War several years later, we can listen to the songs and infer the attitudes and thoughts of people.
Now the thoughts of people were obviously fearful ones. After all the Civil War was one of the bloodiest battles ever fought. Anyone could be killed at anytime. Once again, music contemporaneous to the Civil War shows us the fear instilled in people, and their readiness to die for their cause. A song named, Just Before the Battle, Mother, shows us this fear. It parallels the feelings and thoughts that any person would think or feel before they go into war today. Just before the battle, Mother, I am thinking most of you . While upon the field we re watching with the enemy in view. Comrades brave are round me lying filled with thoughts of home and God, For well they know that on the morrow, some will sleep beneath the sod. Farewell, Mother, you mad never press me to your heart again, But O you ll not forget me, Mother, If I m numbered with the slain. This portion of the song shows how incredibly prevalent death was during the Civil War. It s incredibly sad, but true.
Dixie and Northern Dixie were also songs that showed the tenacity of everyone in America, regardless of side. Northern Dixie really shows the anger in the Union soldiers. It shows their anger towards the Southern ideas of slavery, and how they have no problem killing those who oppose them. Songs like these were more for keeping up morale. In times when people saw their brothers, sons, and fathers killed, they needed songs like Northern Dixie to keep up their spirits. This song really got the people moving.
Finally, another song discussed at the Clue was The Battle Hymn of the Republic and all the deviations that it took. The first creation was called Say Brother Will You Meet Us, and was a more biblical song with the tune of The Battle Hymn of the Republic. John Brown s Body also has the tune of the Battle Hymn, but is about a dead soldier aptly named John Brown. It showed all the people he killed, and territory he captured until he, himself died. This was a usual chain during the Civil War. Then finally came the Battle Hymn of the Republic which was actually done as a rewrite when someone commented on the song John Brown s Body. It was better, and became quite popular.
Now although there were a plethora of songs now discussed at the Clue, those listen to at the Clue, and the one s written about in this paper were the most popular and indicative of events, emotions, and ideas during the war. Like music today, the music around the Civil War really captured the time in which they were written, and the thoughts of the people who wrote them.