“Dixie,” the Unofficial National Anthem of a Lost Confederacy

By Meg Sutter ’16

"Sheet music from the 1900s for 'Dixie,' showing four singers in blackface," Wikipedia Commons.
“Sheet music from the 1900s for “Dixie”, showing four singers in blackface,” Wikipedia Commons.

This post is the second part in a series on Civil War music. [Read part 1 of the series.]

Many Americans are familiar with the tune “Dixie’s Land” as the unofficial anthem of the Confederacy during the Civil War. Despite the song’s ties to the Confederacy, it is still a popular tune even today. Some, like poet and critic Babette Deutsch in the 1920s, have even argued that it is more popular than the “Star Spangled Banner.” Deutsch writes that “the national anthem never is sung with the same hearty joy and strong emotion with which an audience, even of Northerners, greets [‘Dixie’].” Deutsch’s early twentieth century interpretation of this phenomenon is very likely dependent on the era in which she wrote it, but even today there are those in the South who rally for “Dixie” more than for the “Star Spangled Banner.”

Yet despite the song’s popularity, it seems that the majority of the American public is not aware of the long and somewhat unexpected history of “Dixie.” Even of those who know “Dixie” was actually written by a Northerner, how many are aware of its origins as a minstrel song functioning to draw comedic attention to the role of black slaves on Southern plantations? “Dixie’s” history has largely been obscured by time and the Lost Cause, and so it is significant not only to note the complex history of the tune, but also to raise questions about why such a song became the most popular rally cry of the Confederacy in the first place.

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The Blue and the Grey on Black and White: Music in the Civil War Era (Part 1)

By Meg Sutter ’16

Union saxhorn and drum musicians probably at Camp Griffin, Langley, Virginia. Photo credit Library of Congress.
Union saxhorn and drum musicians probably at Camp Griffin, Langley, Virginia. Photo credit Library of Congress.

For many of us, music has had an undeniable impact on our lives; so too was it for the men and women of the Civil War era. In the decades since 1865, scholars have often utilized music as a unique interpretive lens through which to examine the American Civil War. What the field has enduringly lacked, though, is scholarship written as a convergence of History and Musicology. Without advanced study in music, historians can effectively outline the historical significance of period music but not the artistic analysis of the musicologist. Likewise, the musicologist can expand on the technical and creative foundations of music, but not as adeptly on the historical context in which it emerged.

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A Soldier’s Hymn

by Andrew Bothwell, ’13 ???Evening Twilight??? 1 I love to steal a while away From every cumbering care, And spend the hours of setting day In humble, grateful prayer. 2 I love in solitude to shed The penitential tear; And all his promises to plead Wh…

By Andrew Bothwell ’13

“Evening Twilight”

1        I love to steal a while away
From every cumbering care,
And spend the hours of setting day
In humble, grateful prayer.

2        I love in solitude to shed
The penitential tear;
And all his promises to plead
Where none but God can hear. […]

5        Thus, when life’s toilsome day is o’er,
May its departing ray
Be calm as this impressive hour
And lead to endless day.

Corporal Charles A. Rubright of the 160th Pennsylvania Volunteers found little solitude during the beginning days of July 1863. He arrived at Gettysburg on July 2nd after days of arduous marching, the final leg ending early that morning. The commander of a detachment of “Pioneers,” he was soon ordered to the front and left of his brigade on Cemetery Ridge to clear intrusive trees, fences, brush, etc.

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From Playing Music to Healing the Wounded: The 26th North Carolina Infantry Band’s Role in the Battle of Gettysburg

Click on the arrow to hear the musicMusic was important to the military life of the Civil War, as it bolstered spirits, broadcasted commands, kept a marching beat, and accompanied military ceremonies. In the Battle of Gettysburg, field musicians a…

Snare_drum

Music was important to the military life of the Civil War, as it bolstered spirits, broadcasted commands, kept a marching beat, and accompanied military ceremonies. In the Battle of Gettysburg, field musicians and regimental bands played at various times and performed various tasks. The field musicians sounded the calls that announced the hours and duties of the day and transmitted orders while in camp or on the battlefield. The drummer boys, who mostly were under the age of eighteen, were responsible for the order of the camps: camp formations and regulating meals and other daily events. The bandsmen served primarily as noncombatants and were exclusively ceremonial and recreational and were detailed to assist the surgeons during the battle. Nevertheless, their music provided a moral boost for their comrades. The regimental bands were regarded as so essential to the war effort that they routinely took part in the most unlikely of circumstances. Ten marching bands were at Gettysburg including the 26th North Carolina Infantry Band.

The 26th North Carolina Infantry Band was one of the few Confederate bands due to the lack of musicians and brass instruments in the Confederacy.  It was, however, considered one of the best.  The band was composed of Moravian pacifists from Salem, North Carolina, who had had a band since 1831.  Moravians were German Methodists who were well respected for their musical abilities.  The Salem Brass Band enlisted into Confederate service as regimental band for the 26th North Carolina Infantry in March 1862.  Cornet player Samuel T. Mickey led the band which originally consisted of eight brass players and no drummer.  The other original seven players were: A.P. Gibson, 1st Bb cornet; Joe O. Hall, 2nd Bb cornet; Augustus Hauser, 1st Eb alto; William H. Hall, 2nd Eb alto; Daniel T. Crouse, 1st Bb tenor; Alexander C. Meinung, 2nd Bb tenor; and Julius A. Lineback, Eb bass.  (At various points of the war, the band reached the full complement of 12, adding both snare and bass drummers, like the one above.)

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