|MUSIC OF THE CIVIL WAR ERA
Loren C. Veigel
The cantatas were written by Richard Bales. There have only been two directors of music at the National Gallery of Art in the Smithsonian of Washington, D.C. The National Gallery is the only Smithsonian (and there are 11 museums!) to include a music department. Richard Bales was followed by Stephen Ackert, who is just now finishing his career at the Gallery, and is the person responsible for our invitation. He knew Bales well. When Loren visited the Gallery in August, Ackert revealed an interesting story about music at the Gallery – one which parallels VOCI in some interesting ways.
Following the Depression, a group of wealthy women in DC felt it would be helpful for people to hear free concerts at one of the great Washington museums. They worked to develop and fund such a program, and Richard Bales, a well-known local church organist, was hired to head the program. His diligent work helped to develop the National Gallery Orchestra, in residence at the Gallery, and to provide weekly free concerts for the community and tourists. Stephen Ackert, another church musician and organist, served as an intern there and told me that Bales, following retirement, was at the Gallery almost every day, checking on things. The Gallery no longer employs a conductor; Ackert feels that a series of guest conductors is more effective.
Those who have sung with VOCI for many years will also be interested that Sam Gordon (former VOCI and University of Akron choral director – and present conductor of Singer’s Companye, professional Akron choir) has a long-term relationship with music at the Gallery. Prior to his career at Akron, Sam taught at the University of Maryland, and sang many times at the Gallery. When Loren mentioned him to Ackert in Washington, he responded, “Yes, Sam provided for us many fine, fine concerts!” Our friends and longtime VOCI singers Roger and Marlene Sell have sung two concerts with Sam Gordon and Singer’s Companye at the National Gallery.
Biographical/Historical Note: Richard Horner Bales was a prominent figure in the Washington area for over fifty years. A native Alexandrian (1915-1998), he attended Episcopal High School and then went on to study music at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester. Upon graduation from Eastman he went to the Berkshire Music Center to study conducting under the late master conductor, Serge Koussevitzky. In 1943, Bales became the conductor of the National Gallery Orchestra in Washington, D.C., a position he held until his retirement in 1985. Bales was also very well known for his compositions of music relating to the American Revolution and the Civil War. The most well known are "The Confederacy," "The Union," and "The Republic". The latter has been performed at every presidential inauguration since 1955. He composed over 35 pieces of work, been a guest conductor for many of the nation's best orchestras, performed for presidents and foreign heads of state and received numerous honors and awards.
We read the composer’s own hand in our two cantatas, because, for some reason, Bales never chose to have them published. Perhaps he wanted to “keep” them for his own Washington performances. Nonetheless, they were presented and released nationally in beautiful recordings. MJ Albacete, longtime Canton Art Director, who introduced them to Loren, says that VOCI may be the first-ever performances of the cantatas together. MJ and his wife are traveling with us to DC.
The cantatas eventually fell to The Free Library of Philadelphia, where we arrange and borrow the scores and orchestral parts.
On June 22, 1953, TIME Magazine wrote:
The season's final concert of Washington's National Gallery Orchestra last week was no place for cold-blooded Yankees. The west court of the gallery rang with the words and music of such songs as The Bonnie Blue Flag, The Conquered Banner, the sentimental love song Lorena, and for a finale, Dixie, with a 40-voice chorus giving the rebel yell.
The idea for the demonstration came from the musings of Conductor-Composer Richard Bales, a Virginian himself, who has long regretted that so much music associated with the Confederacy — Dixie excepted—has fallen out of memory. From libraries, and with the help of friends, Bales resurrected some 125 old Southern songs, all piano versions. Weeding through them, he selected ten solidly representative tunes, orchestrated them for sighing fiddles and haunting horns, and strung them together in a cantata which he called The Confederacy. The première brought out the rebels of the Washington area in full force.
After an opening march, a soprano sang the mournful ballad. All Quiet Along the Potomac Tonight, which was sung by both sides in the 1860s. Then came the chorus in The Bonnie Blue Flag, with the stirring lines rousingly flung out: And rather than submit to shame, To die we would prefer, So cheer for the Bonnie Blue Flag That bears a single star!
As it went its 60-minute way, alternating solos and choruses. The Confederacy recited the slow, nostalgic Lorena—a Northern song, curiously enough (Chicago, 1857), but later a Southern favorite: The years creep slowly by, Lorena, The snow is on the grass again; The sun's low down the sky, Lorena, The frost gleams where the flowers have been . . .
And the fast, high-spirited Yellow Rose of Texas: You may talk about your dearest May, And sing of Rosalee, But the Yellow Rose of Texas Beats the Belles of Tennessee.
At the windup, there was a reading of General Lee's farewell order to the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox, and for the finish, a roof-raising Dixie with a 16-bar rebel yell. When it was over, there was hardly a dry eye in the house.
Getting the yell right was a special problem. Bales, unsure of style and pitch, hopped down to Richmond for a talk with a man who could be expected to know: the late historian Douglas Southall Freeman. Freeman gladly explained that the trick of the yell is the "cumulative effect," voice after voice, piercing the eardrums. Then Freeman threw back his head and blasted out with an earsplitting "Ooooo-eeeeeeeee!"* Says Bales with awe: "Once having heard it, you never forget it."
Here’s an interesting note I found about the second recording release:
The North is finally getting equal time from Columbia Records, whose 1954 album The Confederacy misted eyes from Richmond to Vicksburg, sold an impressive 35,000 copies. The Union, a handsomely turned-out companion album, may lack the other record's lost-cause fascination, and its concluding "hip-hip-hooray" cannot compete with the doomed defiance of The Confederacy's Rebel-yell finale. But The Union's alternately triumphant and melancholy Civil War music, again grouped by Conductor-Composer Richard Bales, stirs gallant ghosts and makes fine listening. The Grand Army starts off to war with a rousing quickstep, soon changes its tune to fit a war for which—as Historian Bruce Catton points out in an album essay—hardly any of the soldiers were prepared. The disillusion of the troops is powerfully clear in the campfire dirge, Tenting Tonight: We are tired of war on the old Campground Many are dead and gone . . . Dying tonight, Dying tonight, Dying on the old Camp ground.
With style and flourish Arranger Bales presents The Battle Cry of Freedom, a rallying song to match the South's cap-tossing Bonnie Blue Flag, and the inevitable Battle Hymn of the Republic. Some of the ditties are wryly humorous, like The Invalid Corps, which pokes fun at the era's equivalent of 4-Fs. But most songs hark sentimentally back, like Aura Lea, to languishing sweethearts or, unabashedly, to home and Mom: Farewell, Mother, you may never Press me to your heart again; But 0, you'll not forget me, Mother, If I'm number'd with the slain.
This may be sheer bathos, but, as Catton points out, such songs were often sung by young soldiers who knew that their chances of seeing home again were poor. And The Union's effective performance (it is scored for soprano and baritone soloists, a combination that evokes the longing of both the women at home and the men in the field) rarely allows sentimentality to get out of hand.
One of The Union's virtues is the seldom-heard Civil War music it saves from obscurity, e.g., Abraham Lincoln's Funeral March, a moving piece by an otherwise unknown composer, William Wolsieffer. The score is dedicated to Composer Bales's grandfather, a Union captain, but at least at one point the suspicion is aroused that Virginia-born Richard Bales has fired one last shot for the Grey: to record the boom of a cannon, Columbia sound engineers had a twelve-pounder touched off at Manassas, the site of two of the North's worst defeats.
And, finally this week, I’ll include Bales’ obituary – on June 27, 1998, in the Washington POST:
Richard H. Bales, 83, a composer, music historian and former conductor of the National Gallery Orchestra who organized, promoted and presented Sunday concerts for more than four decades, died June 25 at the health care center at Lake Ridge. He had Parkinson's disease.
Mr. Bales retired from the National Gallery in the summer of 1985 after 42 years as assistant director for music. In that period, he was responsible for 1,786 free concerts in the museum's Garden Courts, and he raised the National Gallery Orchestra from a fledgling ensemble to a level of musical eminence.
As a composer, he wrote more than 35 pieces, and his work ranged from the sacred, "Communion …
Last week, you read about the composer of our Civil War cantatas, Richard Bales. I also hope the notes included in the most recent newsletter brought to your mind the fortuitous musical timing of the Civil War – a confluence between fervent national fervor, and the height of the era of poignant American song!
Since we will be reviewing the Confederate choruses this week, let’s take a look at some information about those songs. I think you’ll find it helpful to place the pieces in a historical and musical context.
What was “The Bonnie Blue Flag?”
The flag of the Republic of West Florida, which broke away from Spanish West Florida in September 1810 and was annexed by the United States 90 days later. In 2006, the state of Louisiana formally linked the name "Bonnie Blue" to the West Florida banner by passing a law designating the Bonnie Blue Flag as "the official flag of the Republic of West Florida Historic Region".
When the state of Mississippi seceded from the Union in January 1861, they adopted the Republic of West Florida Flag as many had ties to the West Florida rebellion. A flag bearing a single white star on a blue field was flown from the capitol dome. Harry McCarthy helped popularize this flag as a symbol of the Confederacy by writing the words to the popular song "The Bonnie Blue Flag" early in 1861. Some seceding southern states incorporated the motif of a white star on a blue field into new state flags.
The "Bonnie Blue Flag" was used as an unofficial flag during the early months of 1861. It was flying above the Confederate batteries that first opened fire on Fort Sumter, beginning the Civil War. The Van Dorn battle flag was also carried by Confederate troops fighting in the Trans-Mississippi and Western theaters of war. In addition, many military units had their own regimental flags they would carry into battle.
In 2007, one of six known Bonnie Blue flags from the Civil War era was sold at auction for $47,800. The flag had been carried by the Confederate 3rd Texas Cavalry and later exhibited as part of the 1936 Texas Centennial Exposition.
In the 1936 novel by Margaret Mitchell and the 1939 film Gone with the Wind, Rhett Butler nicknames his newborn daughter "Bonnie Blue Butler" after Melanie Wilkes remarks that her eyes will be "as blue as the bonnie blue flag.
Next to "Dixie's Land," perhaps no other song was as well loved by the Confederate soldier as "The Bonnie Blue Flag." Written by Harry Macarthy (1834-1888) and sung to the old Irish tune The Irish Jaunting Car, the song lays out the order of secession of the States that went on to form the Confederacy. The first flag of the Confederacy was a single white star on a blue background. This song, especially popular in the South during the early years of the war, counts out the eleven seceding states one by one. Macarthy was an English-born vaudeville entertainer who emigrated to the United States in 1849 and settled in Arkansas. He billed himself the "Arkansas Comedian" and traveled widely throughout the South in company with his wife, Lottie, putting on "personation concerts." Stephen Currie, in Music in the Civil War, reports that one of Macarthy's traveling companions during the war years was a cockatoo who had been trained to squawk "Three cheers for Jeff Davis!" on stage
The New Orleans music publishing house of A.E. Blackmar issued six editions of The Bonnie Blue Flag between 1861 and 1864 along with three additional arrangements. The tune was so popular that Union General Benjamin Butler was said to have arrested and fined Blackmar for daring to publish it “The Bonnie Blue Flag,” another pro-Southern song was so popular in the Confederacy that Union General Benjamin Butler destroyed all the printed copies he could find, jailed the publisher, and threatened to fine anyone—even a child—caught singing the song or whistling the melody.
Surely everyone in the audience will recognize “The Yellow Rose of Texas.” But, did you know that the source of the story has nothing to do with a flower?
It is a traditional folk song; originally a love song associated with the legend of how an indentured servant named Emily Morgan helped win the battle of San Jacinto, the decisive battle in the Texas Revolution, 1836. The author is unknown. A handwritten copy exists at Univ. of Texas. First published 1858, arranged by vaudeville performer Charles H. Brown. Gene Autry recorded it in1933. Mitch Miller hit the top of charts with “The Yellow Rose” in 1955, and it was used in the famouse James Dean film Giant. Emily was a mulatto (thus yellow), captured by Mexicans, seduced President Santa Anna, lowering guard of his army. Became popular with Confederate troops, was sung after defeat of General Hood at Battle of Nashville in December 1864
The song is believed by some to have been based on a Texas legend from the days of the Texas Revolution. According to the legend,[ Emily D. West (also known as "Emily Morgan") was seized by Mexican forces during the looting of Galveston. She seduced General Antonio López de Santa Anna, President of Mexico and commander of the Mexican forces. The legend credits her supposed seduction of Santa Anna with lowering the guard of the Mexican army and facilitating the Texan victory in the Battle of San Jacinto, waged in 1836 near present-day Houston. Santa Anna's opponent was General Sam Houston, who won the battle literally in minutes, and with almost no casualties. West was a mulatto. The original lyrics refer to her as the "yellow" rose, in keeping with the historical use of term "high yellow" as a description of light skin among Black and/or multiracial people in the South.
Historians assert that if West was with Santa Anna, it was not by her choice, nor did she play any part in deciding the battle. The seduction legend was largely unknown until the publication in the 1950s of a version of the lyrics based on William Bollaert's account. Bollaert, a British subject, spent two years in Texas — 1842 to 1844 — and was a prolific writer, publishing more than 80 articles on various subjects.
The basic facts are that Emily West, a free person of color, migrated to Texas from New York City in late 1835 as an indentured servant under contract to the agent James Morgan. She was born free in New Haven, Connecticut Sources describe her as a teen or as a woman of twenty. She was to work as a housekeeper at the New Washington Association's hotel, near what was then called New Washington and is now Morgan's Point. Historians say she became known by Morgan's surname, as was the custom at the time for indentured servants and slaves.
Santa Anna reportedly saw West in April 1836 when he invaded New Washington prior to the Battle of San Jacinto. West and other black servants were taken to his camp, along with some white residents who were captured.[ According to legend, Santa Anna was with her when Texan General Sam Houston's troops arrived, forcing him to flee suddenly without weapons or armor and enabling his capture the next day.
More than 25 years later, the lyrics were changed to eliminate the more racially specific lyrics, with "Soldier" replacing "darky;" and the first line of the chorus, "She's the sweetest rose of color," (a reference to the African-European free people of color) changed to "She's the sweetest little rosebud ..." Sometimes "Dearest May" is replaced with "Clementine." This song became popular among Confederate soldiers in the Texas Brigade during the American Civil War; upon taking command of the Army of Tennessee in July 1864, General John Bell Hood introduced it as a marching song. The final verse and chorus were slightly altered by the remains of Hood's force after their crushing defeat at the Battle of Nashville that December: And now I'm going southward, for my heart is full of woe, I'm going back to Georgia, to find my Uncle Joe, You may talk about your Beauregard, and sing of Bobby Lee, But the gallant Hood of Texas played hell in Tennessee. The modified lyrics reference famous Confederate military commanders Joseph Johnston, P.G.T. Beauregard, and Robert E. Lee. Texan veterans sang it openly to mock Hood's mishandling of their Nashville campaign.
One the most complex historical stories involved in our cantata music deals with the doubly-used tune, “For Bales,” and “Johnny Comes Marching Home Again.”
This song was very popular on both sides during war; “Johnny” expressed longing for those away in the conflict, and hope for their return. The tune comes from an Irish antiwar song “Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye” from 1820s. It was first published as “Johnny” in 1863, providing motivation for soldiers to think about an end to the conflict.
The lyrics to When Johnny Comes Marching Home were written by the Irish-American bandleader Patrick Gilmore during the American Civil War. Its first sheet music publication was deposited in the Library of Congress on September 26, 1863, with words and music credited to "Louis Lambert"; copyright was retained by the publisher, Henry Tolman & Co., of Boston. Why Gilmore chose to publish under a pseudonym is not clear, but popular composers of the period often employed pseudonyms to add a touch of romantic mystery to their compositions. Gilmore is said to have written the song for his sister Annie as she prayed for the safe return of her fiancé, Union Light Artillery Captain John O'Rourke, from the Civil War,[ although it is not clear if the engagement already existed in 1863, as the two were not married until 1875.
Gilmore later acknowledged that the music was not original but was, as he put it in an 1883 article in the Musical Herald, "a musical waif which I happened to hear somebody humming in the early days of the rebellion, and taking a fancy to it, wrote it down, dressed it up, gave it a name, and rhymed it into usefulness for a special purpose suited to the times."
The melody was previously published around July 1, 1863, as the music to the Civil War drinking song Johnny Fill Up the Bowl A color-illustrated, undated slip of Gilmore's lyrics, printed by his own Boston publisher, actually states that When Johnny Comes Marching Home should be sung to the tune of Johnny Fill Up the Bowl.
The story of "When Johnny comes Marching Home" is also the story of Patrick Sarsfield Gilmore. Gilmore, an 1848 Irish immigrant to Boston, was considered by no less a musician than John Philip Sousa as the "Father of the American Band." Gilmore led a number of bands in the Boston area, including Patrick Gilmore's Band. At the beginning of the Civil War, in September 1861, the band enlisted as a group in the Union Army and was attached to the 24th Massachusetts Infantry. Gilmore's band served both as musicians and stretcher bearers at such horrific battles as Bull Run, Antietam, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg and Richmond. Gilmore was posted to occupied New Orleans, Louisiana in 1863 and, as Grand Master of the Union Army, ordered to reorganize the state military bands. It was at this time that he claimed to have composed the words and music to "When Johnny Comes Marching Home."
The Confederate version, “For Bales,” was the hardest piece in the entire cantata to research. I found even a blog about this song, where many questions were asked about the lyrics. Although folks involved in the conversation are clearly Civil War experts, few verified answers were offered. I did find the brief information in the next format.
The song also gave rise to many a parody. The best known was the Confederate parody "For Bales." Union soldiers sang about Generals such as Burnside, McClellan and Mead in a parody titled "Boys of the Potomac" and northerners disgruntled by taxes, conscription and inflation sang "Johnny, Fill up the Bowl." During the Spanish American War in 1898, "When Johnny Comes Marching Home" reached new heights of popularity.
Regarding the text, “greenbacks” does indeed refer to money. The bales are undoubtedly cotton, and perhaps relates to a scouting raid which followed the Union blockade of New Orleans. Men were taken upriver with the rumor that 100,000 bales of cotton were stored and could be confiscated. The cotton was found to have been purposely burned by rebel forces. No doubt this would have created great frustration among the marauding troops, and thus the source. Those who “got into the ring” and returned with nothing to show for their work, might be describing their story while drinking off the resultant frustration.
Keep learning and enjoying folks. We are involved in an extremely rich musical piece for this concert. By the time we appear in Washington, I hope we are all experts on this era!
It’s time to look at some background information about the chorus parts of the Union Cantata.
Tenting Tonight on the Old Campground became a particular favorite song of the enlisted men of the Union. it was written in 1863 by Walter Kittredge and first performed in that year at Old High Rock, Lynn, Massachusetts.
A Methodist camp meeting variant appeared with title "Tenting Again" in 1869, using the same tune but words modified for the religious environment.
Charles Ives later quoted the song in his own political song, "They Are There," changing the lyrics to "Tenting on a new campground"—referring to a worldwide social democracy.
By 1863 the public taste for Civil War music was changing. Songs such as The Battle Cry of Freedom and The Flag of Our Union Forever were giving way to haunting music conceived in sorrow. These songs narrated the grief of wives, sweethearts and mothers. Some examples included The Girl I Left Behind Me and Just Before the Battle Mother. Perhaps the greatest of this type of Civil War song is Tenting Tonight on the Old Camp Ground by Walter Kittredge. He was born in Merrimac near Reed's Ferry, New Hampshire on October 8, 1834. When he was twelve, he cut himself a hollow onion stalk, nicked out stops and managed to coax a tune from it.
Kittredge was a young New Hampshire musician who had published the Union Songbook in 1861. Tenting Tonight on the Old Camp Ground is one of the best remembered of all Civil War songs. The song's simple words and nostalgic imagery continues to move audiences today.
Walter Kittredge was a born minstrel of the people and nicknamed the "Minstrel of the Merrimac." He knew the challenges of everyday life and deeply felt the sorrows, emotions and events of the period. He translated these experiences in his music. During the fall of 1857 he traveled throughout the Northeast and along the Connecticut River with Joshua Hutchinson of the famous Hutchinson Family Singers. There was a twenty-three year age difference between Hutchinson and the younger Kittredge. It was Joshua who taught the young minstrel to sing and play. As time and events leading up to the Civil war proceeded, Kittredge's singing tour events multipled do to the singer's ability to reflect the spirit of the times in his music. During the exciting Lincoln and Douglas debates the singer and songwriter sang songs like Red, White & Blue at open-air gatherings selling his compositions to support himself.
The Civil War was in full development by 1863 when he received notice that he had been drafted to serve in the army and must report at once to Concord, New Hampshire. The night before he left, he sat beside the window looking out across the twilit New Hampshire fields. He reached for his violin and inspired by sadness, regret and thoughts of soldier life that were all too familiar, with all their mingled glory and pathos, a song began to take form. His thoughts continued to wander away into the South and to the camps where soldiers were gathered. "Many are the hearts," he thought, "many are the hearts that are weary tonight, wishing for the war to cease." The music and words of Tenting Tonight on the Old Camp Ground came together that night. Not a word or a note was ever changed later. Kittredge took his song to the Oliver Ditson Company a Boston publisher and offered to sell it for fifteen dollars. He was told it was too sad and sentimental and that there was nothing to it. Asa Hutchinson a friend and musical partner knew the song would be a success. Asa and Walter had sung and toured together a number of times before. Asa promised to interest the company, which published Hutchinson songs, and the two men agreed to divide the royalties equally. The Oliver Ditson Company paid two and a half cents on each copy sold and agreed to supply Kittredge and the Hutchinsons with copies to be sold at concerts for eight cents apiece. Within two years both men would realize a thousand dollars apiece in royalties from Tenting Tonight on the Old Camp Ground.
The song's halting verse and melancholy refrain was performed publicly by the Hutchinson Family Singers for the first time in 1863 at Old High Rock in Lynn, Massachusetts. The concert audience paid eight cents a ticket to attend the open-air performance. With the smoky flare of lamps, the stars overhead, and the silent people, many of whom had sons at the battlefront, sitting close together on the cold rock, the song had a perfect setting. Within six months after the song's premier over ten thousand copies of the Tenting Tonight on the Old Camp Ground had been sold. The song's popularity did not stop after the war. In 1866 they sang it everyday during a weeklong anti-slavery convention. It also maintained a place of honor on the musical program at both the Philadelphia Centennial of 1876 and the Great Soldiers' Reunion in Washington in 1892.
Walter Kittredge died at Merrimac, New Hampshire on July 8, 1905.
"A Day in Camp" (1861-1863)—Hardtack and Coffee
We've been tenting tonight on the old camp-ground,
Thinking of days gone by,
Of the loved ones at home that gave us the hand,
And the tear that said, "Good-bye!"
The lone wife kneels and prays with a sigh
That God his watch will keep
O'er the dear one away and the little dears nigh,
In the trundle bed fast asleep.
We are tenting tonight on the old camp ground.
The fires are flickering low.
Still are the sleepers that lie around,
As the sentinels come and go.
Alas for those comrades of days gone by
Whose forms are missed tonight.
Alas for the young and true who lie
Where the battle flag braved the fight.
No more on march or field of strife
Shall they lie so tired and worn,
No rouse again to hope and life
When the sound of drums beat at morn.
We are tired of war on the old camp ground,
Many are dead and gone,
Of the brave and true who've left their homes,
Others been wounded long.
We've been fighting today on the old camp ground,
Many are lying near;
Some are dead, and some are dying,
Many are in tears.
Many are the hearts that are weary tonight,
Wishing for the war to cease;
Many are the hearts looking for the right,
To see the dawn of peace.
Dying tonight, dying tonight,
Dying on the old camp ground
The Battle Cry of Freedom
Although "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" is today considered the preeminent Northern war song, Union soldiers were more likely to bestow that honor upon "The Battle Cry of Freedom." Willard A. and Porter W. Heaps, writing in The Singing Sixties, call "The Battle Cry of Freedom" `the type of rousing tune which appears seldom during a period of war and but once in a generation."
Composed in haste in a single day in response to President Abraham Lincoln's July 1862 call for 300,000 volunteers to fill the shrinking ranks of the Union Army, the song was first performed on July 24 and again on July 26 at a massive war rally. Composer-lyricist George F. Root recalled years later, "From there the song went into the army, and the testimony in regard to its use in the camp and on the march, and even on the field of battle, from soldiers and officers, up to the good President himself, made me thankful that if I could not shoulder a musket in defense of my country I could serve her in this way."
A Massachusetts native, Root had shown remarkable musical abilities from an early age, mastering no fewer than thirteen instruments by the age of 12. Primarily a vocal instructor, Root eventually began composing, writing in the classical genre. He was a founding partner in the Chicago-based music publishing firm of Root and Cady.
When the War Between the States broke out, Root began to write inspirational songs for the Union war effort. Although his earlier attempts at popular pieces had so embarrassed him that he signed them with the name "Wurzel" (German for "root") so as not to compromise his reputation as a serious composer, he now showed no hesitation in turning out song after song. Other works such as "Just Before the Battle, Mother" and "Tramp! Tramp! Tramp!" quickly established him as perhaps the most popular and certainly the most prolific of wartime composer/songwriters.
Public response to "The Battle Cry of Freedom" was overwhelming. When the sheet music was published that fall, fourteen printing presses working round the clock were unable to keep up with the demand for copies. Between 500,000 and 700,000 copies were produced.
What made Root's song so compelling? According to Kenneth A. Bernard, author of Lincoln and the Music of the Civil War, the tune appeared at just the right time, "expressing just the sentiments that were needed, with music that was singable and words that were appropriate" and played "an immeasurably important part in restoring and sustaining morale at home and at the front throughout the entire war."
A measure of the song's success can be seen in the flurry of imitations that appeared soon after its publication. William H. Barnes, the manager of the Atlanta Amateurs, a group of volunteer musicians who performed for the benefit of various soldiers' relief funds, penned a set of Confederate lyrics that were adapted to Root's tune (with some rhythmic changes) by composer Hermann L. Schreiner. Another knock-off, "Rally Round the Flag," had mundane lyrics and was produced by James T. Fields and William B. Bradbury.
The President’s Hymn
In 1863, this song was composed by William Augustus Muhlenberg and Joseph W. Turner to honor the new Thanksgiving holiday established by President Lincoln.
The "President's Hymn" was composed by William Augustus Muhlenberg with music by Joseph W. Turner to commemorate the Thanksgiving Proclamation declared by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863. It became a popular hymn and was published in several Church Hymnals.
The Rev. William Augustus Muhlenberg was born in Philadelphia on Sept. 16, 1796. He came from a prominent family in the area. He became an Episcopal clergyman and did much for education. He established St. Luke's Hospital in New York. He was a strong supporter of Lincoln. When he wrote this song he wanted to name it the President's Hymn for Lincoln. He actually wrote Lincoln and got his permission to name the song. Rev. Muhlenberg wrote many other hymns and poems during his life.
Dr. Muhlenberg died on April 6, 1877. There is Memorial to him on Find A Grave.
Here’s a descriptive note I found on an exhibit at the Smithsonian:
This is a piece of sheet music for the song, "The President's Hymn: Give Thanks, All Ye People." The piece is a single sheet of plain paper folded in half. The cover has the title printed on it followed by, "In Response to the Proclamation of the President of the United States, Recommending a General Thanksgiving, On November 26th, 1863. The music along with nine stanzas of lyrics are printed on the inside of the folded sheet.  p. For chorus (SATB). A metrical version of Lincoln's first Thanksgiving proclamation; music by William Augustus Muhlenberg.
To the Editor of The N. Y. Tribune. Sir:
Inclosed you will find a hymn written by our
beloved and revered fellow-citizen, Dr. Muhlenberg,
founder of St. Luke's Hospital, and writer of the im-
mortal hymn, "I would not live alway." Will you not
give it a place in your columns, and use your editorial in-
fluence to induce our people throughout the loyal States
to sing it in the churches on the approaching Thanks-
giving, as "The President's Hymn"?
It has a right to that designation. It is, as a compari-
son of the two will prove, a metrical version of the
President's proclamation, which this year, for the first
time, makes our "Harvest Home" a national festival—a
significant and blessed augury of that "more perfect
Union" with which, with God's blessing, the war shall
leave us as a people.
Solicitous to have the highest authority given to the
use of this National hymn, I obtained the reluctant con-
sent of its writer (author also of the music to which it
is set) to ask our Chief Magistrate's permission to style
it "The President's Hymn." The Secretary of State
through whom the application was made, telegraphed
me a few hours afterward the President's leave, in the
decisive style which has now become so familiar to
our people—"Let it be so called." May we not hope
that millions of our people will, on November 26, be
found uniting in this National Psalm of Thanksgiving,
and that "The President's Hymn" will be the house-
hold and the temple song of that solemn and joyful day!
It will help to join our hearts as citizens, thus to blend
our voices as worshippers; and the blessings of Union,
Liberty and Peace will sooner descend on a people that
can thus unite in its praise and hosannahs.
Respectfully yours, Henry W. Bellows
GIVE THANKS ALL YE PEOPLE.
Give thanks, all ye people, give thanks to the Lord,
Alleluias of freedom, with joyful accord:
Let the East and the West, North and South roll along,
Sea, mountain and prairie, one thanksgiving song.
Chorus after each verse:
Give thanks, all ye people, give thanks to the Lord,
Alleluias of freedom, with joyful accord.
For the sunshine and rainfall, enriching again
Our acres in myriads, with treasures of grain;
For the Earth still unloading her manifold wealth,
For the Skies beaming vigor, the Winds breathing health,
Give thanks, etc.—
For the Nation's wide table, o'erflowingly spread,
Where the many have feasted, and all have been fed,
With no bondage, their God-given rights to enthrall,
But liberty guarded by Justice for all;
Give thanks, etc.—
In the realms of the Anvil, the Loom, and the Plow,
Whose the mines and the fields, to Him gratefully bow;
His the flocks and the herds, sing ye hill-sides and vales;
On His Ocean domains chant His name with the gales.
Give thanks, etc.—
Of commerce and traffic, ye princes, behold
Your riches from Him Whose the silver and gold,
Happier children of Labor, true lords of the soil,
Bless the Great Master-Workman, who blesseth your toil,
Give thanks, etc.—
Brave men of our forces, Life-guard of our coasts,
To your Leader be loyal, Jehovah of Hosts:
Glow the Stripes and the Stars aye with victory bright,
Reflecting His glory—He crowneth the Right.
Give thanks, etc.—
Nor shall ye through our borders, ye stricken of heart,
Only wailing your dead, in the joy have no part:
God's solace be yours, and for you there shall flow
All that honor and sympathy's gifts can bestow,
Give thanks, etc.—
In the Domes of Messiah—ye worshipping throngs,
Solemn litanies mingle with jubilant songs;
The Ruler of Nations beseeching to spare,
And our Empire still keep the Elect of His care.
Give thanks, etc.—
Our guilt and transgressions remember no more;
Peace, Lord! righteous Peace, of Thy gift we implore;
And the Banner of Union, restored by Thy hand,
Be the Banner of Freedom o'er All in the Land.
And the Banner of Union, etc.
Give thanks, etc.—
Copies of "The President's Hymn" can be had at $2 a
hundred, of A. D. F. Randolph, publisher, No. 683 Broad-
way. Churches, by ordering a few hundred, can have the
Hymn (with which the music is printed) sung by the whole
congregation. Profits of the sale devoted to the Sanitary
New York, Nov. 17, 1863.
The President’s Grave
This piece was published in Cleveland! Glazer, who published a rather definitive collection of Civil War songs, included this piece. The Smithsonian says it was “unknown” prior to this publication. Musicologist Patrick Warfield of the University of Maryland wrote the introduction for a 1972 Smithsonian collection. While at NYU, he organized and contributed Civil War Naval music. Warfield says several songs on the Tom Glazer CD – like this one – use traditional Irish songs, largely because so many Americans had roots there.
The Battle Hymn of the Republic
Julia Ward Howe wrote this piece, using music from the song “John Brown’s Body”. Written in November 1861 and first published in The Atlantic Monthly in February 1862. Tune 1856 by William Steffe, with words preceding John Brown and sung as a campfire spiritual. It was viewed as the best song of the time. Thomas Bishop of Vermont joined a Massachusetts militia and wrote the John Brown text. His battalion, dispatched to Washington DC, marched to the song, and Julia Ward Howe heard it sung in public review. At the Willard Hotel on the night of November 18, 1861, she awoke with the words in her mind and she wrote them down in near darkness. Numerous Biblical references are included in the text.
Howe, the daughter of New York banker Samuel Ward, was born in 1819. She married Sr. S. G. Howe the philanthropist in 1843 – he was famed as the head of Perkins Institute for the Blind. Both were fiercely anti-slavery, and published a journal called the Boston Commonwealth.
The hymn was sung at the funerals of British statesman Winston Churchill, American senator Robert Kennedy, and American presidents Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon.
The "Glory, Hallelujah" tune was a folk hymn developed in the oral hymn tradition of camp meetings in the southern United States and first documented in the early 1800s. In the first known version, the text includes the verse "Oh! Brothers will you meet me(3X)/On Canaan's happy shore?" and chorus "There we'll shout and give him glory (3x)/For glory is his own"; this developed into the familiar "Glory, glory, hallelujah" chorus by the 1850s. The tune and variants of these words spread across both the southern and northern United States.
Of the writing of the lyrics, Howe remembered:
I went to bed that night as usual, and slept, according to my wont, quite soundly. I awoke in the gray of the morning twilight; and as I lay waiting for the dawn, the long lines of the desired poem began to twine themselves in my mind. Having thought out all the stanzas, I said to myself, 'I must get up and write these verses down, lest I fall asleep again and forget them.' So, with a sudden effort, I sprang out of bed, and found in the dimness an old stump of a pen which I remembered to have used the day before. I scrawled the verses almost without looking at the paper.
Mrs. Howe's hymn has been acclaimed through the years as one of our finest patriotic songs. At one time it was sung as a solo at a large rally attended by President Abraham Lincoln. After the audience had responded with loud applause, the President, with tears in his eyes, cried out, "Sing it again!" It was sung again. And after more than a hundred years, Americans still join often in proclaiming, "Glory! Hallelujah! His truth is marching on!"
Hold On, Abraham
1862 – fast paced and repetitive, often performed by minstrels. Words and music by William Batchelder Bradbury. Written as a response to Lincoln’s request for 300,000 more soldiers. Lyrics contain references to several generals.
Marching Through Georgia
Written by Henry Clay Work at the end of Civil War in 1865. Refers to Sherman’s march to the sea late in 1864. Became widely popular with the Union Army veterans; General Sherman came to despise it, largely because it was played every time he showed up! Outside of the South, it was popular universally: the Japanese sang it at Port Arthur, the British Army sang it in India, and an English town thought the tune was appropriate to welcome southern American troops in WW II.
The song was sung by a carpetbagger in “Gone With the Wind,” and George M. Cohan referenced the “Hurrah! Hurrah!” line in one of the verses of “You’re a Grand Old Flag,” juxtaposed with a line from “Dixie.” It is Princeton’s fight song!
"Marching Through Georgia" (sometimes spelled Marching Thru' Georgia or Marching Thro Georgia) is a marching song written by Henry Clay Work at the end of the American Civil War in 1865. It refers to U.S. Maj. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman's March to the Sea late in the previous year to capture Savannah, Georgia.
Because of its lively melody, the song became widely popular with Union Army veterans after the war. In the southern United States, particularly in Georgia, however, the song came to symbolize the devastation and political domination the north wrought upon the south during and after the war. Ironically, Sherman himself came to dislike "Marching Through Georgia", in part because it was played at almost every public appearance that he attended. Outside of the Southern United States, it had a widespread appeal: Japanese troops sang it as they entered Port Arthur, the British Army sang it in India, and an English town mistakenly thought the tune was appropriate to welcome southern American troops in World War II.
The Year of Jubilo
Amazingly, this song, also written by Henry Work, was composed in 1862 prior to the Emancipation Proclamation. The lyrics written by a white man in stereotypical African American dialect of the time, the song celebrates promised freedom to slaves whose masters have been frightened away by the Union military forces. The lyrics are seldom sung today, but it was used as an instrumental in Ken Burn’s famous Civil War documentary film.