The Civil War’s Lyrical Battlefield

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We all know the Civil War had a seismic impact on our country. Did you know that its effects trickled down to the music publishing industry?

UA Libraries Special Collections has a lot of 19th and early 20th century sheet music, including the following pieces from the Confederate Imprints and Wade Hall Sheet Music collections. Songs like these make for a pretty clear picture of war.

For example, each army had its own anthems, including works like The “Confederates Grand March” and “The Union Banner Quickstep”

And each side also had patriotic songs about its cause:

God save the southern land

Flag with 34 stars

However, much of the music is actually about the human element, from this piece lamenting a Confederate soldier’s parting from his loved ones, to return “when this cruel war is over”…

Sadly we parted

…to an account of everyday “Camp Life” in the Union Army.

And just as the music of the period chronicled the fight, it also bore witness to the process of reconciliation. This song talks about why peace was necessary:

“Oh, why should friendship turn to hate,
Oh why should brothers fight?
Oh! hold the mighty arm of war
And let this hatred cease,
And let our voices shout with joy
That all we want is peace.”

“Why can we not be brothers/We know that we were rebels” imagined that the defeated south was just as aware of the need to put hostilities to an end.

By the turn of the 20th century, things had changed, but the past was not entirely forgotten. “He Laid Away a Suit of Gray to Wear the Union Blue” told of a young man’s willingness to fight for the U.S. despite his father’s Confederate past, while another tune was written to celebrate the veteran, so that we would never forget.

Veteran's last song

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