Music in the Class
Music was an enormous part of the daily life of the Civil Car soldier. Sitting around the campfire at night, songs could be heard drifting through the air, mixing with the melody of crickets in the field. Robert E. Lee is quoted as saying, “I don’t believe we can have an army without music (Caller & Edgington, 2001, 147).”
To put it simply, music is what kept the soldiers going. The toil put on their bodies by constant marching and intense fighting was eased by music. Around the campfire at night wasn’t the only place music could be heard, as soldiers also sang while marching from one place to the next in order to break up the monotony of their day, or break up the tension they may be feeling. It is only fitting that teachers convey some of the songs and their different meanings to the students in a history class when covering the topic of the Civil Car.
Using songs of the Civil War, arguably more than any other instructional method, involves students emotionally in what is being discussed in class. It had the same emotional response on the men who sang them; by either helping them cope with fear, or motivating them to charge headlong into battle. Regardless of the purpose, music had a profound affect on the players in this period of history. A story illustrating this point involves a group of Confederate officers listening to Union soldiers celebrating inRichmond soon after General Lee had surrendered at Appomattox. These Union soldiers were singing their favorite songs to celebrate the end of the conflict, and after hearing the music, one of the Confederate officers announced, “Gentleman, if we had had your songs, we’d have whipped you out of your boots (Waller & Edgington, 2001, 147).”
The music of the Civil War period can be categorized into five different headings. These are: (1) celebrating the cause, (2) serious soldier life, (3) lighthearted soldier life, (4) separation, and (5) loss. In category one, celebrating the cause, the songs generally consist of marching tunes that describe what the men on the sides of the North and South were fighting for. Category two, dealing with the serious side of soldier life, involves songs about the difficulty and hardships associated with daily life as a member of one of the two armies. Category three gives a more comical, or lighthearted look at the life of a soldier. These songs gave the men an outlet to laugh and joke about the problems they faced everyday. The category of separation analyzes issues such as being away from loved ones and the homesickness this brought on for many soldiers. Many of the men involved in this conflict had never ventured far from home, so the experience of life in the army was particularly hard, and is expressed through these songs. Music dealing with loss includes songs that express the remorse of a family who have lost someone involved in the conflict, or of a soldier who has lost a friend (Caller & Edgington, 2001).
In the resource list following this introduction are lyrics to some songs of the Civil War period that fit each one of these five categories. It is helpful when using these to have an overhead transparency or a copy of the lyrics for students to read while they listen to the music. It has been argued that the use of music in the classroom can help students remember key concepts better (Palmer & Burroughs, 2002). My hope is that this project will help teachers to incorporate this strategy into their classrooms.
Celebrating the Cause
- John Brown’s Body http://www.fortunecity.com/tinpan/parton/2/jbrown.html
- The Battle Hymn of the Republic http://www.fortunecity.com/tinpan/parton/2/battle.html
- Dixie‘s Land http://www.fortunecity.com/tinpan/parton/2/dixie.html
- Union Dixie http://www.fortunecity.com/tinpan/parton/2/awaydown.html
- The Bonnie Blue Flag http://www.civilwarmusic.net/display_song.php?song=bonnieblue
- The Battle Cry of Freedom http://www.fortunecity.com/tinpan/parton/2/bcry.html
- The Battle Cry of Freedom (Southern) http://www.civilwarpoetry.org/confederate/songs/southern_battcry.html
- We Are Coming, Father Abraham
- Maryland, My Maryland
- When Sherman Marched Down to the Sea
- First Arkansas Marching Song
- Follow the Drinking Gourd http://www.madison.k12.wi.us/planetarium/ftdg1.htm
Serious Soldier Life
- Tenting on the Old Campground
- All Quiet Along the Potomac
Lighthearted Soldier Life
- Goober Peas http://www.civilwarmusic.net/display_song.php?song=gooberpeas
- Hard Tack, Come Again No More http://www.civilwarpoetry.org/union/songs/hardtack.html
- Tramp ! Tramp ! Tramp! http://www.fortunecity.com/tinpan/parton/2/tramp.html
- Corporal Schnaaps http://www.civilwarpoetry.org/union/songs/schnapps.html
- Lorena http://www.fortunecity.com/tinpan/parton/2/lorena.html
- The Yellow Rose of Texas http://www.niehs.nih.gov/kids/lyrics/yellowrose.htm
- When This Cruel War is Over (Northern Version) http://www.civilwarpoetry.org/union/songs/cruel.html
- When This Cruel War is Over (Southern Version) http://www.civilwarpoetry.org/confederate/songs/cruel2.html
- Just Before the Battle, Mother http://www.fortunecity.com/tinpan/parton/2/justbef.html
- Kathleen, Mavourneen http://freepages.music.rootsweb.com/~edgmon/stkathleen.htm
- The Vacant Chair http://www.fortunecity.com/tinpan/parton/2/vacant.html
- Grafted into the Army http://www.civilwarmusic.net/display_song.php?song=grafted
- The Faded Coat of Blue
- Somebody’s Darling http://freepages.music.rootsweb.com/~edgmon/cwdarling.htm
- Was My Brother in the Battle http://www.fortunecity.com/tinpan/parton/2/wasmy.html
Audio Suggestions for the Classroom
- The Civil War Box Set– A four disc set has 87 tracks with vocalists singing lyrics to the songs in a traditional way. It can be found on Amazon.com for $49.98 and used by itself would be enough to supplement your curriculum.
- The Civil War: Traditional American Songs and Instrumental Music – Featured in the Film by Ken Burns- This disc has instrumental music to some of the songs included in this packet, taken from the soundtrack of the television series. It would be a good CD to have playing as students walk into the classroom. It only costs $13.99 on Amazon.com.