Music of the Civil War

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The War Between the States was complex. If you wish to understand the events, you should refer to a textbook. Music of the time, however, helps us delve into people's thoughts and opinions on the war, slavery, and many other important issues in our country's history. Prior to the civil war, American music followed its European roots. During the civil war, American music began to develop in its own way, largely influenced by the music of the African-Americans. The war produced many well-known songs. These songs were important in their time and they are still known to many people today.

Music was important to the Union and also to the Confederacy. The troops sang on battlefields, around campfires and while marching. They sang to make themselves feel better when things were not going well. Each side would often borrow the other's lyrics and/or tunes from the others' songs.

The songs, which were sung by the soldiers, were about what was taking place at the time. They were about soldiers leaving home, life in camp, the suffering of being on the battlefield and celebrating victories. Soldiers sang as they marched. They sang to cheer themselves up. They also were known to serenade the other side. Sometimes battles were stopped so that troops could listen to the music. The northerners sang various types of songs-rallying songs, sentimental favorites, emancipation spirituals, campfire favorites, and patriotic songs. The union songs show us the way unity developed in the North. Early songs talked of purpose and asked for valor. In example, George Root, a composer who wrote more civil war songs than any other composer of that time, wrote, "The First Gun is Fired" in response to the battle of Sumter.

The southerners sang songs in these genres -rallying songs, sentimental favorites, campfire favorites, and patriotic songs. During the early days of the war, the rebel troops, inflicted defeats on the union and sang marching songs of victory. During...
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