Stephen Foster. As Wikipedia notes, he was: the pre-eminent songwriter in the United States of the 19th century. His songs — such as "Oh! Susanna", "Camptown Races", "Old Folks at Home" ("Swanee River"), "Hard Times Come Again No More", "My Old Kentucky Home", "Old Black Joe", "Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair", and "Beautiful Dreamer" — remain popular over 150 years after their composition.
If you want to set a mood of the Civil War days, this composer who died at the start of 1864 is an easy choice, especially if you include minstrel shows set in the pre-war South, but are not looking for patriotic war songs. Actual songs about the Civil War, however, are definitely not a part of his work.
In contrast to the blackface minstrel shows, a whole group of gospel songs seemed innocent, but were often coded to give messages about the Underground Railroad. Several sites discuss this:
- Owen Sound's Black History - Songs of Freedom (gives 5 songs, but many would eliminate Follow the Drinking Gourd and say it is about the Underground Railroad, but came after slavery ended)
- Spiritual (music) even cautions that the whole idea of coded messages lacks primary support material. That lack of primary support material isn't surprising, but the case of Follow the Drinking Gourd and the popularity of the Fisk Jubilee Singers after the War means this is an area, at least, where you should check carefully to be sure of the dates of any song.
A photograph of the Hutchinson brothers. Jesse, Jr., (third from the left) is standing with a hand on a brother's head. Thanks to George Fullerton of Goffstown, New Hampshire, for this image of the Hutchinson family.
Altogether there were 13 Hutchinson Family Singers and by 1859 they split into two groups each called the Hutchinson Family Singers. They popularized "The Battle Cry of Freedom", (the Confederates took that song and wrote their own lyrics, too), "Tenting on the Old Camp Ground" and other songs. "The Battle Cry of Freedom" has many citations on YouTube and Google as does "Tenting on the Old Camp Ground"
|Isaac and William Lerich|
Other songs can be found in the Fifth Michigan Regiment Band's bibliography.
Here are some sources I found useful, many are also on the Fifth Michigan Regiment Band's bibliography.
* Crawford, Richard, The Civil War Songbook, Dover Publications, Inc., New York, 1977.
* Currie, Stephen, Music in the Civil War, Betterway Books, Cincinnati, 1992.
* Glass, Paul, Singing Soldiers, Da Capo Press, Inc., New York, 1968.
* Hill, Lois, Poems and Songs of the Civil War, Fairfax Press, New York, 1990.
* Jackson, Richard, Stephen Foster Song Book, Dover Publications, Inc., New York, 1974.
* Krythe, Maymie R., Sampler of American Songs, Harper & Row Publishers, New York, 1969.
* McNeil, Keith and Rusty, Civil War Songbook; with Historical Commentary, WEM Records, Riverside, CA, 1999.
* Raph, Theodore, American Song Treasury, The, Dover Publications, Inc., Mineola, NY, 1964.
* Silber, Irwin, Songs of the Civil War, Dover Publications, Inc., New York, 1995.
* Silverman, Jerry, Ballads & Songs of the Civil War, Mel Bay Publications, Inc., Pacific, MO, 1993.
If you are looking for stories behind a dozen songs, Silverman also wrote Songs and Stories of the Civil War, Twenty-First Century Books, Brookfield, CT, 2002.
I omit recordings as they are more difficult to guarantee availability, format, and the ability to interlibrary loan. These books give the music in print to permit performance.
LoiS(inging "For Lincoln and Liberty, Too")