Civil War Music Explained

Civil War Music is often an important part of the American folk tradition. Tunes such as "Dixie's Land" may have taken on new significance with time; however, the original songs were quickly used by individuals to spread new messages. This trend did not start during the Civil War but the war brought about a series of large events that were unique in American history, including conscription, paper money, and an unprecedented constitutional crisis.

In reality, there is no such genre as Civil War Music: the modern colloquial use of the term refers to the collection of lyrics and music that are about events that occurred between 1861-1865. Most songs written during the period were based on melodies from Scotland, England and Ireland, or from minstrel or church hymns. The tunes were all well known and therefore easy to be sung. Sheet music could also be printed without musical notes; there would be a notation of the tune called an "Air" with the new set of lyrics.

Often, tunes that are identified with the Civil War Era were not actually written during the war. A perfect example is the tune to "John Brown's Body"/"The Battle Hymn of the Republic". The original music was actually from the late 1850's , written for a church hymn called "Say, Brothers Will you, Meet Us". This a perfect example of why Civil War Music itself is really a modern term that does not properly explain the musical period from 1861-1865.

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