By Jerry Silverman. This historically significant song collection captures the hopes and tragedy of this conflict and era. A special feature of this text is the inclustion of authentic photographs and lithographs from various battles and camps.
Over 100 songs.
Negro Spirituals & Abolisionist– Songs
The Lighter Side
The Civil War lasted almost four years to the day. It began on April 12, 1861, with the Confederate firing upon Fort Sumter, and ended with Lee’s surrender to Grant at Appomattox on April 9, 1865. That terrible struggle, which cost over 600,000 American lives–Northern and Southern–has left us an incredibly rich musical legacy. Songs were written and sung by both sides on every aspect of the war: stirring marching songs, sentimental ballads, descriptions of battles and their aftermath, election campaign songs, songs with a political message, songs with a social conscience, minstrel songs, and satirical and humorous ditties.
Since both Northern and Southern song writers used the same language–musical as well as verbal–to express divergent as well as similar opinions and feelings, there is a certain homogeneity in a representative collection of ballads and songs of this period. The only body of songs which stands alone is the Negro spirituals; there obviously could not be a “separate but equal” black expression supporting slavery.
Ballads and songs of the Civil War are not cultural artifacts, frozen in time, to be placed under glass or studied through a microscope. They are real songs, made to be sung by real people. Their musical language is simple and direct. Their lyrics, while occasionally slipping into mid-19th century bombast, may still be sung by us today without embarassment.
Mention must be made, however, of the use of pseudo–Negro dialect and what would certainly today be considered offensively racist terminology in a few of the songs. No historically accurate picture of the mentality of the time could be drawn by “cleaning up” that material. The decision as to how these songs should be performed is left to the present reader who may wish to sing them.
The best way to approach this book is seated at the piano or with guitar in hand. The musical arrangements have been kept technically simple–hopefully within the grasp of most amateur musicians. In singing and playing through them, a precious legacy of American history will once again come alive.