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Civil War Songs

In researching my Civil War ancestor, I became fascinated by all aspects of that war. If you're a Civil War buff, check out my topics.

Union soldier playing the fife.

Union soldier playing the fife.

Listen to the Songs the Soldiers Sang in the Civil War

In researching my great-great-grandfather's regiment (93rd Indiana Infantry, Company G) I saw they had two names on the list not as officers or enlisted men, but as musicians.

I was curious about what the musicians actually did and also what kinds of songs were popular in the Civil War. Listening to the tunes I found, I tried to imagine how my ancestor, Abraham Bates Tower, might have felt hearing these songs 150 years ago.

The graphic is "Fife Music" Original Art Postcard by CharlottesWebArt

Photo of Civil War Musicians

Daniel Hull and Christopher Darius Gorman of the Wisconsin 8th Infantry Company B. Daniel was killed in Nashville and Christopher Darius was shot but survived. Click on the link to learn more of the story about these two boys.

Vintage Photos of Civil War Musicians - Fifers, Drummers and Buglers on YouTube

Musicians provided music during the the Civil War. Fifers drummers and buglers provided the beat to everyday life of the soldier. Check out the National Civil War Field Music School at Pamplin Park http://www.nationalcivilwarfieldmusicschool.com/

A Book with Lyrics and Stories of Civil War Songs

Tenting Tonight on the Old Campground - Video from YouTube

The words reflect the melancholy feelings of the soldiers as they miss their families.

"Many are the hearts that are weary tonight, Waiting for the war to cease."

Lyrics for Civil War Songs - Links

If you want to learn the words so you can sing along, here are web sites with many songs of the north and south from the war.

Lorena - A Popular Love Ballad from the Civil War

Learn to Play Civil War Music

To train as a Civil War field musician, you can go to the National Civil War Field Music School that's held once a year. Besides instruction throughout the 3 days, you actually live like a soldier musician of the time. It's a total immersion experience.

It includes learning about the background on field music schools of the 19th century.

Marching Through Georgia is a Union victory song from the Civil War

Civil War Songbooks

Learn the words to all the Civil War songs with this great selection of songbooks from that era. A good one is Keith and Rusty McNeil Civil War Songbook which contains 57 songs from that time.

  • Noted music historian Tom Glazer collected, edited and arranged vintage songs into this book: A Treasury of Civil War Songs
  • Dover Books has a book called Songs of the Civil War.

Check the public library or sites like Amazon or eBay for these titles.

A Band Plays Civil War Tunes before the Reenactment of the Battle of Narcoosie

The band that played was called 7 Lbs of Bacon Mess Band. Their specialty is Civil War tunes so they played quite a few Stephen Foster songs and well-known songs of the 1860s. They played for a dance in the evening too.

The band that played was called 7 Lbs of Bacon Mess Band. Their specialty is Civil War tunes so they played quite a few Stephen Foster songs and well-known songs of the 1860s. They played for a dance in the evening too.

The group plays for many reenactment events around Florida. You can hear some of their songs on YouTube. They have a Facebook page too.

The group plays for many reenactment events around Florida. You can hear some of their songs on YouTube. They have a Facebook page too.

A member of the 7 Lbs of Bacon string band.

A member of the 7 Lbs of Bacon string band.

Battle Hymn of the Republic and John Brown's Body - Popular Songs from the War

civil-war-songs

Great Sites with Civil War Songs

You can find the words and music for many of the old songs online. Here are sites that I recommend for that.

Drum and Harmonica

The harmonica was small enough for a soldier to slip it into his backpack or pocket. I'll bet it brought cheer to his fellow soldiers as they sat around the campfire far from home.

The harmonica was small enough for a soldier to slip it into his backpack or pocket. I'll bet it brought cheer to his fellow soldiers as they sat around the campfire far from home.

Civil War Sheet Music on eBay - Good luck with your bidding

These have great cover graphics and can be framed and displayed in your home or office. If you play music, you can photocopy the song sheet for actual use and preserve the original for posterity.

Civil War Era Sheet Music

Photo taken at the Civil War Museum in Baltimore, Maryland.

Photo taken at the Civil War Museum in Baltimore, Maryland.

Sheet music that was popular in the 1860s. This is by Stephen Foster. Old Black Joe.

Sheet music that was popular in the 1860s. This is by Stephen Foster. Old Black Joe.

More Civil War era sheet music.

More Civil War era sheet music.

Read about Songs of the Underground Railroad

During the time of slavery, the slaves had spiritual songs had another purpose and meaning that only they, and those who helped with the Underground Railroad understood. Read more about it at Underground Railroad Songs.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2011 Virginia Allain

I Hope You Enjoyed Your Visit - and learned something new about Civil War songs

Diane Cass from New York on April 04, 2015:

Neat topic. I collect old music and have as one of my prized possessions an illustrated book of Steven Foster's music, and even older...a 15th century (or older) parchment with Gregorian Chant on it. Thanks for sharing this interesting topic with us.

Debra from Columbus, Ga on September 19, 2014:

I used to participate in civil war reenactments. I enjoyed the people. Your article is well done. I also had bates ancestors. 5 bates brothers died fighting in it.

I am trying to get the hang of writing on here. Would you look at my profile and follow me?

Virginia Allain (author) from Central Florida on June 27, 2013:

@Kim Milai: You might enjoy my blog on Researching My Civil War Ancestor. Look for it (Virginia Allain, Wordpress). I give tips on where to look up info.

Kim Milai on June 27, 2013:

Greatly enjoyed this article. Being a musician I love the resources here. When I did a Memorial day concert with my Kindergarteners, we did songs like 'When Johnny Comes Marching Home' and for entering and exiting I played Ken Burton's Civil War soundtrack.

That is so AWESOME about your great great grandfather. With family from Virginia, I have a couple relatives that fought in the Civil War but I only know their names. You've inspired me to dig in more.

Malu Couttolenc on January 16, 2013:

Very nice page about Civil War songs, so much history behind all these songs. :)

Paul from Liverpool, England on January 14, 2013:

It's sad that war and oppression produce so many of the most poignant/powerful songs - excellent page and collection here.

Ann Hinds from So Cal on October 27, 2011:

Once again, a powerful lens to add to the flavor of the Civil War. The music was not incidental to the war, it was woven through every fiber. Great lens.

Georgene Moizuk Bramlage from southwestern Virginia on October 18, 2011:

Thanks for sharing. Author Sharyn McCrumb has some interesting observations on the role of Civil War musicians in her latest book "The Ballad of Tom Dooley." Very nice use of graphics in your layout...keeps readers moving along. Cheers!

peppervel on October 07, 2011:

wow! one of the best lens I have read! Tks for sharing. I have always love looking at old pictures dating way back 100 years ago. Wondering what was life like then.. Those people in the pictures were very much alive then... going about their daily lives. 100 years from now... some other people might be thinking about the same thing looking at pictures dated 2011.

Nancy Carol Brown Hardin from Las Vegas, NV on October 06, 2011:

A great idea and addition to your niche. The subjects you've picked are all fascinating...I've always been interested in the Civil War. Thanks for sharing.

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