|I. CIVIL WAR
Song based analysis with current connections discussion
Begin the class with a discussion of how historic events worked to influence popular music. For example, soon after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless The USA” became extremely popular, even though it had been written 20 years before. In some classes you might play this song to begin with and ask if any of the students have heard the song before, hoping they will place it with the events of 9/11 (If they are old enough to remember that time). Discuss with the students that music seemed particularly important during the Civil War era, including its use to promote the abolitionist cause.
Below is a list of songs from the movie Lincoln that reflect the Civil War. We will focus on comparing the union/confederate versions of the lyrics to “Battle Cry of Freedom.” Distribute photocopies of the song lyrics. Play one or several of the songs recorded below from the movie, Lincoln. It is even a possibility to play a scene from the movie:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uREttlxHBjg (Euclid... All things are created equal)
Possibility for an extension activity (if the class period is not filled with the above
lesson): Ask students to try creating lyrics that highlight certain battles or events in the Civil War. Discuss how music had an impact on national or world events in other instances.
Songs reflecting the Civil War from Lincoln:
- "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down," The Band -- Written by The Band's
Robbie Robertson, this song focuses on the fall in 1865 of Richmond, Va., the capital of
the Confederacy, and on the deprivations survivors suffered after the war was over.
hall tune, this story of two brothers fighting on opposite sides in the Civil War had become a bluegrass standard by the 1970s. The devotion between the brothers, even in the heat of battle, will bring a tear to the sternest eye.
- "Last Letter Home," the Amazing Rhythm Aces -- "I joined the Southern cavalry for fun," says this dying soldier whose wounds are so grievous that "the morphine seems to do no good at all." It is a chilling statement about the heartbreaking bravado of youth and the impulse that ensures nations an endless supply of cannon fodder.
- "Shiloh's Hill," Jimmy Driftwood -- Sometimes titled "On Top of Shiloh's Hill," this is a vivid first-person chronicle of the 1862 battle in western Tennessee in which more than 24,000 soldiers were killed or wounded within the space of two days. In this account, a son fighting for the Union realizes he has just killed his own father.
- "Bonnie Blue Flag," Tennessee Ernie Ford -- This rousing marching song salutes by name each of the 11 states that seceded from the Union to form the Confederacy. It was written during the first year of the war when hopes were high that the South would have an easy victory.
- "The Vacant Chair," Kathy Mattea -- The death in battle of a soldier from Massachusetts inspired a poem that was soon set to music. It visualizes what family gatherings will be like with one chair at the table forever vacant.
- "Marching Through Georgia," Jay Ungar -- A jubilant account of Union General William Tecumseh Sherman's scorched-earth march from Atlanta to Savannah in late 1864. It effectively broke the back of the Confederacy.
- "The Faded Coat of Blue," the Carter Family -- This weeper memorializes the death of a "brave lad" who now lies in an unmarked grave in his "faded coat of blue." The lyrics suggest he may have starved to death.
- "The Legend of the Rebel Soldier," Charlie Moore -- Here a rebel soldier lies dying "in a dreary Yankee prison." Attended by a preacher, the soldier asks again and again, "Will my soul pass through the Southland?" Now a bluegrass classic, the song is a variation of "Shall My Soul Pass Through Old Ireland," a tribute to Irish patriot Terence MacSwiney, who died in a British prison in 1920 after a 74-day hunger strike.
- "Aura Lee," Jim Reeves -- The melody to this Civil War-era song about a "maid with golden hair" became famous as the melody for Elvis Presley's 1956 hit, "Love Me Tender." In the movie of that title, Presley plays the youngest of four brothers -- and the one who stays home while the other three are off fighting for the Confederacy.
- "Lorena," John Hartford -- Although this song was published five years before the war started, it remained to become a sentimental favorite with homesick troops on both sides. Indeed, some commanders said it was so emotionally powerful it inspired a few soldiers to desert.
- "When Johnny Comes Marching Home," Mitch Miller Chorus -- Depending on the lyrics, which are many and diverse, this is either a celebration or a repudiation of war. Johnny returns either triumphant or hopelessly crippled. Generally, it was the former, and that's how it's sung in this version.
** The fertility of the Civil War as a source for songs is evident in the two multi-artist albums issued so far in The 1861 Project. These are some of the best-crafted and most-thoughtful takes on the war currently available. (Source: CMT)
Worksheet for Civil War Music: Comparing Union Lyrics with Confederate Lyrics Directions: Compare the lyrics for Battle Cry of Freedom (below), and answer the following
1. In the first stanzas of the two versions of the song, what seems to be the main difference between them?
a. The Southern version of the song seems to infer that the Confederates have taken the offense to advance their cause (“Beneath it oft we’ve conquered, And we’ll conquer oft again!”) The Union ver- sion seems to be more peaceful... the use of the word “rally” compared to conquer, gathering, etc.
2. What does the Southern version mean by “Down with the Eagle, And Up with the Cross”?
a. Some Southern flags had crosses on them, or it may mean they wanted to support the
“Stars and Bars” of the Confederacy over the American Eagle.)
3. Summarize the meaning of the third stanza of the Northern version of the song, which begins, “We will welcome to our numbers...”
a. This stanza seems to equate the fight between north and south to the issue of slavery, especially when the author notes, “not a man shall be a slave, shouting the battle cry of Freedom.”
4. How do you think the Southern version of the song symbolizes the Confederate cause?
a. Answers vary. At several points in the song, the lyrics promote the Southern idea, such
as “Down with the eagle, up with the cross”, “rally round the bonny flag”, as well as “their motto is resistance—to tyrants we’ll not yield...”
5. How do you think the Northern version of the song symbolizes the Union cause?
a. Answers vary. At several points in the song, the lyrics promote the Northern cause,
such as “The Union Forever...” “Not a man shall be a slave...” “From the East to the West”, “We’ll hurl the rebel crew from the land that we love best...”
!7 “The Battle Cry of Freedom”
Union version lyrics:
Yes we’ll rally round the flag, boys, we’ll rally once again,
Shouting the battle cry of freedom,
We will rally from the hillside, we’ll gather from the plain, Shouting the battle cry of freedom!
The Union forever! Hurrah, boys, hurrah!
Down with the traitor, up with the star;
While we rally round the flag, boys, rally once again, Shouting the battle cry of freedom!
We are springing to the call with a million freemen more, Shouting the battle cry of freedom!
And we’ll fill our vacant ranks of our brothers gone before, Shouting the battle cry of freedom!
We will welcome to our numbers the loyal, true and brave, Shouting the battle cry of freedom!
And although he may be poor, he shall never be a slave, Shouting the battle cry of freedom!
So we’re springing to the call from the East and from the West, Shouting the battle cry of freedom!
And we’ll hurl the rebel crew from the land we love best, Shouting the battle cry of freedom!
!8 “The Battle Cry of Freedom”
Confederate version lyrics:
Our flag is proudly floating on the land and on the main, Shout, shout the battle cry of Freedom!
Beneath it oft we’ve conquered, and we’ll conquer oft again! Shout, shout the battle cry of Freedom!
Our Dixie forever! She’s never at a loss!
Down with the eagle and up with the cross!
We'll rally ‘round the bonny flag, we’ll rally once again, Shout, shout the battle cry of Freedom!
Our gallant boys have marched to the rolling of the drums. Shout, shout the battle cry of Freedom!
And the leaders in charge cry out, “Come, boys, come!” Shout, shout the battle cry of Freedom!--
They have laid down their lives on the bloody battle field. Shout, shout the battle cry of Freedom!
Their motto is resistance --“To tyrants we’ll not yield!” Shout, shout the battle cry of Freedom!--
While our boys have responded and to the fields have gone. Shout, shout the battle cry of Freedom!
Our noble women also have aided them at home.
Shout, shout the battle cry of Freedom!--