They’re musical artifacts that provide a window into the culture of the Civil War era. The Smithsonian recently released two albums of Civil War music to commemorate its 150th anniversary, including a collection of naval music. We explore what we can learn about the war from the melodies it left behind.


  • Patrick Warfield Professor, The University of Maryland; Author, Liner Notes, "A Treasury of Civil War Songs"
  • Dan Milner Professor, New York University; Musician, "Civil War Naval Songs"


  • 13:20:48

    MR. KOJO NNAMDINext week marks 150 years since the first shots were fired in the American Civil War. Many museums feature collections of photographs of the battlefields and letters from soldiers to their families. But Smithsonian folkways wants us to know what the war sounded like. Of course, we have no original recordings of what the soldiers sang around the campfires but at the time the relatively new sheet music industry was ready and willing to record the ballads and anthems inspired by the conflict.

  • 13:21:18

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIThis week, the Smithsonian has released two albums of the most famous songs from the north and the south. Two music experts help put these collections together. Joining us in studio is Patrick Warfield. He's a professor of Musicology at the University of Maryland. He wrote a new introduction for a 1972 Smithsonian collection of Civil War music. Patrick Warfield, thank you for joining us.

  • 13:21:40

    MR. PATRICK WARFIELDThank you so much for inviting me, Kojo.

  • 13:21:41

    NNAMDIAnd joining us from studios in New York City is Dan Milner. He's a traditional singer, folk music historian and NYU professor. He organized and contributed to a new Smithsonian collection of Civil War naval music. Dan Milner, thank you for joining us.

  • 13:21:58

    MR. DAN MILNERThank you Kojo.

  • 13:21:59

    NNAMDIPatrick, when people think Civil War music, they likely think, "Dixie," for the south and, "Battle Hymn of the Republic," for the north. So let's start with their origins. Were either of those songs actually written for the Civil War?

  • 13:22:12

    WARFIELDBoth of those -- both, "Dixie," and, "The Battle Hymn," predate the Civil War. And, "Dixie," probably has the history that most people might be a little bit familiar with. It began its life as a minstrel show tune in New York about 1859. And for your listeners that don't know, the minstrel show was the most popular form of American entertainment during the 19th century where white actors would dress up as African-Americans and largely mock African-American culture.

  • 13:22:39


  • 13:22:39

    NNAMDIThat -- that was what, "Dixie," was written for in 1859.

  • 13:22:41

    WARFIELDExactly. It showed up in New Orleans at the end of 1859 and became a, sort of, southern rallying cry song.

  • 13:22:47

    NNAMDIIts author was from Ohio, wasn't he?

  • 13:22:50

    WARFIELDYes. Daniel Decatur Emmett was an Ohio musician. And it's, in fact, possible that, "Dixie," wasn't entirely written by Daniel Decatur Emmett. We use the word, composed, sort of, loosely when we talk about 19th century songs. And there was actually an African-American family, a singing family, in Ohio named the Snowden's. And this song may have been in their repertoire or some version of it may have been in their repertoire that Decatur Emmett picked it up for his work.

  • 13:23:13

    NNAMDIAnd Decatur Emmett later regretted that the song became political, did he not?

  • 13:23:17

    WARFIELDYeah, he said, if he knew what would become of the song, he'd rather not have written it in the first place.

  • 13:23:21

    NNAMDIHow about, "Battle Hymn of the Republic?"

  • 13:23:23

    WARFIELDThis one actually has a much more complicated history. It began probably as a religious song in South Carolina. And, again, we attribute it to a guy named William Steffe although whether or not he wrote it or compiled it or borrowed it, we don't exactly know. And you can still find the original song, say, "Brothers Will You Beat Us," or, "Canaan's Happy Land," in some Methodist hymnals. And it didn't take too long before it was being borrowed by marching soldiers.

  • 13:23:47

    WARFIELDAnd some listeners might remember, "John Brown's body is a moldering in the grave." That's my radio singing debut, so I apologize. Which quickly then became, "Battle Hymn of the Republic," when Julia Ward Howe wrote, yet, new lyrics for it, keeping the hymn, "Glory, glory, hallelujah," at the end.

  • 13:24:03

    NNAMDIIncase you'd like to join this conversation, you too can sing. Patrick has already tried out, 800-433-8850 is the number to call. Do you have a favorite 19th century tune, maybe, a war song or a battle march? You can call us and share it. You can, maybe, sing it. 800-433-8850 or you can go to our website, join the conversation there. Send us a tweet at Kojoshow, send e-mail to Dan, most Civil War battles we hear were land battles at places, like, Appomattox or Antietam.

  • 13:24:39

    NNAMDII'd guess a lot of people don't realize the Navy was even involved. Looks like the album you worked on will fix that, won't it?

  • 13:24:47

    MILNERWell, I hope so. I can tell you one thing. And that is that the -- if it were not for the Navy, the war would've taken a very different character.

  • 13:24:58

    NNAMDIWhy is that?

  • 13:24:59

    MILNERThere was a plan adopted called the Anaconda plan and this was at the very start of the war in 1861. And essentially, if you think of an anaconda, it wraps itself around its prey and then it squeezes it tightly. And the blockade was a major part of that so the southern ports, the important southern ports were blockaded by union shipping. And also the Mississippi River, for example, which went straight through the confederacy, it was through a naval attack and the taking of New Orleans that the confederacy was split.

  • 13:25:47

    NNAMDIThe U.S. Navy, it's my understanding, expanded between 1861 and 1865. And the biggest factor in the naval conflict was that the union had greater resources than the confederacy?

  • 13:26:01

    MILNERI would say that both on land and on water, that was the case. But between 1861 and 1865, the number of warships went from 50 to 671, I think. And the staffing went from 9,000 to 60,000 men.

  • 13:26:21

    NNAMDIWell, one ballad tell the story of a man leaving his love to fight Jefferson Davis on a southern sea.

  • 13:27:05

    NNAMDI"A Yankee Man-of-War," Dan Milner, whose voices were we listening to?

  • 13:27:10

    MILNEROh, you heard -- shall I mention first, my wife, Bonnie Milner. She's one of the singers and then our dear friend Deirdre Murtha was singing as well and I'm the third singer.

  • 13:27:22

    NNAMDIIn the Civil War, just like brothers fought against brothers, several states had mixed loyalties. Maryland was one and its border state conflict is still with us. At least, when we hear the state song, "Maryland, my Maryland."

  • 13:28:14

    NNAMDIPatrick, this song refers to Abraham Lincoln as a tyrant and a despot. And yet it is the official state song of Maryland today. What can you say about that?

  • 13:28:25

    WARFIELDWell, this is a contentious issue in both Maryland and it was, of course, in Virginia as well with their state song. "Maryland, my Maryland," is one of those tunes that refers to a very specific event in the civil war history, the Pratt street riots, when Abraham Lincoln issued his call for troops. We need to bring northern militias down into Washington, D.C., for George McCullin to sort of muster them into the Army.

  • 13:28:45

    WARFIELDAnd as they passed through Baltimore, they were required to switch train stations. They had taken along a carriage to go from the northern running trains to the southern running trains. And then what happens next is sort of a matter of which side of the battle you're on. They -- a group of Massachusetts soldiers were either attacked by a civilian mob in Baltimore or were -- or harassed a civilian mob in Baltimore, depending on how you feel.

  • 13:29:05

    WARFIELDAnd several people were killed. These were the first civilian deaths of the Civil War. And James Ryder Randall who was a Baltimore native, at least a student at Georgetown University, I don't know if he actually graduated, was at this point living in New Orleans. And was quite upset about the whole event. And so when he talks about the patriotic gore that flecked the streets of Baltimore, he's talking about this terrible -- this overreaching that he saw the Union Army doing to these Baltimore civilians.

  • 13:29:31

    NNAMDIWe're talking with Patrick Warfield. He's a professor of Musicology at the University of Maryland. He wrote a new introduction for a 1972 Smithsonian collection of Civil War music. Today we're looking at the Civil War through the music associated with it. Inviting your calls at 800-433-8850. Are you involved in an upcoming Civil War reenactment or remembrance? You can call to tell us about that. But if you have a favorite war song or battle march, you can call and share that too at 800-433-8850.

  • 13:30:02

    NNAMDIWe're also talking with Dan Milner. He's a traditional singer folk music historian. And NYU professor, Dan, organize an contributed to a new Smithsonian collection of Civil War Naval music. You can also join the conversation at our website Patrick, the version of, "Maryland, my Maryland," we just played was from an album the Smithsonian released about 40 years ago. This is the album you just worked on and a new introduction -- you contributed a new introduction to it. Tell us about Tom Glazer, the man behind the original collection?

  • 13:30:35

    WARFIELDTom Glazer is a fascinating figure who was one of the instrumental voices of the 1940s folk music revival in the United States. He moved to Washington, D.C. to get a job at the Library of Congress, in about 1942 or 1943. And there he met Alan Lomax, the great folklorist who interested him in folk music. And he joined...

  • 13:30:53

    NNAMDIWho apparently everybody else in history met around (unintelligible) ...

  • 13:30:56

    WARFIELDYes, exactly. He's a central figure if you're interested in American popular culture.

  • 13:30:59

    NNAMDIFrom muddy waters and everybody else, go ahead.

  • 13:31:01

    WARFIELDAbsolutely. And under Lomax's direction, he recorded several folk songs although they were new folk songs about fair housing, the sort of crisis that was going on in Washington, D.C. at this time. And then your listeners might remember him mostly for his children songs that he recorded in the 1950s and 1960s. If you know the song, "On top of spaghetti, all covered with cheese and I lost my...

  • 13:31:27

    NNAMDIThere it is, he's singing again.

  • 13:31:28

    WARFIELD...poor meatball." Those words, of course, are Tom Glazer's, the tune is not.

  • 13:31:33

    NNAMDIHis songs have been covered by Pete Seeger, Peter, Paul and Mary, Bob Dylan, The Kingston Trio, Perry Como, Frank Sinatra and apparently he was part of a folk revival in the 1960s in New York City.

  • 13:31:46

    WARFIELDYeah, he's -- there's sort of super star folk recordings that he was involved with. Tom Glazer, Pete Seeger, Burl Ives, the great Josh White. All of them recorded together at one point or another. And his singing style, even on this recording made in the 1970s, is still very reminiscent of the, sort of, 1940s, 1950s folk singing.

  • 13:32:05

    NNAMDIExplain why, "Maryland, my Maryland," did not become the state song until 1939, 74 years after the Civil War ended?

  • 13:32:14

    WARFIELDI'm afraid you've stumped me on that one. I don't know why that happened, so let...

  • 13:32:17

    NNAMDII have no idea either. But let's go to Scott in Tacoma Park, Md. Scott, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 13:32:23

    SCOTTYes, good morning. Actually I have one comment and a question. The comment had to do with your discussion earlier about the Anaconda plan.

  • 13:32:32


  • 13:32:32

    SCOTTAnd I was curious if you were aware of the fact that, even though New Orleans was very well blockaded at -- early on in the war, the confederacy had convinced the Europeans that the union did not control the entire Mississippi primarily because of Vicksburg. And the primary way that the confederacy was funding the Civil War was selling cotton bonds. And -- but the cotton bond was, you bought a bond and the bond was worth so much cotton. But it was F-O-B New Orleans.

  • 13:33:06

    SCOTTBut because the union didn't completely control the Mississippi, the Europeans still believed that the bonds -- they could get their cotton. But when Vicksburg fell in July of '8 -- '63, that was the point at which the Europeans realized that their bonds were worthless. That bond market collapsed. And basically from that point on the confederacy really had no financing. And really that was the turning point of the war.

  • 13:33:31

    NNAMDIWell, I knew we'd have Civil War history buffs joining this conversation. Do you know anything about that, Dan Milner?

  • 13:33:36

    MILNERWell, I believe what said is quite correct. But you should note too that from the fall of New Orleans in April 1862 until the fall of Vicksburg, it's a period of something, like, about 15 months.

  • 13:33:52

    NNAMDIAnd Scott, thank you for your call. We move onto Edward in Burke, VA. Edward, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 13:33:58

    EDWARDYeah, hi, I guess, I'll play, stump the musicologist. I -- the song, "Maryland, Oh Maryland," shares the same tune as, "Oh Tannenbaum," and also the alma mater of my college, the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass. And I'm wondering where that tune came from that all of these songs, I believe, from the 1800s are set? Is it a common tune or where -- who wrote that, essentially?

  • 13:34:26

    NNAMDII am so glad that Patrick Warfield said earlier, "Trying to isolate any single writer for a tune dating back that far can be a bit of a challenge."

  • 13:34:35

    WARFIELDWell, that, of course, is an old German tune that was picked up. I expect that, James Ryder Randall may not have had it in mind when he wrote the text. In many cases, these songs were published just as texts on broadsides or in newspapers. "Maryland, my Maryland," I think, was in the New Orleans Delta, originally. And then this is usually attributed to a group of a couple of sisters in Baltimore who discovered it very well with that old, "Christmas Tree, my Christmas Tree," tune.

  • 13:35:01

    WARFIELDAnd it got adapted that way. And, in fact, most of the songs that we're familiar with from the Civil War are adaptations of texts or music that all -- people already knew. And one way of thinking about that is the great labor activist Joe Hill, later said, "You can give a man a pamphlet and he'll read it once but if you teach him a song, he'll remember the music -- or he'll remember the message forever."

  • 13:35:20

    WARFIELDAnd there's no better way of teaching a song than to use a melody people already know.

  • 13:35:24

    NNAMDIEdward, I think you have not stumped our Musicologist.

  • 13:35:28

    EDWARDThat was a pretty good answer, thank you.

  • 13:35:30

    NNAMDIThank you very much for your call. You too can call 800-433-8850. As we're remembering the Civil War through music. If you have any specific songs that you would like to share with us, call us at 800-433-8850. Dan, the album, "Civil War Naval Songs," uses three distinct voices. You act as the voice of the immigrant, David Coffin as the Yankee and serendipitously a man named Jeff Davis is the rebel, the confederate. How did the idea for the three voices come about?

  • 13:36:03

    MILNERWell, I was just -- as I was mulling this over in the very early stages, I said, "How can I be so much of a chameleon that I can be a northerner or a southerner and an immigrant as well?" I guess, I am a northerner and I am a immigrant but I didn't want to do two voices for this. Now, this album really comes about because of a tremendous support network that I'm part of, you know. And David -- I roomed with David teaching school in Chicago for a week, a couple of years ago.

  • 13:36:39

    MILNERAnd Jeff, I've known since the early 1970s. David has a tremendous voice. I hope you'll play something from him later. And Jeff, of course, is a tremendous old time musician. So both of these fellows were so well suited for their roles and they graciously agreed to do it. This is not a big budget production but they said that they would join on it and it's -- they really -- and other contributors really helped make the album.

  • 13:37:09

    NNAMDIWell, these serendipitous aspect of your friendship with Jeff, going back to the 1970s, as some listeners may not remember, the name of the President of the confederacy, that is Jefferson or Jeff Davis. You found a musician with that name but he was an old friend. Did you even consider asking him to sing any part but the rebel?

  • 13:37:30

    MILNEROh, we had basically -- we recorded five immigrant songs, we recorded northern songs and five southern songs. And I think, you know, David's family goes back in New England to, I think, the original grant of...

  • 13:37:49

    NNAMDIWow, we will be hearing from David later, yes.

  • 13:37:50

    MILNER...Nantucket Island. I -- so he was the man for the northern songs to be sure. And Jeff attended Duke and went to a lot of old time fiddle conventions. He was the man for that job.

  • 13:38:01

    NNAMDIWell, the NCAA has just completed and you should know that this is Maryland country when we talk about the ACC so please restrict your references to the name Duke during this broadcast. Dan, many ships featured in the naval collection had interesting histories before the war. One of the songs on the album is called, "The Jamestown Homeward Bound," about a ship that had patrolled the coast of Africa to suppress the slave trade and taking part in a humanitarian mission to Ireland. Tell us about that ship?

  • 13:38:34

    MILNERThe Jamestown is built in December of 1844. And between 1845 and 1850, she was on the missions that you mentioned, searching for slavers and was charted by some New York Irish people charter a military ship to take aide to famine stricken Ireland in 1847. And as a matter of fact, as you open up the book that -- the 36 page booklet that comes with the recording, you'll see a lovely rendering of the Jamestown in the Port of Cove. So this song is not a Civil War -- a product of the Civil War.

  • 13:39:17

    MILNERIt's a song that would've been sung on a ship like the Jamestown during the war. However because blockade duty was, well it wasn't exciting except when the bullets were flying, you know, and the shots were flying. So they had lots of a time standing off the harbor. And they would sing songs and this was a favorite in the old Navy, "The Jamestown Homeward Bound."

  • 13:39:43

    NNAMDILet's listen to it, "The Jamestown Homeward Bound," sung by David Coffin.

  • 13:40:33

    NNAMDIThat was David Coffin with "Jamestown Howard Bound." On to the telephones. Here is Jean in Fairfax Station, Va. Jean, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 13:40:44

    JEANOh, hi. Thanks for taking my call. What a great show. I had a question. My sons, they play fiddle, and there's a tune that they love to play, "Soldiers' Joy." And we had heard recently that the tunes referred to morphine that was given to the soldiers when they were injured, and I was wonder if -- I mean, that that's soldiers' joy. And I was wondering if you knew anything about that, whether that was true.

  • 13:41:09

    NNAMDIPatrick Warfield?

  • 13:41:11

    WARFIELDI haven't heard that story, but I wouldn't be at all surprised. And there were quite a few such tunes that were borrowed from the fiddle repertoire, the Tom Glazer CD includes Cumberland Gap, which of course is an old fiddle tune that got reused and had a text added to it to refer to General George Washington, Morgan and John Hunt Morgan the guerilla champion. So there are several of these sorts of songs. I don't happen to know the morphine story, but I wouldn't be at all surprised.

  • 13:41:35

    NNAMDIJean, thank you for your call -- Jean, thank you for your call.

  • 13:41:37

    JEANThank you.

  • 13:41:38

    NNAMDIAnd we move on to John in Catonsville, Md. John, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 13:41:44

    JOHNHi, thanks. Just a -- there was a question about enactment -- reenactments and that sort of thing, one of the more obscure ones some years back. There was an encampment and reenactment at St. Timothy's -- what had been St. Timothy's military school in Catonsville, because the occasion had been that federal troops came and occupied the school after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, because they that that John Wilkes Booth who was a student there might return to the school and receive aid and support from former classmates. That didn't happen.

  • 13:42:21

    JOHNHe, of course, headed south. But it was one of the probably lesser known stories of the Civil War.

  • 13:42:29

    NNAMDIJohn are you involved in any Civil War reenactments yourself?

  • 13:42:33

    JOHNI am not. I mean, I have -- I did go to this one, but I -- I'm not a participant, more observer.

  • 13:42:41

    NNAMDIGot to take a short break. When we come back we'll continue this conversation and looking at the -- looking at the Civil War through its music, and taking your calls. 800-433-8850. Do you have a favorite 19th century tune? A favorite Civil War tune? A war song? A battle march? Call us and share it. 800-433-8850. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

  • 13:44:47

    NNAMDIWelcome back. We're looking back at the Civil War, 150 years ago, through the music associated with it. Patrick Warfield is a professor of musicology at the University of Maryland. He wrote a new introduction for a 1972 Smithsonian collection of Civil War music. He joins us in our Washington studio. Joining us from studios in New York is Dan Milner. He's a traditional singer, folk music historian, and NYU professor. Dan organized and contributed to a new Smithsonian connection of Civil War Naval music.

  • 13:45:17

    NNAMDIWe got an e-mail from Jim in Arlington, Va. "Can you guests talk about the influence of immigrant cultures likes Scotch, Irish, etc., on the tunes of the Civil War era?" First you, Patrick.

  • 13:45:29

    WARFIELDWell, that's really Dan's question, because these are all over especially Irish immigrants. There are several songs on the Tom Glazer CD like "The President's Grave," that use traditional Irish songs, in large part because such a large part of our community had -- part of our nation had roots in that part of the country or the world.

  • 13:45:46


  • 13:45:48

    MILNERWell, one of the songs on ours is called "Farragut's Ball," and this is a humorous Irish song called "Lanigan's Ball." It spring from that. And "Farragut's Ball" in this instance refers to a massive naval assault, which occurred during the Civil War, the Battle of Mobile Bay. And that has this Irish melody without question. It has more than the melody. It has the form of "Lanigan's Ball" as well. There was a Scottish song on here. It was a song that was not written in the United States at all, but in Scotland.

  • 13:46:27

    MILNERThe blockade runners were ships that ran the Union Blockade. They were fast ships that could cut through and deliver either luxury items or necessary goods to the south, and then take away the important southern cotton. And this is a ship -- a song that was written in Scotland in Glasgow where the ship was built. And it brought cotton to Liverpool. So there were other foreign influence as well. You played the "Yankee Man of War" earlier, and that was a song that was originally written for the first opium war, British Chinese war.

  • 13:47:06

    MILNERAnd they took that template and just slotted in Jefferson Davis and the confederacy into the places where there had been previously insults about the Chinese. So it really comes up quite a bit in -- in all of these songs. Every son has a father, and these sons have lots of fathers and not all of them grew up in the United States. It should be mentioned that there were a tremendous number of immigrants in the United States at the time. The population of New York City in 1860 was 25.03 percent born in Ireland.

  • 13:47:49

    NNAMDIA quarter -- a full one-quarter of the population at that time. In response to our earlier caller, Jean's, question about the song "Soldiers' Joy" and whether it's morphine related, the words of that song include the following: Ten cents for whiskey, ten cents for the beer, and ten cents for the morphine. So, yes, I guess it was morphine related. Here is Kate in Warrenton, Va. Kate, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 13:48:15

    KATEHi. Another wonderful show, Kojo. Thank you. Um, yes. I -- my mother used to sing a song about -- that she said came from the Civil War, and it was about fleas and how the fleas and ticks would infest the soldiers. And it was kind of a funny -- funny song that she would sing. She's long since dead, and do you know anything about a song about fleas and what a pain in the neck they were during the war?

  • 13:48:43

    NNAMDIKate, can you sing us a few lines from the song?

  • 13:48:46

    KATEUnfortunately, I can't I don't remember any part of it, and -- and so that's why I'm calling to see if maybe these -- these gentlemen knew anything about the flea song.

  • 13:48:58

    NNAMDIPatrick Warfield?

  • 13:49:00

    WARFIELDIt doesn't ring a bell. Dan, do you know a song about fleas?

  • 13:49:04

    MILNERMy dog has fleas.

  • 13:49:06

    WARFIELDI mean, I can say...

  • 13:49:07

    MILNERBut my dog wasn't in the Army.

  • 13:49:11

    NNAMDII don't think -- I think you've managed to stump the musicologists with that one, Kate.

  • 13:49:12

    WARFIELDI think so. I will definitely look it up. There were lots of songs about how bad life was in the camps, because it could be quite miserable for soldiers, and so there are tunes about, you know, the horrible -- horrible trumpet player, or bugle player that would wake you up every morning at precisely the wrong time. I just don't happen to know one about fleas.

  • 13:49:29

    NNAMDIKate, thank you very much for your call. We got an e-mail from Karen who says, "This segment is bringing back some fond memories. Growing up, I remember listening to Tennessee Ernie Ford sing renditions of songs from the Civil War on my record player. He sang songs from both the north and from the south. My favorite was called 'Goober Peas.' Can your guests tell me anything about the background of 'Goober Peas' and the authenticity, if they know, of Ford's renditions of all the songs?"

  • 13:49:55

    WARFIELD"Goober Peas" is on the Tom Glazer CD, and it's one of these tunes that was used on both sides of the conflict, because again, it was about how terrible camp life was. Although it's mostly a southern tune, because boiled peanuts, which is what goober peas are, were so common in the south. And I'll just mention that the sheet music, this was published as an actual printed song, the sheet music is -- is attributed to A. Pindar, and a Mr. P. Nutt.

  • 13:50:18

    NNAMDIYou're not singing.

  • 13:50:19

    WARFIELDI won't sing that one for you. You can get Tennessee Ernie -- Tennessee --

  • 13:50:23

    NNAMDII just thought he would sing "Goober Peas." It's supposed to be such a funny song. Care to render a version of that, Dan?

  • 13:50:30


  • 13:50:31

    NNAMDIHere is Frank in Fairfax, Va. Frank, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 13:50:36

    FRANKThanks. I'd like to clarify a little bit more about the "Battle Hymn of the Republic."

  • 13:50:40


  • 13:50:41

    FRANKI may have missed something, but I got the impression that you -- it was said that it might have not been really sung during the war. Because I have a copy of a performance that in -- on the Cape that had supposedly an original copy of the Battle Hymn dedicated to regiment Massachusetts Volunteers, with words by Julia Howe -- Ward Howe in 1861.

  • 13:51:10

    NNAMDII think Patrick was saying it preceded the war.

  • 13:51:12

    WARFIELDRight, exactly. This was one of the most popular songs of the war, but it was actually written as a tune before the war. Julia Ward Howe's text is the one we know best today, but it had -- this tune had had lots of texts back to the 1850s.

  • 13:51:25

    FRANKI see. When was the tune originally composed?

  • 13:51:28

    WARFIELDWe think probably about the mid-1850s in South Carolina. There were these big religious gatherings where people go out in the countryside and listen to sermons and sing songs. And whether or not people actually wrote the songs or sort of improvised the songs or compiled the songs from things that already exist, we don't exactly know. But William Steffe's song, "Say Brothers Will You Meet Us," sometimes called "Canaan's Happy Land" or "Canaan's Happy Shore" dates from about that time and uses the same melody.

  • 13:51:54

    FRANKVery interesting. It's a beautiful job in any event. Thank you so much.

  • 13:51:58

    NNAMDIThank you so much for your call, Frank. On to Ben in Fairfax, Va. Ben, your turn.

  • 13:52:05

    BENYes, hello. The caller before that, or the one before that, about a song mentioning the dog has fleas. I know there's a country song that has those words in it. Sorry about the background noise. I don't know the artist or the title, but maybe if someone Googles -- does like a search through Google music they might find something.

  • 13:52:25

    NNAMDISomething along the lines of...

  • 13:52:29

    BENOf -- I'm sorry, my dog has fleas.

  • 13:52:31

    NNAMDIMy dog has fleas.

  • 13:52:32


  • 13:52:33

    NNAMDIOkay. Thank you very -- thank you very much. We got an e-mail from Bill who says, "Was the haunting song 'Ashokan Farewell,' which played such a prominent role in Ken Burn's Civil War series, actually a Civil War song?" And we got an e-mail from Mike in Meridian Hill in D.C. saying, "I love the soundtrack from Ken Burns awesome documentary. The music is very beautiful and moving. Do you guests know how accurate these songs are? Did he only pick Civil War music, or did he liberally use other music too?"

  • 13:53:04

    WARFIELDI actually was just watching that Ken Burns' series recently. It's been running on the television. And yeah, a lot of the music from it is authentic. You'll hear "Bonnie Blue Flag," which was kind of the second song of the south, and another Irish-borrowed song. The fiddle tune that the earlier e-mail referred to, I think was actually written a couple of decades before the Ken Burns' series. I don't think it's authentic to the Civil War, but I could be wrong.

  • 13:53:26

    MILNERI was written by Jay Ungar.

  • 13:53:27

    WARFIELDOh, there you go. Now, we know.

  • 13:53:29

    NNAMDICan't stump the musicologists here today. Here is Jim in Alexandria, Va. Jim, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 13:53:37

    JIMYes. The mentioned the "Battle Hymn of the Republic" and that it was -- the tune was written in the 1850s. The lyrics by Julia Ward Howe were actually written in 1861 at Bailey's Crossroads as she was watching the camping and the troops go by there. And when she talks about the tents and the lights in the tends and all, that's where she was watching the huge encampment at Bailey's Crossroads.

  • 13:54:01

    WARFIELDRight. It -- she was -- we think she probably heard the Massachusetts Regiment singing the "John Brown's Body" version of the song, which of course was about John Brown at Harper's Ferry. And there's some story that this Massachusetts group may have had a soldier, an inept soldier, who happened to be named John Brown, and had adopted this tune, and that Julia Ward Howe decided she was going to write slightly more dignified lyrics. And these appeared in the Atlantic Monthly in 1862 and were soon adapted for the song.

  • 13:54:26

    NNAMDIThank you very much.

  • 13:54:27

    JIMYeah. I thought it was interesting -- okay, bye-bye.

  • 13:54:29

    NNAMDIThank you very much for your call, Jim. And speaking of dignified lyrics or not, we have the lyrics to "Goober Peas." Here are the last few lines: I wish this war was over when free from rags and fleas. We'd kiss our wives and sweethearts, and gobble goober peas. Peas, peas, peas, peas, eating goober peas. Goodness how delicious, eating goober peas.

  • 13:54:50

    WARFIELDWell, could be your fleas reference, too. I hadn't thought about that.

  • 13:54:53

    NNAMDIExactly. And he -- you mentioned earlier exactly what goober peas are.

  • 13:54:58

    WARFIELDBoiled peanuts.

  • 13:54:59

    NNAMDIWe got a post on our website, from Janet. "In the late 1970s, I saw a recital of Civil War era songs sung by Joan Morris. She was accompanied at the piano by her husband, the composer William Bolcom. Around the same time, I got an album called, "Who shall rule this American Nation: Songs by Henry Clay Work." My personal favorite: "The Buckskin Bag of Gold. Do either of your guests know that song?" Patrick, "The Buckskin Bag of Gold.

  • 13:55:30

    WARFIELDI don't know the song, but I can talk -- Henry Clay Work was one of the most prolific songwriters of the Civil War. There were several professional songwriters. And Henry Clay Works' parents had been militant abolitionists, their home a stop on the underground railroad. And he wrote a number of really fantastic Civil War songs, three of which I think are on the Glazer CD.

  • 13:55:50

    NNAMDII guess we should close with a story of moving on after defeat. A Catholic priest named Father Abram Joseph Ryan was a staunch defender on the confederacy. But after the war, he wrote a poem about accepting the northern victory. It was called "The Conquered Banner," Patrick.

  • 13:56:08

    WARFIELDYeah. This is a very -- this is a touching song written by the father, but also a German -- A Dresden immigrant I think who was living in New Orleans, an organist who wrote the tune itself. And it's one of very few tunes that are sort of this -- nostalgic's the wrong word, sorrowful look at the loss of the confederacy.

  • 13:56:28

    NNAMDIWell, let's give a listen to Tom Glazer's rendition of "The Conquered Banner."

  • 13:57:07

    NNAMDITom Glazer's rendition of "The Conquered Banner." We've been looking at the Civil War through its music with Patrick Warfield. He's a professor of musicology at the University of Maryland. He wrote a new introduction for a 1972 Smithsonian collection of Civil War music. Patrick Warfield, thank you for joining us.

  • 13:57:24

    WARFIELDThank you so much for having me, Kojo.

  • 13:57:26

    NNAMDIDan Milner is a traditional singer, folk music historian, and NYU professor. He organized and contributed to a new Smithsonian collection of Civil War Naval music. Dan Milner, thank you for joining us.

  • 13:57:39

    MILNERThank you for the invitation, Kojo.

  • 13:57:41

    NNAMDI"The Kojo Nnamdi Show" is produced by Brendan Sweeney, Tara Boyle, Michael Martinez and Ingalisa Schrobsdorff, with help from A.C. Valdez, Kathy Goldgeier, and Elizabeth Weinstein. Diane Vogel is the managing producer. Our engineer today, Andrew Chadwick. Dorie Anisman has been on the phones. Podcasts of all shows, online archives, CDs and free transcripts are available at our website, Thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

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