What We Want to See, Volume II: Authentic Civil War Music

As a Civil War reenactor, one of the many fun elements is to sit around a campfire, and listen to people play the music of the period. Probably one of the most vivid memories I have from my first reenactment back in 2004 was being in my tent resting, while listening to the song “Am I Born to Die?” being sung by one of our comrades. For many soldiers sitting around the campfires, music was one of the only forms of entertainment they had. Many soldiers brought whatever musical instruments they had, while also being burdened down by the other necessities soldiers had to carry with them. Soldiers would play all different kinds of music: ballads, hymns, humorous tunes. These songs would remind them of why they were fighting, who they had left behind, and if they were killed in battle, of the God that would greet them when they came to heaven.

Many great songs also came out of this period, telling the stories of the battles fought from the perspective of the soldiers. Probably my favorite tune to come out of the Civil War era is the song “The Bright Sunny South.” What makes this song truly haunting is that it comes from the perspective of the Confederate soldier. But it is not one of jingoistic flag-waving, but of contemplation of the loved ones left behind. My favorite version of this song was done by Jim Taylor, former member of the 26th NC, who recorded several albums of music from that war.

There are many songs like this out there, some of which have not been heard since the Civil War era, the sheet music for them sitting unseen in archives across the country. The To Appomattox production team has a chance with this series to paint a musical landscape of the era. From soldiers singing while off to war, to women singing of their loved ones far away. From church choirs singing during service, to the slaves singing of one day being free. Here is a chance to really go into the musical archives of the time, and find songs that have never been heard by those living today. By so doing, they can help to create a very authentic sound to the era, one where music was an important part of the everyday lives of Americans on both sides of the conflict.

About Steven Hancock

I am an avid student of American and World History, with a particular interest in the American Civil War. I am currently a student at American Public University, working toward a Master's Degree in United States History. I am also a Civil War Reenactor, donning the uniform of the common Union and Confederate soldier at reenactments throughout the year.
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3 Responses to What We Want to See, Volume II: Authentic Civil War Music

  1. Meg Thompson says:

    I am also at APU, although I live in CA. I am very impressed at the academic rigor involved. I am getting my Master’s in History–with a Civil War emphasis.

  2. David J. Flickinger says:

    What is the latest news about hiring reenacters for this film and when and where will it be filming ?

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