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Larzer Ziff, who has been teaching in the extension division of the University of Chicago, has recently joined the English Department of the University of California in Berkeley. His chief work has been on John Cotton and Puritanism; but he has also carried on research in nineteenth century American literature. Civil War Humor: Songs of the Civil War LARZER ZIFF both the union and the CONFEDERATE armies went off to the war to the sound of music played by the bands and sung by the men, and during the conflict lyricists behind both lines worked heartily to supply soldier and civilian with timely songs. "Perhaps the favorite recreation of the Confederate Army was music,"1 Bell Irvin Wiley observed, and when he surveyed the pastimes of Billy Yank, he added about the Northern army, "Ranking close to reading among camp diversions was music."* The favorites of soldiers North and South were, for the most part, the sentimental melodies in vogue when they left home. "Lorena," "Annie Laurie," "Juanita," "Lilly Dale," and "Sweet Evelina" were very popular, all of them concerned in one way or another with the subject of still another favorite, "The Girl I Left Behind Me." The songs of Stephen Foster were often sung, and although the Confederate picket replied to the Yankee picket's "Star Spangled Banner" by singing a chorus of "Dixie," when the voice across the Rappahanock was raised in "Home Sweet Home"8 he was more apt to harmonize than to compete. Although new lyrics understandably outstripped new melodies during the course of the war, mid-century America's equivalent of Tin Pan Alley experienced a boom. This was especially so in the South. The pre-war 1 Bell Irvin Wiley, The Life of Johnny Reb (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Memll Co., 1T43), p. 151. 3 Bell Irvin Wiley, The Life of BiUy Yank (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Menill Ca, 1952), p. 157. s Henry M. Wharton, (Editor) War Songs and Poems of the Southern Confederacy 1861-1865 (Philadelphia: 1904), p. 139, note. LARZER ZIFF sheet-music industry, like so many other industries, had been located principally in the North and with secession a fact, Southern patriots and profiteers rushed in to fill the void.4 But, of course, the singer of songs at the front and the singer of songs at home were more likely to make up words to a familiar tune than they were to compose new airs. The professional melody makers did not rely solely upon publishing houses to disseminate their music among the people but were dependent upon "song-plugging" just as are their twentieth-century heirs. For over a year, Miss Sallie Partington, the prima-donna of the Confederacy, who filled the New Richmond Theater nightly for her performance in the Virginia Cavalier, popularized "The Southern Soldier Boy,"5 by singing the song at every performance. Harry Macarthy, "the Arkansas comedian ," contributed greatly to the popularity of his own compositions by singing them at concerts. It was frequently at such professional performances that the troops picked up new songs which they later sang and thus brought to whatever regions the fortunes of war located them in. If a lyricist had the bad fortune to be isolated by a blockade, he at least had the consolation of a captive audience eager for diversion. This accounts for the disproportionate number of topical songs devoted to siegeblockades rather than to actual battles. The Confederate efforts to lift the blockade at Galveston, for instance, were celebrated in great detail in "The Horse Marines at Galveston," chronicled in a pompous patriotic vein in "The Battle of Galveston," and intoned to the strains of "AuId Lang Syne," in "Bombardment and Battle of Galveston."8 The songs popular prior to and during the Civil War and those composed when the conflict was raging can be grouped into three loose categories — sentimental, patriotic, and light-hearted. Songs in the first of these now have the appeal of unconscious humor; those in the second made frequent use of humor; and songs in the third were humorous in intent. Although the ensuing discussion concerns itself with humor under each of the categories, its aim also is to learn what the songs reflect...


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