In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Mrs. Epstein, a native of Wisconsin, has degrees m music and library science from the Universities of Chicago and Illinois. She has worked at the University of Illinois, the Newark Public Library, and the Music Cataloging Section of the Copyright Office . At present she lives in New Jersey with her husband and two children. The Battle Cry of Freedom DENA J. EPSTEIN on the eve of the civil war the music trade of the United States was scattered through the country rather than concentrated in a few metropolitan centers. Every city of any considerable size had a music store that, if successful, usually did a little publishing. Directed primarily to the local market, these publications were most often works of local musicians or new editions of perennial favorites from the public domain. A publisher's catalogue of this time thus could reflect local interests and enthusiasms with some sensitivity. As feelings blazed higher with the approach of war, local interests merged with the national crisis, and music served as stimulation and relief, catharsis and escape. The songs of the nation were indeed a "mirror of its virtues as well as its shortcomings,"1 and recounted in graphic detail the story of the war itself. As the war progressed, a flood of war music streamed from the presses, an estimated 2000 titles during the first year, and "the subsequent rate of increase has been somewhat greater!"2 The figure seems high, but it should help to explain why no one has yet attempted a complete listing of the Northern war songs. Songs in honor of the flag, a local hero, or an eminent officer were succeeded by emancipation songs and lyrics of home and mother. But the songs that have faded least through the years are the best of the marching songs. Long before the current Civil War boom, these 1 "Our War Songs," Musical Review and Musical World (New York), XV (November , 1864), p. 373. 2 Charles G. Leland, "War-Songs and Their Influence in History," The United States Service Magazine, I (January, 1864), p. 48. 307 308DEKAJ. EPSTEIN songs continued to be popular through the Spanish-American War, World War I, and even World War II.3 Such songs as "The Battle Cry of Freedom," "Marching Through Georgia ," Tramp, Tramp, Tramp," "When Johnny Comes Marching Home," "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," "Tenting on the Old Camp Ground," and "Dixie" have become part of our folk heritage, whistled and sung by people who have little idea of their origin or history. Many of these songs were written to help fight the war by men whose sympathies were wholeheartedly with the Union cause. And the songs were effective. The people sang in and out of the army, at home, in camp, at work, at play, marching and resting, at rallies in mighty choruses, and alone, one voice breaking the stillness and loneliness. As onewriter put it, the more successful songs were "the white caps of popular feeling."4 A surprisingly high proportion of these songs originated in Chicago from the presses of the music publishers, Root & Cady. Between April 15, 1861, and the early months of 1866 the firm published some 109 titles that had a discernible connection with the war, not counting arrangements for guitar or simplified versions for teaching purposes. Of these, George Frederick Root wrote 28 and Henry Clay Work, 19.5 Why Chicago should have been such a center for war music is a question still to be answered. But center it was, sending its songs throughout the country, even through the battle lines into the Confederacy. When they were first heard in Chicago, the songs had a tremendous impact : The ceaseless roll ofthe drum not only rallied the patriot by day, but reminded him of his duty a good part of the night—especially in the vicinity of the Court House Square, filled with recruiting tents. And, whenever a great victory was celebrated, or the wail of disaster was heard in the land, and it became urgent once again to fire the hearts of the home guard to added enlistments, the doors of Bryan Hall fronting the square were flung open, great crowds surged within, and...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 307-318
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.