“Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory”: Songs of War and Peace in the United States, 1860–80

Saturday, January 8, 2011: 12:10 PM
Room 208 (Hynes Convention Center)
Barbara L. Tischler , Horace Mann School
The nineteenth century was a century of song. People sang at work, in church, and, for every family, civic, and political occasion. From hymn singing at home to formal performance of commemorative pieces, Americans sang their history as they created it.  By the period of the Civil War, with pianos a fixture in many middle class family parlors, songs were ubiquitous in American life.

The Civil War produced horrific scenes of battlefield carnage and home front sacrifice and heroism. The War gave us consecrated ground and the impossibility of conquest “with malice toward none, with charity for all.” It also provided a historical treasure trove of marching songs, camp ballads, and musical narrative pieces that reveal significant religious imagery in the struggle to restore the Union.

Using visual images from sheet music covers and song lyrics, this paper will discuss the presence of religion and spirituality in varieties of popular music from both sides in the American Civil War. Battlefield songs, ballads recalling loved ones at home, and songs relating to the bravery of African-American soldiers and the fate of freed slaves will be considered.

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