Music of the Civil War

Music of the Civil War






Music of the Civil War

Music in the civil war played a critical role in boosting the morale of the nation, especially important to soldiers who were fighting at the front- line because it helped them maintain their moral and courage during battle (Davis, 2018). Through music that motivated and reminded the soldiers of their anticipated goal of freedom, they were able to remain hopeful during the war and believe that they would eventually win against all odds. Music grew to become a critical shared experience amongst people that remained back at home and those that went to the overseas conflict zones; as a result, their emotions were connected, and the fighters were more committed to fight for their people. Music was developed by both sides of the war as a propaganda of art to inspire their soldiers or demoralize their counterparts; thus, each country was committed to establish their musical voice which would enhance their popularity and dominance during the war. Some of the popular songs that were played during the civil war include “The battle cry of freedom”, and “Just before the battle mother” by George Root, “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” by Julia Ward, “Dixie’s Land” by Daniel Decatur, and ”When Johnny Comes Marching Home” by John Barry (Davis, 2018).

“Battle Cry of Freedom” was a patriotic song that captured the fighting spirit of Union soldiers through its lyrics which were written in 1862 by George Root (Davis, 2018). The lyrics were patriotic and emotional, as they addressed the fight of the American army against the southern states that fought to preserve slavery. In these words, it strongly supported the freedom of equality by exposing how the war would positively impact the community because “A free government is better than a slave government” (Davis, 2018). In order to promote nationalism among American citizens after independence was achieved in 1776. This song was very popular in America during colonial times when the regions’ newspapers used to publish its lyrics regularly. The hymn inspired the North to reunite the country and free African-Americans from slavery, “And although they may be poor, not a man shall be a slave.”

Another popular song was “Just before the battle mother” by George Root whose message was to encourage southern mothers to always pray for their sons, especially the soldiers who were fighting in the ongoing civil war in order to protect the southern states (Davis, 2020). This song emphasized the idea of family values and religious beliefs by stating that mothers should never stop believing that their sons would make it back home. Just like “Battle Cry for Freedom”, “Just before the battle mother” was also a patriotic song which was intended to boost morale among soldiers and thanks them for fighting to defend the nation. The words were optimistic in nature as they encouraged gratitude and appreciation to southern women who had not a choice but to let their children go and fight for their country (Davis, 2020). The song also encouraged soldiers to fight courageously and be victorious over the enemy.

“The Battle Hymn of the Republic” by Julia Ward was also an important song during civil war as it was used as a hymn in order to rally up Union soldiers to march ahead and fight bravely. This song was composed in 1861 and the lyrics were extremely powerful as they not only promoted national pride among Union soldiers but also motivated for a sense of unity among African-American and white American army members, as well as social justice and equal rights for all. Julia also reflects on God’s grace, and insists on the need to believe in God’s will. Through the words “Glory, glory hallelujah for he whose name is love”, the author manifested that love for one another united the people within the community which made them stronger and unified in love (Davis, 2020).

“Dixie’s Land” by Daniel Decatur was also important since it was a song that called for secession. The lyrics, which were written by Daniel Decatur Emmett, advised southern Americans to secede from the union and form a country of their own (Davis, 2020). The song encouraged freedom and liberty for the African-Americans which motivated them to fight bravely against the Union soldiers in order to form their own country. The lyrics of this patriotic song, “There’ll be openings all around Dixie’s Land…” fueled African-Americans courage to fight for their freedom from slavery and discrimination in order to have equal rights as those who had been born in America (Davis, 2020). Also, the song was intended to encourage freedom and equality among all races, genders and religions. The lyrics of this song were important because they motivated black soldiers in one of the largest military campaigns in American history. The fight for freedom led to the formation of a country that included African-Americans as majority citizens, which was first established in 1869. As a result, the song was an important Southern anthem used during the American Civil War to instill patriotism and nationalism among southerners.

Lastly, the song ”When Johnny Comes Marching Home” by John Barry, Patrick Gilmore, and Patrick Sarsfield Gilmore. The song is believed to have been written by Patrick Gilmore to his sister Annie as she prayed for the safe return of her fiancé Captain John O’Rourke who had gone to participate in the civil war (McWhirter, 2018). The song’s popularity grew mainly because it was used by people who expressed longingness for their friends and relatives who were in combat. The song was sung by both Southerners and Northerners in the hope of encouraging their loved ones to return alive, and during that period, it became the hymn of choice in America.

In conclusion, the discussed songs and many other patriotic tunes had a significant impact on the lives of union soldiers during civil war due to their inspirational and encouraging lyrics which raised the morale of these soldiers. In addition, these songs promoted country pride among Union soldiers. This is evident in “Battle Cry for Freedom” as it incited passion and zeal in Union soldiers to fight bravely against rebel groups in order to unify with the North while maintaining rights and freedom equally for both united states citizens and African-Americans. As evidenced by the discussion, music helped to strengthen and renew each side during the war; thus, it played an important role in influencing people’s feelings about the war, and had a profound effect on how it ended.


Davis, J. A. (2018). “Our War-Songs” (1864): Popular Song and Music Criticism during the American Civil War. Popular Music and Society, 41(5), 489-505., J. A. (2020). Locating patriotism in civil war songs. Civil War History, 66(4), 380-415., C. (2018). The Civil War: Music in the Armies. In Music and War in the United States (pp. 54-66). Routledge.