The Songs

Bonnie Blue Flag

The Bonnie Blue Flag is a single white star on a blue field.  It was originally used as the flag of the short-lived Republic of West Florida.  The “Bonnie Blue Flag” was adopted by Mississippi when the state seceded from the Union on January 9, 1861.  An Irish immigrant wrote the song as a tribute to his state’s new flag.  It became a popular marching song with Confederate troops during the Civil War.


Originally composed as a minstrel song by Daniel Decatur Emmett, the song was adopted as the anthem of the Confederacy during the Civil War.  Ironically, the song was said to have been one of Abraham Lincoln’s favorites, and was actually played during his campaign in 1860.  “Dixie” was also played at the inauguration of Jefferson Davis in Montgomery, Alabama in February 1861.

Sometimes I Feel like a Motherless Child

This haunting spiritual dates back to the slavery era in the United States.  The words and melody combine to evoke an expression of loneliness and despair.  The "motherless child" in this song could refer to a child who is sold away from his/her parents, or a yearning for the slave's African homeland.

Oh, Freedom

This stirring spiritual probably had its origins with newly freed African American slaves.  It became an important anthem during the civil rights movement of the mid twentieth century.  On the morning of Martin Luther King Jr's famous "I have a Dream" speech, Joan Beez opened the day's events by singing this song of liberty. 

Aura Lee

This hauntingly beautiful love song was composed in 1861.  It soon became a popular and beloved melody with Civil War soldiers longing for their own "maids with golden hair" back home.  The melody was later used for the Elvis Presley song "Love me Tender." 

Goober Peas

A "goober pea" is a Southern slang term for a peanut.  During the Civil War, Confederate soldiers sometimes had little to eat besides boiled peanuts.  "Goober Peas" became a popular song among Southern soldiers because it helped them make fun of their own misery and hunger.  After the war, sheet music for this silly song listed "P. Nutt" as the composer.

The Yellow Rose of Texas

This song became popular with Confederate Army troops, especially those from Texas.  This traditional folk song probably had its origins in the Texas War of Independence.

Amazing Grace

One of the most famous and beautiful of all folk hymns, the words were written by English poet and clergyman John Newton.  While serving in the English Navy, he participated for years in the slave trade.  He found religion in the middle of a terrible storm at sea and later became a minister.  During the Civil War, this beautiful song poignantly appealed to soldiers of both sides. 

Battle Cry of Freedom

The Battle Cry of Freedom was written by George F. Root in 1862.  The song became extremely popular in the North during the Civil War.  It was used as a campaign song for the Lincoln-Johnson ticket in the 1864 presidential election.  A Confederate version was sung by Southern troops later in the war.

He's Gone Away

The origin of this haunting folk melody is somewhat obscure.  However, the song apparently originated in the Southern United States, perhaps in the Carolinas during the Civil War.  According to one legend, the song originated as a story about a young couple separated by the Civil War.  Whatever its origin, the unforgettable melody is timeless. 

When Johnny Comes Marching Home

“When Johnny Comes Marching Home” was first published in 1863. It expresses longing for the return of loved ones fighting in the war. For that reason, it was popular with both sides as causalities mounted.

Didn’t My Lord Deliver Daniel/ Great Day

These traditional spirituals expressed faith that God would deliver those in peril from danger and injustice.  Listen...

My Lord What a Morning

“My Lord What a Morning” is a spiritual inspired by the Book of Revelations. The song envisions a day when the righteous are rewarded and sinners are punished. This lovely song was later a favorite of Civil Rights pioneer Marion Anderson.

The Battle Hymn of the Republic

The tune was originally written around 1855 by William Steffe with the title “Canaan’s Happy Shore.” A soldier from Vermont remembered the stirring melody at a camp meeting, and wrote a new lyric titled “John Brown’s Body.” Julia Ward Howe heard the song during a public review of troops in Washington. Howe later recalled that she woke before dawn the next morning with the melody in her head, and new words to the song began to enter her mind. She wrote out the verses almost without looking at the paper. “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” has since become one of the best known American patriotic songs.  Listen...

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