Today in History:

Music of the Civil War

Campfire Songs


Camptown Races S. Foster
"Camptown Races" depicts the typical community that sprang up around horse races on the outskirts of frontier cities in Foster's day. Laborers and transients lived in shanties and tents - a camptown. Foster may have visited such places around Pittsburgh and Cincinnati.

Home, Sweet Home H.R. Bishop
"Home Sweet Home" was likely the most popular song of the nineteenth century around the world. It was written as part of the operetta "Clari" in 1823 in a collaboration between Henry R. Bishop of England and John H. Payne of the United States. During the Civil War this was a nostalgic favorite of the soldiers on both sides of the conflict. Civil War accounts document an occasion when the opposing armies were encamped along opposite banks of the Potomac River and singing martial songs, patriotic songs, and sentimental songs. One of the armies took up the refrain of "Home, Sweet Home" and suddenly the melody rose from both sides of the Potomac-the two armies sharing a common emotion.

Nelly Bly S. Foster
"Nelly Bly" is just as much comic as it is loving. Nelly may very well have represented someone in Foster's boyhood experience. The song was a big hit from the beginning. The publisher, Firth and Pond, wrote September 22, 1851, "Nelly Bly' goes like hot cakes."

Taps D. Butterfield
"Taps" was a favorite bugle call during the Civil War. In 1862 Union General Daniel Butterfield adapted part of the bugle call known as "The Tattoo" from General Winfield Scott's "Infantry Tactics" of 1835 to create the melody of "Taps." listen to song

Tenting On The Old Campground W. Kitteredge
"Tenting on the Old Campground" was composed by Walter Kittredge the evening before he was drafted into the Union Army in 1863. Not surprisingly, the song was a sad commentary on his impending induction. It was quickly adopted by the troops on both sides of the Civil War as a melancholy favorite during the later days of the war.

Wait For The Wagon G.P. Knauff
"Wait for the Wagon" was a great campfire favorite of both Union and Confederate troops during the Civil War. The song is believed to have been composed by R. Bishop Buckley in the 1840's. An early edition of the song presented it "as sung by Buckley's Minstrels." The song was reworked many times during the 1850's and the 1860's with various political lyrics, including those presented here to describe the sentiments of the North and the South during the Civil War.