“A seasoned performer, Bobby Horton is a multi-instrumentalist, composer, producer, and music historian. For more than 30 years he has traveled throughout The United States and Canada performing with the musical-comedy group, Three On A String. He has also produced and performed music for ten Ken Burns films, including ‘The Civil War’, ‘Baseball’, and ‘Mark Twain’, two films for the A & E Network, plus sixteen films for The National Park Service. His series of recordings of authentic “period” music has been acclaimed by historical organizations and publications throughout America and Europe.”
This is the 8th volume in my series of songs from The War Between the States. In a search for “period” music, I found many references to songs of faith by soldiers and civilians alike. Each song presented here was so noted, or was selected due to its general popularity in American culture in the 1860’s. I believe a collection of songs of faith is necessary to give a clearer picture of the music that helped to sustain the morale of Americans, North and South, during those four bloody years of war.
Like all my other recordings, I did all the arranging, all the instrumental work, sang each part, and recorded here in my home production studio – hence the “Homespun” in the title.
SALUTATION – Even though this song can be found in many 19th century hymn books, the author is unknown. The text is based on the journey of the Children of Isreal from the River Jordan to Jerusalem.
EXULTATION – Charles Wesley wrote these lyrics in 1755 to commemorate his wife’s 29th birthday. The melody is an old American tune that can be found in Southern Harmony published in 1821.
AMAZING GRACE – John Newton, an 18th century English sea captain, made his living by transporting slaves from West Africa to England and the Americas. His guilt “got to him” and he changed his life. He was overwhelmed by the knowledge that even with his background, he could be forgiven. He then wrote these beloved lyrics. When James P. Carrell and David S. Clayton published Virginia Harmony in 1831, they set John Newton’s text to a popular old plantation melody called “Loving Lambs.”
PLEYEL’S HYMN – Those who knew General Stonewall Jackson could remember his singing only three songs. This William Cowper tune is on of the three. It is known as one of the General’s favorites.
HE LEADETH ME – On the night of March 26, 1862, a Baptist minister from Fisheville, New Hampshire delivered a mid-week sermon in Philadelphia. His text was concerning the leadership of God as mentioned in Psalm 23. The members of the congregation needed this “pep talk” for the Union armies were suffering from poor leadership, things were not going well for Mr. Lincoln’s war effort, and it was apparent that the country was in for a long and bloody struggle. Immediately after the service, Reverend Gilmore took a pen to paper and created the text presented here. William Bradberry put words to music and the greatest hymn of The Civil War was born.
A MORNING SONG – Isaac Watts was one of the more prolific and beloved composers of religious songs in the 18th century. The popularity of his compositions continued through the 1860’s. This text can be found in his Hymns and Spiritual Songs (1707). The melody he chose was the very old English folk carol “The Bellman’s Song.”
WHAT WONDROUS LOVE – The author of this wonderful expression of faith is unknown. The melody can be traced back to 16th century Ireland. This version is in the style of the southern Appalachian Mountains.
I WILL ARISE – This tune is a direct descendent of the 13th century Scottish air “Hynde Horne.” In the old Southern hymnals it is called “Restoration.” This is one of the oldest known songs in America.
SLANE – This ancient Irish tune is found in modern hymnals under the name of “Be Thou My Vision.” The melody is so beautiful I decided to present it instrumentally.
NEARER MY GOD TO THEE – As the survivors of Pickett’s unsuccessful charge on the Union Army’s center at Gettysburg fell back to their lines on Seminary Ridge, several southern soldiers wrote of hearing a Confederate military playing this wonderful hymn. The setting of this arrangement is a military brass band.
POOR WAYFARING STRANGER – This is an old “camp meeting” folk hymn whose melody is most likely a descendent of an ancient Celtic tune. This version can be traced to 1780.
ROCK OF AGES – When General J.E.B. Stuart lay dying as a result of a gun shot wound, he asked all gathered to in the room to sing this fine, old hymn. As they did so, he tried, in vain, to sing the bass part. Shortly afterward he departed this life.
YOUR MISSION – In February, 1865 a gospel singer named Philip Phillips performed this song at a meeting of the U. S. Christian Commission. President Lincoln was so deeply impressed with the hymn, he asked for an encore performance at the close of the meeting. From that day forward, this one was known as one of Abraham Lincoln’s favorites.
PROMISED LAND – Around the year 1840, Miss M. Durham refined this 1780’s folk melody. The tune, in several different variations, could be heard in all sections of the country throughout the 19th century. Just prior to his hanging in Pulaski, Tennessee for “spying,” a young confederate soldier, Sam Davis, asked the attending Union Army chaplain to sing this song for him. After the song ended, the trap was sprung.
RISE MY SOUL – This tune can be traced to the Primitive Methodists or “Ranters” (as they were then known). These people were known to apply sacred lyrics to popular secular melodies. This is one of the “Ranter’s” favorite camp meeting hymns, and it could often be heard in Confederate and Union camps.
MORNING TRUMPET – B. F. White is credited with this composition in the year 1847. According to Annabel Morris Buchanan, a leading musicologist, an early version of this tune can be traced to John Leland, a Baptist minister and good friend of Thomas Jefferson.
HOW FIRM A FOUNDATION – General Robert E. Lee was a devoutly religious man whose faith guided him in peace and in war. He believed a true Christian is one who would never shrink from doing his duty and was always a gentleman. On October 15, 1870, three days after his death, his committal service was held in the Chapel of Washington College in Lexington, Virginia. After the closing words of the Episcopal ritual had been rendered by Reverend (and former General in The Confederate Army) Pendleton, one of Lee’s former soldiers began singing what was known to be The General’s favorite hymn. Soon others joined in until all five verses had been completed – a loving tribute to their beloved commander! This moving event is re-created here.