“A seasoned performer, Bobby Horton is a multi-instrumentalist, a composer, producer, and a music historian. For more than 30 years he has performed with the musical-comedy group Three On A String. He has also produced and performed music scores for ten Ken Burns PBS 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.”
In 1987, a friend in the National Park Service suggested that I supplement my Confederate series (there were four at that time) with a series of Union recordings. I had accumulated a lot of Northern material, so I decided to do so. This is the first recording of music of the men who wore the blue. Like the others I played all the instruments (many were made in the 19th century), performed all the vocal parts, hand drew the cover and liner notes, and recorded here in my home production studio – hence the “Homespun” in the title.
This recording features a variety of musical styles that were common in the 1860’s. Settings include: military band music, with cornets, baritone horns, fifes, and drums; parlor music and campfire tunes include a wide array of instruments, such as piano, horns, fiddle, mandolin, Celtic harp, tin whistle, harmonica, hammer dulcimer, banjo and guitar.
Several of the songs presented here are patriotic. “Battle Cry of Freedom” was written in the early war period by George Root and was one of the most popular marching songs of the common soldier throughout the whole war. Other patriotic, marching tunes include “The Army of the Free” by Frank H. Norton, “New York Volunteer”, and “Marching Along” by William B. Bradbury were all heard everywhere the Union Army went. “May God Save the Union” was one of the more popular hymn-like songs. “The Why and Wherefore” reminded the soldier in the ranks of why he was fighting this war, and it proved to be an effective recruiting tool.
President Lincoln loved his soldiers and they loved him. Many soldier songs were written that reflect this special bond. There are two presented here: “We Are Coming Father Abraham” by James Sloan Gibbons, and “We’ll Fight for Uncle Abe” by Frederick Buckley.
Soldiers often turned to music to deal with the horrors of war. Singing helped them deal with their fears, their hardships, their grief, and offered a way to honor lost comrades. Several such songs are included here. “The Vacant Chair”, by Henry S. Washburn and George Root, honors Lt. John William Grout who was killed in the first engagement of the war at Ball’s Bluff in Virginia. “Pat Murphy of the Irish Brigade” honors the sacrifice of the Irish in the army. “Weeping, Sad and Lonely” by Charles Carroll Sawyer, and the very popular “Tenting on the Old Camp Ground” both express the sadness of war and the universal desire for peace.
One of the most popular songs to be written during the war was written by Henry Clay Work. “Kingdom Coming” was the first song in the music business to sell one million copies of sheet music.
Many songs were written about the soldiers leaving home for army life. “Take Your Gun and Go, John” is a patriotic, leaving home song, whereas, “Grafted into the Army” is a comedy song that deals with the dilemma of a mother whose son is forced to go due to the draft.
The recording closes with one of the veteran’s favorite post-war tunes called “Good-bye Old Glory”, and, as a tribute to the boys who answered their country’s call in the 1860’s, I play a ‘big’ instrumental arrangement of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”.