“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.”
Everywhere the Union armies traveled, they sang. Military bands accompanied many of the regiments, drum and fife corps were common, and whenever the army was in camp, banjos, fiddles, mandolins, the newly invented harmonica, and many other instruments could be heard ringing out. Most social gatherings would feature parlor concerts and group singing was
‘the order of the day.’ In this series, I present music from the period in a wide variety of styles that were common to the period.
Like all the others in the series, I played all the instrumentals, performed the vocal parts, hand drew the cover and liner notes, and recorded in my home production studio – hence the name “Homespun” in the title.
There were many patriotic songs written during the war, with the majority being composed in 1861 and 1862. Julia Ward Howe authored the lyrics to a William Steffe camp meeting gospel song, “Say Brothers” in ‘62 and called her new version “Battle Hymn of the Republic”. Also presented here is the patriotic “The Flag of Columbia” by Harrison Millard. “We Are Marching On To Richmond” was especially beloved by the men in The Army of the Potomac.
Military bands in the regular army have played “The Girl I Left Behind Me” since The Revolutionary War and it was certainly popular during The Civil War. This song is presented here in a military band setting with cornets (the 1862 Distin cornet played in this version was carried by a member of a New Jersey regimental band), baritone horns, and drums.
Soldiers were fond of light-hearted tunes to escape the daily rigors of army life. Billy Yanks had nothing but contempt for the food they were served in the field, and this complaint is aired in “The Army Bean”. “Corporal Schnapps” by Henry Clay Work takes a light hearted ‘jab’ at the German soldiers serving in the Union Army, and in “The Invalid Corps” the soldier in the field envies the men who are disabled and are one step closer to going home. “Johnny Is My Darling” was a patriotic look at a young soldier’s leaving home to fight for The Union. “Garyowen” was an Irish drinking song written in 1802 that was loved by Americans in the 1860’s. In the post war period this tune became the theme song for General George A. Custer’s 7th Cavalry.
Other songs that were loved by the singing soldiers and would be considered ‘pop’ tunes were of a more serious nature. “Aura Lea” was very much loved by the soldiers – Elvis Presley resurrected this wonderful melody in his 50’s hit song “Love Me Tender”. It was not ‘manly’ for soldiers to whine about the horrors of war and the hardships of army life, but they could and did sing about these feelings – “Just Before the Battle Mother” was, perhaps, the most loved of all songs written during the war. “Brother Green” fairly describes a dying soldier’s concern for the welfare of his wife and children at home.
Several of the songs presented here on Volume 2 deal with politics and things political. Charles Boynton’s “What’s the Matter” addresses President Lincoln’s problems with the Copperhead movement. The Hutchison Family was one of the most popular singing groups in the North. Their composition titled “Clear the Tracks” was very important to people in the abolition movement. “Lincoln and Liberty” was written by the Hutchisons as a campaign song for President Lincoln’s re-election in 1864.
The program closes with two powerful songs: “Virginia’s Bloody Soil” is a moving account of the death of a Union officer at The Battle of the Wilderness in 1864; Patrick Gilmore’s “When Johnny Comes Marching Home” looks forward to the end of the war and the safe return of all the boys.