Dulcem Melodies – Song Notes
Nelly Bly • This Stephen Foster “dulcem melody” was premiered by the Christy Minstrels to thunderous applause and it became an immediate hit. Firth, Pond & Co. published this sweet song on February 2, 1850 and by September 22, 1851 they were delighted to report of the sheet music sales, “Nelly Bly goes like hot cakes.”
Hard Crackers Come Again No More • An anonymous soldier wrote this comic parody to the melody of Stephen Foster’s 1855 Hard Times Come Again No More. Hard crackers, or hard tack, are simple flat biscuits made of flour and water, baked and shipped to the soldiers in the field. The months of rail and horse transportation allowed the crackers to naturally age and harden in their wooden crates. Hard crackers were so petrified that they were called “tooth dullers” or “sheet iron crackers” and were often broken up with a rock or the butt of a rifle.
Stonewall Jackson’s Way / Garryowen • R.W. Randolph published Stonewall Jackson’s Way in Richmond, VA in 1863. The sheet music deliberately misdirected the identity of the composer by stating, “Found on a Confederate Sergeant of the old Stonewall Brigade, taken at Winchester, Va.” This was necessary to shield the songwriter, John W. Palmer from arrest as a Southern sympathizer. The Baltimore native was a war correspondent for Horace Greeley’s New York Tribune and assigned to cover the 1862 Maryland Campaign. As Palmer listened to the roar of the guns, he whistled an Oregon logger’s tune and penned “Stonewall’s” ballad. Garryowen translates from Gaelic as Owen’s Garden and is the name of a suburb of Limerick, Ireland. The lyrics immortalize a gang of hooligans who ran riot in the neighborhood. The melody first appeared in print in Edward Light’s Introduction to Playing the Harp-Lute & Apollo-Lyre (London 1785) as Cory Owen. By the time of the War Between the States the song was well known to both Rebel and Federal musicians and it appeared in a number of Civil War songsters.
Listen to the Mockingbird / Siege of Vicksburg • Published in Philadelphia in 1855 by Winner & Shuster, the melody was composed by Dick Milburn and the lyrics by Septimus Winner. This delightful tune appeared in numerous Civil War band music books and was the signature piece of the 1st Virginia’s regimental band. Popular with Generals JEB Stuart and Phil Kearny, President Lincoln also considered it one of his favorites and said of the song, “It is as sincere as the laughter of a little girl at play.” In 1863, during the siege of Vicksburg, an anonymous parody was written capturing the experiences of trench warfare.
Amazing Grace • The Reverend John Newton wrote this hymn, as a chant for his 1773 New Year’s church service in Olney, England. It was published in 1779 in the Olney Hymns and subsequently sung to the tune Hephzibah. Fifty-six years later South Carolinian, William Walker, took an anonymous melody from the hymn Harmony Grove, refined it and renamed it New Britain. He then set the Amazing Grace lyrics to the melody of New Britain. It was published in 1835 in Southern Harmony and in 1844 in Benjamin Franklin White’s popular collection, The Sacred Harp. During the late years of the Civil War a great religious revival swept through the armies. Amazing Grace was considered a favorite hymn from home and it was included in at least three hymnals, The Soldiers Hymn Book, Hymnals for the Camp, and Hymn Book for the Army & Navy.
Clare de Kitchen • (Circa 1830) George Nichols heard a catchy tune sung by black stokers on a Mississippi River steamboat. He penned a musical arrangement and sang it with great success. The song was subsequently performed and popularized by both George Washington Dixon and Thomas D. Rice. In 1832 it was published and copyrighted by George Willig Jr. of Baltimore and it was frequently printed in songsters after 1836.
Kelton’s Reel / Waiting For the Federals • Both of these reels have a plethora of related tunes. A member of the Kelton’s family of tunes is an 1844 minstrel song, My Old Dad. The composer of “Dixie,” Daniel Emmett, incorporated Kelton’s melody into My Old Dad and never claimed credit for the writing the music. Other tunes in the Kelton family include The Pigtown Fling, Wild Horse, Wild Horses at Stoney Point and Stoney Point. During the War Between the States, Missouri was ravaged by conventional and guerilla warfare. The title Waiting for the Federals expresses the determination of the pro-Confederate citizens to stand their ground. This family of tunes includes Seneca War Dance, Georgia Boys, Federal Hornpipe, Getting Out of the Way of the Federals and Running from the Federals.
My Old Kentucky Home • In 1851 Stephen Foster and E. P. Christy, the leader of the popular Christy Minstrels, developed an innovative marketing plan. Foster’s music would be exclusively premiered by Christy and be assured of a national audience. To promote sheet music sales each copy would be published with the endorsement, “As sung by the Christy Minstrels.” Utilizing this strategy, My Old Kentucky Home, was published in 1853 by Firth, Pond & Co. and became one of Foster’s most successful compositions. During the War, the lyrics were included in a number of songsters including the Confederate Jack Morgan Songster. The song’s bittersweet yearning for the past struck a common chord with soldiers caught up in the conflict and longing to return home.
The Yellow Rose of Texas • The composer of this successful minstrel song is only identified as “J. K.” Firth, Pond & Co. of New York published the sheet music in 1858 and during the War Between the States the song gained widespread popularity with Southern troops. It was the favorite marching song of General John Bell Hood’s Texas Brigade of the Army of Northern Virginia. In 1864 General Hood was promoted to command the Army of Tennessee. After the disastrous battles of Franklin and Nashville, remnants of Hood’s Army limped back to Georgia and to their former commander General “Uncle Joe” Johnston. During this march the soldiers added a verse to the song summing up their recent campaign ordeals.
Southron’s Battle Cry of Freedom • William H. Barnes penned this Confederate parody of George F. Root’s 1862, Battle Cry of Freedom. Barnes was the manager of an ensemble of volunteer musicians, the Atlanta Amateurs, whose performances benefited soldier’s relief charities. J.C. Schreiner & Son of Macon and Savannah published the song in 1864.
The Minstrel Boy • (1813) This song was published in the 5th volume of the very successful ten volume work, Moore’s Irish Melodies (1807-1834). Thomas Moore wrote the lyrics and set them to the melody of an old Irish aire, The Mooreen. During the War this popular tune was a favorite of President Jefferson Davis and the many Irish volunteers who fought for the Blue and the Grey.
Southron’s Tramp! Tramp! Tramp! • Numerous patriotic songs were written during the War expressing only Southern or Northern sympathies. With some alterations, many of these songs became popular on both sides of the conflict. One such example is George F. Root’s 1863, Tramp! Tramp! Tramp! Heartened Rebel soldiers altered Root’s patriotic message to the Confederate cause by adapting and writing their own inspirational lyrics.
Jim Along Josie • Written and performed by Edward Harper around 1838, the basis of this melody was an old military tune used for Church Call as well as Parley Call in the British and American armies. The tune was published in Ashworth’s 1812 System of Drum Beating. In 1840, Firth & Hall of New York published Harper’s song and it was included in the 1851 songster, Christy’s Plantation Melodies.
Sweet Evelina • Horace & Walters of New York published this minstrel song in 1848. The anonymous composer was credited as, “Words by M and Music by T.” The song’s pledge of undying love was popular with Southern troops. General JEB Stuart was known to sing Sweet Evelina as he and his men rode off on patrol.
War Song of Dixie • The poet-lawyer of Arkansas, Brigadier General Albert Pike wrote these defiant lyrics to the melody of Dan Emmett’s minstrel “walk-around,” Dixie. The words were initially published on May 30, 1861 in the Natchez Courier. Subsequently, P. P. Werlein & Halsey published the sheet music in New Orleans. Pike’s martial message called for “Southrons” not to just wish they could “live and die in Dixie” but “to live and die for Dixie.”
Hawks and Eagles • (Traditional) The source for this breakdown was Norman S. Edmonds, a third generation fiddler from Wythe County, VA. Edmonds played just like his father and grandfather holding his fiddle on his chest rather than under his chin. He had an extensive repertory and was instrumental in preserving the Southern fiddle traditions. A “breakdown” was any energetic dance tune played at the harvest festival after the breaking down (shucking) of the corn.