Home » Hard Road – Song Notes

Hard Road – Song Notes

Hard Road (Civil War music)

Tenting on the Old Campground (1863)Words and music by Walter Kittredge. Written while Kittredge was waiting to be drafted, this song was later introduced and performed by him as a member of the Hutchinson Family, a popular singing group of the time. Several months after their first performance, Asa Hutchinson interested Oliver Ditson, in publishing Tenting, and shared the royalties with the composer. The song was an instant success.

Battle Cry of Freedom (1863) ~ Words and music by George Frederick Root, whose inspiration for this celebrated ballad came from President Lincoln’s May 3, 1861, appeal for 40 more Army regiments and additional Navy seamen. “Immediately,” Root recalled, “a song started in my mind, words and music together… I thought it out that afternoon and wrote it the next morning. Battle Cry was introduced by the Lombard Brothers at a war rally in Chicago, and shortly thereafter offered by the Hutchinson Family at a war rally in New York’s Union Square. It proved to be a powerful factor in maintaining the morale of the Union Army. Wrote one soldier, “The tune put as much spirit and cheer into the army as a splendid victory.”

Cavalier’s Waltz ~ Anonymous. This traditional waltz was popular during the first half of the 19th century.

 When Johnny Comes Marching Home (1863) ~ Words and music attributed to Louis Lambert (believed to be a pen name of Patrick S. Gilmore). There is good reason to believe that this song was written by Gilmore when he served as band master for the Union Army. Gilmore likely adapted his martial words to an old Irish air favored by soldiers on both sides during the war.

Cindy ~ Anonymous. This Appalachian folk melody was a favorite “play party” song popularized by mountain fiddlers and banjo players during the early 19th century. By the mid-1850’s, its popularity was well established. The present version has been adapted for use as a reel.

Oh! Susanna (1847) ~ Words and music by Stephen Foster. This song, composed when he was only 20, earned foster his first payment – $100 cash – and has become one of his most enduring melodies. It was first performed in public by Foster himself at the Eagle Ice Cream Saloon in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on September 11th, 1847. Foster gave the rights to the song to his friend William Peters, who first published the piece in 1848, eventually making over $100,000 on this and one other Foster tune.

The Invalid Corps (1864) ~ Words and music by Frank Wilder. this humorous music hall ballad satirizes those who sought to escape being drafted into the Union Army by failing the medical examination.

Buffalo Gals (1844) ~ Words and music by Cool White. Originally titled  Lubly Fan, this song was introduced to American audiences by Cool White and His Serenaders in 1844, and became one of the most famous pre-Civil War minstrel show numbers. The famous Christy Minstrels began to tailor the song’s title to match the location of each concert – Charleston Gals, Pittsburgh Gals, Louisville Gals, and so forth. In 1848, the Ethiopian Serenaders played it in a concert in Buffalo, New York, and the rest is musical history.

Kingdom Coming (1862) Words and music by Henry Clay Work. This song, the composer’s first about Negro life, was published by George Root, who later recalled his first encounter with Work, “One day, early in the war, a quiet and rather solemn-looking young man, poorly clad, was sent up to my room from the store with a song for me to examine. I looked at it – and then him – in astonishment. It was ‘Kingdom Coming,’  full of bright good sense and comical situations in its darkey dialect, the words fitting the melody almost as patly and neatly as Gilbert fits Sullivan… He needed some musical help that I could give him, and we needed such songs as he could write.” The song was introduced in Chicago by the Christy Minstrels on April 23rd, 1862.

Bonnie Blue Flag (1861) Words and music by Harry McCarthy. One of the most popular songs of the Confederate States, Bonnie Blue Flag is based upon the Irish tune, The Jaunting Car. McCarthy and his sister, performing as a music hall team in New Orleans, used this as the finale to their act. It was sung at Jefferson Davis’ inauguration in Montgomery, Alabama.

Jine the Cavalry (c.1863) ~ This song was a favorite of the dashing cavalry leader, Gen. J.E.B. “Jeb” Stuart, who, when not actively fighting Yankees, loved good music, singing and dancing. Though the composer is unknown, it is thought to have been adapted by banjo player Sam Sweeney, a member of Stuart’s staff and personal minstrel troupe, from an older early minstrel stage favorite, Down in Alabama, which is believed to have been composed by his older brother, Joel, who – rightly or wrongly – has long been credited with the ‘invention’ of the 5-string banjo.

Ring, Ring de Banjo (1851) ~  Words and music by Stephen Foster. One of Foster’s catchiest minstrel tunes, Ring de Banjo was not very popular in his own time, selling fewer than 2,000 copies in six years. Foster wrote this song and at least 14 others, several of which have become classics, during a 12-month period in 1850-51.

Rose of Alabama (1846) Words by S.S. Steele; music by Anonymous. This song, popular throughout the South and carried West by ’49-ers during the California Gold Rush, tells a somewhat comical story of a young black woman, “Brown Rosie,” who is being courted by a banjo-playing paramour. (The Yellow Rose of Texas was also popular at this time.)

Camptown Races (1850) Words and music by Stephen Foster. This nonsense song ranks with Oh! Susanna as one of Foster’s best. Not especially popular in its early days, Camptown Races earned Foster royalties of only $101.25 in its first seven years (representing a total sales of 5,000 copies at two cents apiece).

Goober Peas (1864) Words and music by P.Nutt, Esq. Written by two Georgia soldiers imprisoned at Camp Chase, in Ohio, Goober Peas somehow “escaped” and was sung by soldiers in both the Army of Tennessee and the Army of Northern Virginia. This comic song satirizes the limited rations in the Southern armies, which often included :”goobers”, or peanuts.

Cumberland Gap (c.1863) Anonymous. This traditional Appalachian dance melody describes the ‘vicious’ fighting that supposedly took place in the Cumberland Gap region of eastern Tennessee. A strategically important route through the Great Smoky Mountains, the Gap changed hands several time during the war – but, as far as we know, without any real battles.

Sweet Betsey from Pike (1849) ~ Anonymous. Another classic of the California Gold Rush, this song describes the mis-adventures of Betsey and Ike, two lovers en route from Pike County, Missouri, to a new life in the California gold fields. The tune is based on the old English melody, Vilikins and his Dinah, which is itself based on the traditional tune, Lord Randall.

Lorena (1857)Words by H.D.L. Webster; music by Joseph Philbrick. This popular ballad was often sung by homesick soldiers. In spite of its wartime popularity, the song was largely forgotten after 1865, until it was mentioned by the twentieth-century writer Margaret Mitchell in her epic novel, Gone With the Wind.

The Vacant Chair (We Shall Meet, But We Shall Miss Him) (1861)Words by Henry S. Washburne;  music by George Frederick Root. This highly sentimental ballad refers to the death of Lt. John William Grout, of the 15th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, who was killed in 1861, at the Battle of Ball’s Bluff, Virginia.

Richmond Is A Hard Road to Travel (1863)Words by John R. Thompson, editor of the “Southern Literary Messenger” and music by Dan D. Emmett. This quite complex and satirical song was popular with Northern troops since it criticizes the inept leadership of the Union Army in its efforts to reach Richmond during the first three years of the war. The tune is taken from an earlier (1853) Emmett song, Jordan Is A Hard Road to Travel. The “wooley horse” mentioned in verse three is a reference to Gen. John C. Fremont.

Leave your response!

You must be logged in to post a comment.