over-the-shoulder sax horns

The significance of music in the civil war was great. During times of great hardship, songs would bring out the best in people. Whether slave songs, patriotic songs, or battle songs they all had a purpose and drove people who participated to carry on. During the Civil war music was played on both sides, Union and Confederate, for soldiers singing also happened to be a recreational activity to ease up the dark cloud of tension that the war set on camps. Music also brought people together in a sense, the war was to accept people of color into white society, and music served as a common language between them, although certain songs may have been quite different. Music from the Civil War lives on and has inspired musicians after its time to create beautiful pieces derived from the same music.


Most songs where popular to both sides, some significant to one specific side, either way still sticking to the same purpose: to boost the moral of the troops. Many songs from the Civil War were composed throughout armies or through letters home. Lots were inspirational marching tunes while others were sad, mourning songs to perhaps think of loved ones that had passed away. A common thing among soldiers was to write lyrics to a tune they heard the other side singing. Military bands would also play by recruitment rallies, the cheerful music encouraging young men to enlist through spirit. Bands also needed to play at parades and evening concerts. Both sides had regiment bands and in some cases the band would follow their commander to play while the battle went on, to set fire in those who have lost hope, a nudge to go on. At times battles would even stop, for an impromptu concert.

A military band song commonly used by the Union, it is likely that you still recognize it which foes to show the great affect civil war music still has on America.


During this time black slaves who were not fighting still used music to portray their emotions. Negro work songs were songs african american slaves worked to, the set beat followed the pace of whatever action the group was doing such as chopping wood or cutting grass. Quite often lyrics in such songs were a prey to god, a clear portrayal of the desperation of the slavery situation. At other times they were stories of other slaves, or hidden remarks about their masters or overseers, cleverly coded in the song. In Negro work songs commonly a group leader would yell or sing a phrase and the rest of the group would yell back, a reassurance that they were still here.

A perfect example of a common slave work song, sung to the beat of chopping wood by you middle aged black slave.



A prime example of how the Civil War influenced music later on is Blues music. Blues is rooted in the previously mentioned negro works songs, based off the call-and-response and expression of great hard ship. This form had made its way into other genres of music as well, such as rock, gospel, soul, jazz, and country, following a similar theme as blues. Some examples in rock and roll were chuck Berry, Little Richard, and even Led Zeppelin incorporating the vocal styling and raunchy lyrics.
Chuck Berry as mentioned above, a well known rock musician from the 1960's.


Johnny Cash served as a perfect example of the Civil war, patriotic influence on music. Johnny was known for making many Civil War songs, flaunting his love for the lord, and the patriotic love of his country. Elvis Presley, a fellow soldier, published several songs such as Aura Lee, Dixie Land, and Love Me Tender that mirrored the melodies and lyrics of some common Civil War songs that were still popular among our country.


Lots of great music was made during the Civil War, each song a real, desperate, sign of a hope. In the slaves eyes, a hope for freedom, in the soldiers eyes a hope for home, in the mothers eyes a hope for family. Themelodies from the Civil War changed music as we know it now forever, showing a prime example of real heartfelt tunes of hardship. Now we have all the songs saved as sacred archives so we can relive the great bloodshed that was the Civil War, mourn loved ones, and hope for a better day. Popular Music during civil war union confederate slave songs