Civil War Music
Music played a vital role in the War Between the States. The Civil War lasted four long years and many ballads were composed during this time. Drummers kept soldiers in step and, accompanied by a fife, helped soldiers march. Bugles also sent out commands from reveille in the morning to tattoo at night. Music served as a diversion from the battles of the day. Civil War era music inspired artists such as Elvis Presley and Lynyrd Skynyrd. Robert E. Lee once said that without music, there would have been no army.
The Drums - Drums played a major role on the battlefield. It is often thought that the drummer's only job was to keep beat and rhythm for his unit while they marched. Young drummers had many other responsibilities. They were the communicators for the unit and could always be seen beside a high-ranking officer in case their services were needed. Drum calls were used for everything including assembling officers for strategic meetings and sounding retreat in the middle of enemy fire. Drums alerted the troops about what operations or movements were expected from them.
The Fife - The fife is a small flute-like instrument with a loud, shrill sound due to its narrow bore. Fifes,along with drums, were used to keep tempo in marches during the war. It was a very popular instrument because its shrill tone could be heard above cannon and artillery fire. Usually made of rosewood, the fife was also used to entertain soldiers in the camps.
The Bugle - The field music of buglers during the Civil War guided the actions of the troops in battle. It was also used to tell time and duties. Commanders found the bugle could be heard over a greater distance than the drum and fife. Soldiers would quickly learn the different bugle calls. From the first signal of the day, called reveille, which meant it was time to get up to "tattoo" which signalled it was time to secure the post and settle in, the bugle established routine. It included meal calls, sick calls, drill calls and, of course, taps.
The Harmonica - The harmonica was introduced to America during the Civil War. The Hohner "Pocket Pal" harmonicas were carried by soldiers from both sides. Abraham Lincoln was said to carry one. The soothing sound of the instrument provided solace to the soldiers. These harmonicas later gave way to the sound of the blues harp, echoing the soulful blues of the black man.
The Ballads - Ballads portray history and it was no different during the American Civil War. Songs sung during this time can be divided into several categories. There were songs the soldiers sang when they were sadly thinking of home. There were inspirational marching songs composed to boost the morales of the soldiers on both sides. There were black spirituals and other slave songs. There were the songs sung by the families of the soldiers as they missed their loved ones serving in the war. Ballads drew a picture of the day in history. Here's a link to some of those songs -