Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Goober Peas and Other Songs of the Civil War

Gentleman's Fancy

"Music was a basic element in everyday life for the soldiers.  The sentimental songs, for the most part, were sung by civilians.  Soldiers usually preferred the rousing marching songs, humorous songs, protest songs, and parodies that sprang spontaneously from army life.  Both sides loved to sing Stephen Foster's songs." - from Civil War Songs with historical narration by Keith and Rusty McNeil

In Alice's Tulips by Sandra Dallas, Alice writes to her sister Lizzie about her husband Charlie marching off to war:  "The folks here gave our boys a first-rate send-off.  This is the biggest regiment raised in the vicinity, and the town did the boys proud.  Charlie and the other recruits marched off grand.  People drove in from farms and ran from the shops and stood in the road bareheaded, shouting hurrahs as the soldier boys marched smartly along.  The church bells rang, and a brass band led the parade, blasting out the 'Battle Cry of Freedom.'  Little children threw flowers, ladies waved their handkerchiefs, and gents who'd climbed on top of the bandstand in the square cried out, 'Union forever!'" - Alice's Tulips, pp. 2-3 

The song "The Battle Cry of Freedom" rivaled the "Battle Hymn of the Republic" in popularity in the North.  An American composer, George Frederick Root, wrote the song in 1862.  It was played at nearly every Union rally throughout the war.  If you'd like to hear the song, click hereGeorge Root also wrote a song that Mother Bullock would have loved called "Just Before the Battle, Mother."  You can hear it here.

The #1 song in the South was "Dixie's Land," written in 1859 by Dan Emmett.  You can see and hear a Civil War re-enactment version here.  Dan Emmett also wrote "The Blue Tail Fly" and "Old Dan Tucker."  The second most popular song in the South was "The Bonnie Blue Flag."  Listen to it here

On page 28 of Alice's Tulips, Alice writes to her sister Lizzie that Mother Bullock is "always talking about hard times coming, as the song says."  Stephen Foster wrote "Hard Times (Come Again No More), which was published in 1854 as a parlor song under the title Foster's Melodies No. 28.  You can listen to a beautiful version of it here

And finally, here are Burl Ives and Johnny Cash singing Goober Peas!

Do you have a favorite song from the Civil War era?  Inquiring minds want to know!  Answer in the comments section below.  If you are reading via email, click on the title of the blog post so you can comment and read the comments of others.

By commenting, you are also entering your name in a giveaway of Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker by Jennifer Chiaverini.  The winner will be announced June 1.

You might also enjoy reading my previous blog post here.


  1. Gotta be Hard Times, its a haunting song. When my girls were little we sang Goober Peas on road trips...we still sing it with their children!

  2. Has to be Goober Peas. I though my mom made that one up. ROFL! She used to sit on the dock of the bay with her friends in Miami back when she was in college...with..Burl Ives singing and playing his guitar! Mom's almost 80 now. Been a long time.

  3. The songs I associate with the Civil War are When Johnny Comes Marching Home and the Battle Hymn of the Republic. I did learn BCofF but as Rally Round the Flag. I went to school in Texas and we sang a lot of songs in elementary school.

  4. Many of those songs I have sung since childhood but I didn't know they were civil War songs or who wrote them. Battle Hymn of the republic was probably most sung. Blue tail Fly and Old Dan Tucker ... and even Goober Peas were well sung. Like Jo C., we too sang in the car on road trips and as we traveled anywhere.

  5. I found a great site with Civil War songs from both the Union and Confederate -- as well as a listing of popular music of the time.
    I was surprised at how many I recognized,because they have become the folk songs that we learned at school or camp. It was interesting to red the lyrics to Aura Lea, Tenting Tonight on the Old Camp Ground, and When This Cruel War is Over. A favorite? I don't think I can name just one.

  6. I remember The Battle Humn and When Johnny Comes Marching Home. Being from the Pacific NW, my family didn't sing many civil war tunes. I am so enjoying the read along and quilt blocks. Thanks for sharing. Blessings and smiles, Emilou :-)

  7. I've always loved Burl Ives and Johnny Cash, too (A Boy Named Sue is one of my favorites). Thanks for the link.

  8. For me, it's the Battle Hymn of the Republic. I remember being thrilled in band when we finally got to that song. I played saxophone. I have yet to hear it come out of my DD's violin.

  9. I've only heard of Battle Hymn... and When Johnny... before. I grew up in the west, so I guess I'd not heard of the other songs. I'd have to choose When Johnny... because my gramma called my dad Johnny. My mom said they sang that song when my dad was in WWII. Hearing the YouTube clips brought back memories of Johnny Cash, Marty Robbins, etc.


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