Friday, January 18, 2019

Along the Rapidan - Another Musical Post

     I'm currently building pages for my website, Thirteenth Massachusetts Volunteers, detailing the months of September and October, 1863.  The regiment was camped near the Rapidan river in Culpeper County Virginia at this time.   I've had to look beyond the regiment's own writings, to the Brigade and Division to fill out some of the interesting details relating to this time period.

     Raccoon Ford, photo by John Hennessy.

     The histories of the 16th Maine, 83rd New York, and 39th Mass., all proved useful in this respect.  The 39th MA provides the following most interesting account of picket duty along the Rapidan, from the vicinity of  Raccoon Ford to Morton's Ford.  I'm adding links when possible, to add interest to the text, making this, another musical post.

     The "Bonnie Blue Flag" link takes you to a goofy rendition from the movie "Gods & Generals" on youtube, but with the troops singing along it captures the feeling of the real thing.  The next link for "Star Spangled Banner" goes to the Library of Congress American Jukebox site, one of my favorites for sampling these old tunes.  Its a brass band rendition.  Although American Jukebox does have a rendition of "Maryland My Maryland" it is the "Yankee" version of the song, so I've linked instead to a great site called Digital History, for the true "secesh" version.  "Red White & Blue" & "Home Sweet Home" takes you back to the Library of Congress.

      Regarding the reference to "Pennyroyal" I came up empty handed, although I'll bet its a well-known tune under a different title.  I did discover it probably refers in some way to a feeling of loss, and that it may have been written by William Billings, an early American composer of hymns.  Anyone who might know more about this is free to leave a comment below.

      "Old Hundred" or "All People That on Earth Do Dwell" is the popular tune of the Protestant Doxology.  The link goes to a youtube rendition.

     I hope you enjoy this post.
     Somerville Ford, photo by John Hennessy.

     From the 39th MA regimental history:

     In the stillness of the Sunday evening (September 27th) the Confederates in their camp indulged in a prayer-meeting and their hymns, the same that Northern Christians were singing at that very moment in the far away churches, were plainly heard by the hostile soldiery on our side of the stream.  Need there be any wonder that some listeners moralized on the absurdity of men who read the same Bible and sang the same songs, spending several years of their lives, none too long at the longest in shooting at each other?  Here took place the famous exchange of song, so often told in campfires and wherever it is desirable to prove that one touch of Nature makes the whole world kin.  
One night the Rebs. started off on the “Bonnie Blue Flag,” and when their strains had ceased, the Yanks got back at them with the “Star Spangled Banner”; next the Boys in Gray tuned up with “Maryland, My Maryland” and those in Blue naturally retorted with “The Red White and Blue”;  breaking the lull that ensued, our men started John Howard Payne’s immortal and universal “Home Sweet Home”; scarcely had the first note been struck before the sympathetic enemy chimed in, and Virginia woods and hillsides echoed with the tender strains clearly showing how Saxon blood remembers.  On another occasion a musical exchange, beginning with “Pennyroyal,” ran through the list of then popular melodies, though all sang in unison, and very naturally, too, for ending “Old Hundred.”  Will not coming generations wonder that men who could together sing the old songs should ever fight each other?