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Sheet Music of the Week: Women in the Civil War Edition

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“American Banner march.” Credited to “A Union Lady.” Saint Louis: Balmer & Weber, 1861.



The following is a guest post by Reader Service Technician Melanie Guitreaux.

While most people were marching off to the Civil War or finding material ways to support the war effort, one fair, anonymous Union lady wrote a war song, titled “The American Banner March.”  The cover of this piece illustrates a nicely dressed woman carrying an American flag.  Many women in the Civil War worked on plantations or farms to support their families while their husbands and sons were off at war.  Women on both sides were also nurses, spies and providers of clothing and industries that supported the war.  Very patriotic women disguised themselves and dressed like men so they could go into battle.

Women on both sides of the war were writers, and several were composers.  Most women supporting the patriotic cause sent the men in their lives off to war.   A Union female named Madame C. Rive in 1863 composed a song titled “He Has Gone and I Have Sent Him.”  Ducie Diamonds, a lady of the South, in 1862 composed a song titled “The Gallant Girl That Smote the Dastard Troy Oh!”  A piano composition, “Dying Camille,” was composed by a Confederate woman named Julia Day.

Women in the Civil War were portrayed by males as being patriotic and symbols of moral triumph in the following songs.  The cover illiustration for the song “Victory March for the United States” (1865) depicts a strong woman holding an American flag as she points to a battle scene.   “The Young Patriots” (1862) illustrates a woman at a piano as her three children sing Union patriotic songs.

Since Civil War-era women are known for their nursing and spiritual qualities, the songs of the period frequently show women as promoting health and strong emotional and mental capabilities.  “A Song for the Nameless Heroine” (1865) by B. R. Hanby is a Union song about three men held as prisoners whose escape was aided by a beautiful young woman who, at great risk to her own life,  guided them to safety behind Union lines.  H. Millard’s “Our Lady of the Hospital” (1864) has a cover sheet that depicts three battle scenes as well as a scene of nurses treating soldiers in a hospital.  A devout young woman can be found in A. J. Turner’ s “Pray Maiden, Pray!  A Ballad of the Times” (1864), which pictures a girl praying for her family and friends.

The Civil War Sheet Music Collection in the Performing Arts Encyclopedia contains all these songs and more.  A search of the terms “women” and “civil war” results in forty songs, which just scratch the surface of women’s contribution to the war.

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