Civil War Music Part II

by Matthew Young on August 1, 2008 · 2 comments

Earlier this week, I wrote about what I classify as Civil War “Field Music” such as fife & drum bands and regimental brass bands. While regimental brass bands can also be used for dance music, I personally categorize dance music as saxhorn bands, string bands, and musical ensembles that include fiddles, banjos, and guitars. I will review some of my favorite Civil War dance music in this article.

First up is the Dodworth Saxhorn Band. As they say on their website, the Dodworth Saxhorn Band is

“a recreation of one of America’s first all-brass bands. The original Dodworth Band dominated the New York music scene from 1836 to 1891, performing in concerts, at balls, at social events, at political rallies, and in many US presidential inaugurations.”

I picked up their first CD entitled “Grafulla’s Favorites” about three years ago. I had never heard the Saxhorn Band before, but shop I bought it in had it playing and I liked it so much, I decided to purchase it. After listening to this CD, I believe it was well worth the $18.95 I paid for it.

If you haven’t heard a Saxhorn band before, but are a fan of Civil War era music, you are certainly in for a treat. It seems to me to be a cross between a “town band” and a brass band. Some of the music is very upbeat and fun to dance to, while other titles are a little slower for that waltz you have always wanted to practice. While there are only 14 titles on the CD, several of the songs are over four minutes long, including the “Quick March” which is over six minutes long!

I have not yet heard their other CD, entitled “Home Sweet Home”.

This CD features many Civil War songs like “Vacant Chair”, “Goober Peas”, and the “Battle Hymn of the Republic”. I have heard pieces of these tunes on the website and I can safely say that this may be my next purchase as far as Civil War era music goes.

Another of my favorites in this category are String Bands. By far, the 97th Regimental String Band is the most fun and entertaining group to listen to. Hearing their music is great, but seeing them play live is even better. They are true showmen and excellent musicians. Their music is what got me hooked on Civil War era music to start with. The first Civil War CD I ever bought was their Volume III entitled “Chantey Irish”

As their website says,

These are the songs to be found in the camps of the many Irish troops, and on the docks of both navies. Forced to emigrate to foreign lands by the potato famine in Ireland, thousands of young Paddys arrived just in time to be handed a gun and marched off to fight In the Civil War. During the long voyage to “Amerikay”, the rich store of sea chanteys became pan of their song-bag, and in turn, many a sailor’s long watch at the pumps went faster with “Rosin the Beau”.

This cassette tape, then CD, has been played hundreds of times in my car, in my room, and on my computer. I shared it with my family, and even they loved it. The only trouble came when my 6 year old brother (about 12 years ago) went into his 1st grade class singing about whiskey, women, and beer (which are all themes on this CD). It got a parent-teacher conference from what I hear.

At any rate, Chantey Irish led me to purchase Volume’s I & II of the 97th Regimental String Band music, and have have heard many songs from the other volumes, but do not own them. I would have to say that volume II is my second favorite 97th CD.

As I said before, if you ever get a chance to see them in person, don’t miss it. You will be highly entertained!

Finally, I would like to dedicate a special section to Bobby Horton. Since most of his music is down with string instruments, I lump him into the “Dance Music” category, but I really think that maybe Bobby Horton should have his own category to himself. He has made at least 10 volumes of Southern and Northern Music of the Civil War. There are many haunting renditions such as “Shiloh Hill” and “Virginia’s Bloody Soil” that have to be heard to be appreciated by any student of the Civil War.

But, if you can only buy one CD of Bobby Horton’s, make it Volume I of Songs of the CSA. There are many songs on this CD that you will hear sung around campfires at almost any reenactment that you go to. I can’t say enough about the research that Horton puts into making his tunes. It is almost like stepping into a time machine when you hear his renditions.

I will post the final part of my review of Civil War Music, Soundtracks, sometime early next week. Thanks for reading!

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Jim beeghley August 14, 2008 at 4:40 pm

I also enjoy listening to Acoustic Shadows of the Blue and Gray.



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