On June 26th 2010, the Fort Donelson National Battlefield hosted “The Civil War Singers” from the Dover Community Theatre for a concert featuring some of the fun songs from the Civil War.
This was the first of a series of concert they plan at the Fort Donelson National Battlefield. The group will return on July 31st for a concert featuring Civil War period religious songs. Then on August 28th they will be back again with an evening of Stephen Foster songs, with a special surprise at the end. In September or October they will be holding a special concert, The Civil War Singers sing Patriotic.
“It’s fitting they are here singing traditional Civil War songs in a place where soldiers sang them during the Civil War” according to Fort Donelson Park Historian Jim Jobe.
On a side note, the Dover Community Theatre will be presenting the play Smoke on the Mountain at the Annex in Dover, TN on July 16th, 17th, and 18th.
The opening number of the evening was Dixie’s Land which is frequently called Dixie. The song originated in the decade before the start of the Civil War, and tells the story of a freed slave pining for the southern plantation of his birth.
The second number was Shew! Fly, Don’t Bother Me by Thomas Brigham Bishop. According to a Time Magazine article, during the Civil War he commanded a Negro detachment called Company G. One day he heard a dusky private muttering, “Shoo, fly, don’t bother me.” after which he wrote this song.
The third song was “Oh! Susanna” by Stephen Foster
In the fourth number they moved into marching songs with “The Bonnie Blue Flag”, which was also known as “We Are a Band of Brothers”. This confederate marching song was written by Harry McCarthy in the 1860’s with the melody taken from the song “The Irish Jaunting Car”. The song refers to the unofficial first flag of the Confederacy.
Fifth was another marching song “When Johnny Comes Marching Home” which was first published by Louis Lambert in 1863 and was sung by both sides in the Civil War.
“For Bales” followed it, and was sung to the same tune. The song celebrates the destruction of up to a hundred thousand bales of cotton by Confederate troops under the command of Lieutenant General Richard Taylor and General Edmund Kirby Smith to deny it to Union Troops under the Command of General Nathaniel Prentice Banks during the Red River Campaign in Louisiana.
The seventh song was The Cumberland Gap, The gap is a mountain pass that Union and Confederate troops fought back and forth to control between June 1862 to September 1863.
Next up was the Union version of the Battle Cry of Freedom by George F. Root and written in 1862. There were versions of this song sang by both the Union and Confederacy.
Ninth was another George F. Root song “Tramp! Tramp! Tramp!” or “The Prisoner’s Hope” which was one of the most popular songs of the civil war. The song was written in 1864 and was intended to give hope to Union Prisoners of War.
“Kingdom Coming” or “The Year of Jubilo” which was written by Henry Clay Work in 1863. This comedic song celebrates the newly found freedom of slaves whose master is scared away by approaching Union Forces.
Next up There Was An Old Soldier, followed by Old Abe Lincoln Came Out Of The Wilderness.
They closed out the evening with what has become a standard for the group Amazing Grace, with the accompaniment of the song from the newly emerged Cicadas.
Editor’s Note: Some of the research materials in this article is from the English Language version of the Wikipedia.