When soldiers North and South marched off to war, they took with them a love of song that transcended the political and philosophical divide between them. Music passed the time; it entertained and comforted; it brought back memories of home and family; it strengthened the bonds between comrades and helped to forge new ones. And, in the case of the Confederacy, it helped create the sense of national identity and unity so necessary to a fledgling nation.
Bernard writes, “In camp and hospital they sang — sentimental songs and ballads, comic songs and patriotic numbers….The songs were better than rations or medicine.” By Bernard’s count, “…during the first year [of the war] alone, an estimated two thousand compositions were produced, and by the end of the war more music had been created, played, and sung than during all our other wars combined. More of the music of the era has endured than from any other period in our history.”
National Archives, Records of the Office of the Chief Signal Officer.
When the American Civil War broke out in 1861, women turned their attention, and their considerable energy, to the conflict. In both the North and the South, women gathered in aid societies, circulated petitions, and, at home, took over the masculine duties of running the household. While these activities kept the women at home busy, many women wanted to support their causes closer to the battlefield. Rather than face low-paying, grueling factory work or even prostitution, poorer women followed their husbands, brothers or fathers to camp.
Sara M. Evans Born for Liberty. (New York: Free Press Paperbacks, 1997)