Wednesday, February 06, 2008

More Dixie thoughts

I have often wondered what drew Southerners to the song "Dixie." It was written by a Northerner, it was written for the stage, and it was written in dialect that would have been unfamiliar to most Southerners. It did not have a universal appeal in the South prior to the war. There is a good chance that it had only been heard in New Orleans prior to 1861.

Jefferson Davis used the song in a procession leading his inaugural procession to the steps of the capital in Montgomery when he was sworn in as the first president of the Confederate States. However, it was not a wagon load of black-faced minstrels plucking on banjos and sawing on fiddles leading the procession. It was a brass brand that used the song. In fact, many of the cases where the song is mentioned among the generals and politicians were brass band versions. It was also popular music for the parlor crowd. They would gather around their pianos to hear some lovely maiden play the song.

Given the song’s background and lyrics, it is not surprising that Southern soldiers made up their own words. They made their own words by the scores. Some words were serious, some comical. Probably the most famous words beside Dan Emmett’s were by Albert Pike. Many years after the war, portions of the UDC wanted to do away with Emmett’s words adn just use Pike’s. They did not get far.

Many people think that "Dixie" is the national anthem of the South. It is not. "God Save the South" is, a song set to the tune of, yes, you guessed it, "God Save the Queen" (or King).
I am almost willing to bet that for every version of the song that we do have, one has been lost, not written down by the soldiers or their descendants. There are probably a few still tucked away in some trunk in some attic, just waiting to be found... hopefully before they wind up in a landfill.

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