Wednesday, September 20, 2023

The Confederate National Anthem

   As far as we can tell, the Confederate government never adopted a National Anthem. That might seem odd, but the “Star Spangled Banner” was not adopted as the national anthem by the United States Congress until 1931. (The words were penned by Francis Scott Key in September 1814, while watching the attack on Fort McHenry in Baltimore).

   Many people today probably believe that “Dixie’s Land" was the official Confederate national anthem. It does not appear that it was ever even considered. “Dixie’s Land” was composed in New York City by Ohio-born Daniel Decatur Emmitt. Dan Emmitt was a performer in the Black-face Bryant’s Minstrels. Minstrel troops were wildly popular forms of entertainment in the 19th century. The genre was created by Manhattan native Thomas D. Rice, a traveling actor who popularized a slave song, “Jump Jim Crow.”

   There was considerable discussion about “Dixie’s Land” during the war, and scores of different lyrics were written to the tune. That discussion spilled over into the after-war years. Some groups preferred the lyrics penned by former Confederate general Albert Pike over those by Dan Emmitt. Regardless, “Dixie’s Land” was never adopted as an official  National Anthem.[1] 

   In 1861, George H. Miles (1824-1871), an English professor in Maryland, under the pseudonym Earnest Halphin, penned the words to “God Save the South!” Although trained in law, Miles had found success in writing books and Broadway plays. He was obviously a Confederate sympathizer, but his further participation in the war effort seems lost to history.

   “God Save the South!” seems to have first appeared in print in New Orleans in June 1861. No author is given, only that it was “Contributed to the Sunday Delta.”[2]  New Orleans was the leading printer of Confederate sheet music during the war, with 167 pieces identified as coming from presses in the city.[3] Just a couple of weeks after the words appeared in the New Orleans newspaper, there appeared an advertisement in a Charleston newspaper advertising a “supply of new Southern” music. “God Save the South” was included in the listing.[4] Three months later, at a concert in the Odd Fellows Hall in New Orleans, “God Save the South! Set to the air of Britian’s national hymn, [was] the other performance of the evening.”[5]                                                                                                                   

   New Orleans fell in the spring of 1862, and several of the sheet music publishers went to Georgia. Starting in October 1862, Virginia newspapers began calling “God Save the South!” the Southern national anthem.[6] A version of the sheet music was published by C.T. DeCoeniel in Richmond, bearing a similar phrase: “Our National Confederate Anthem.” There were other editions as well, published in Baltimore, Charleston, and Macon/Savannah.[7]

   One Southern newspaper thought that the song was “what we have long wished for—a national anthem, breathing a spirt of patriotism and devotion suited to our troublous times. The pure and simple religious feeling which pervaded the poetry of this piece is beautifully interpreted by, and carried home to, the heart, in the deep pathos and majestic tones of the music. The sentiments of the anthem are perfectly in accordance with the religious feeling and faith of our people. . . . As a national anthem, we know nothing to compare with this sublimity.”[8]

   What did “God Save the South!” sound like? It was set to the same turn as “God Save the King,” the National anthem of the United Kingdom. “God Save the South!” is little remembered today. And if you ask the casual observer what the Confederate National anthem is, you will probably get the response, “Dixie.” It is unlikely that the high-browed members of Southern society would have ever consented to a minstrel tune being bestowed with the title, National Anthem, on Dixie’s Land.

For more information on Confederate music, check out Richard B. Harwell’s Confederate Music (1950) or Lawrence Abel’s  Singing the New Nation (2000).

[1] Hardy, “Dixie’s Land,” America’s Civil War, May 2018.

[2] The Sunday Delta, June 30, 1861.

[3] Wolfe, “Music,” Encyclopedia of the Confederacy, 3:1100-1105.

[4] Charleston Daily Courier, July 19, 1861.

[5] The Times-Picayune, October 16, 1861.

[6] Richmond Enquirer, October 21, 1862.

[7] Harwell, Confederate Music, 59.

[8] Moore, The Civil War in Song and Story, 360.

Thursday, September 07, 2023

Did Grant visit the site of Jackson’s death?

    After Stonewall Jackson was wounded and his arm amputated, he was taken via wagon to the Chandler Farm (also known as Fairfield). The farm was very near the railroad and many Confederates were brought to this site, to later be transported to Richmond by train. (You can read a previous post about one of those soldiers here.) Jackson was placed in a room

Chandler Office (NPS)

in the office building on the farm, with plans to transport him to Richmond for better care. Of course, Jackson died in the Chandler office building on May 10, 1863.   A story emerged in the page of Confederate Veteran in 1897 of another famous visitor to the site. It was May 1864, and the visitor was U.S. Grant.

   “While our people were putting up the tents and making preparations for supper, Gen. Grant strolled over to a house near by, owned by a Mr. Chandler, and sat down on the porch. . . In a few minutes a lady came to the door, and was surprised to find that the visitor was the general-in-chief. He was always particularly civil to ladies, and he rose to his feet at once, took off his hat, and made a courteous bow. She was ladylike and polite in her behavior, and she and the General soon became engaged in a pleasant talk. Her conversation was exceedingly entertaining. She said, among other things: ‘This house has witnessed some sad scenes. One of our greatest generals died here just a year ago: Gen. Jackson, Stonewall Jackson, of blessed memory.’”

   “Indeed?” Remarked Gen. Grant. “He and I were at West Point together for a year, and we served in the same army in Mexico.”

   “Then you must have known how good and great he was,” said the lady.

    “O yes,” replied the General. “He was a sterling, manly cadet, and enjoyed the respect of everyone who knew him. He was always of a religious turn of mind and a plodding, hard-working, student. His standing was at first very low in his class, but by his indomitable energy he managed to graduate quite high. He was a gallant soldier and a Christian gentleman and I can understand fully the admiration your people have for him.”

   The soldier making the observation was Brig. Gen. Horace Porter, personal secretary to Grant, and the article originally appeared in an the article “Campaigning with Grant,” published in Century magazine, now what we call Battles and Leaders.