The nation's history may be traced through several popular songs of the times, as music was written both to entertain and to record history. Music played a very important part in the life of the nineteenth century soldier. Fifes, bugles, and drums told him when to wake up and when to go to sleep. They called him to drill and to dinner. Bands played him into battle. However, more importantly, music helped while away the long dreary house in camp. Prized were the soldier or laundress with musical talent, whether they played the banjo, bones, clarinets, jaw harp or could just carry a good tune. Familiar and popular songs brought memories of far away loved ones close.
The songs on this page either reflect events in the 1840s or were popular at the time period. When you click on a song title you will be taken to a seperate page that has the lyrics to the song printed on it.
The Mexican-American War
Soldiers stationed at Fort Scott left to fight in the Mexican-American War. The next piece on this page, "Strike For Your Rights, Avenge Your Wrongs," was written during the Mexican War. It is sung to the tune of "The Rose of Alabama," a popular song in the 1840s. With the outbreak of the war with Mexico in 1846, Americans were quick to take popular melodies and add new words to them. Such is the case with this piece. As Americans listened in rapt awe of the deed of Zachary Taylor’s little Army on the Rio Grande, this up-tempo melody seemed perfectly suited to a marching fight song. While the authors of this version are unknown, the original copy from which this transcript taken is from the "Rough and Ready Songster."
The lyrics tend to reinforce the idea of the war being a holy crusade to spread freedom. Note the next to the last verse is a ringing call for Manifest Destiny. Gallant Cross laid low refers to Quartermaster of the Army Col. Trueman Cross who was murdered by bandits near Ft. Texas in April of 1846. The jails of Santa Fe is of course a reference to the failed Santa Fe expedition organized by the Republic of Texas prior to Annexation. Marching on to Isabel is a reference to Taylor’s march to Isabel and the battles of Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma.
When singing the piece it is essential to pronounce the Grande in Rio Grande as, "Gran-Dee."
Tune and lyrics to Strike for Your Rights, Avenge Your Wrongs More information on Fort Scott in the Mexican War.
One of the heroes of the Mexican War was General Zachary Tayor, who commanded the invasion of northern Mexico. Taylor ran for and was elected President in 1848. As Taylor was a fairly popular officer, his election would have been to the liking of many of the soldiers at Fort Scott.
One song popular during Taylor's presidential campaign was, "Hurrah for Rough and Ready," sung to the tune of Old Dan Tucker.
On the heels of the Mexican-American War and the Election of 1848 came the California Gold Rush. Gold had been discovered in California in early 1848, but it took some time for the word to travel. In late 1848, President Polk declared reports of gold in California as being valid and the gold rush began the next year. Gold fever would have been prevalent among the soldiers at Fort Scott, as well as throughout the country. Many soldiers whose enlistments had expired headed to the gold fields, many whose hadn't deserted and went any way.
One of the more popular songs of the Gold Rush era was, "Sweet Betsy From Pike." Two more popular songs of the era that probably would have been sung at Fort Scott were Old Dan Tucker and Camptown Races
"Old Dan Tucker," was written in 1843 by Dan Emmett. It quickly became popular and was easy to play on musical instruments that the soldiers would have had at Fort Scott.
"Camptown Races," was written by Stephen Foster and published in 1850 under the title "Gwine to Run All Night." Horse racing was a popular sport at Fort Scott so this song probably would have been popular as well.
Part of the above text was taken from the Regimental Songbook page of the website for Co. A 7th Regiment United States Infantry Living History Association. Used by permission.