Educator's Guide: The Arts: Singing Soldiers


Spending very little time in battle, the average Civil War soldier had a lot of time on his hands. As a result, music became a favorite form of recreation for men in gray and blue. Many soldiers on leaving home for the war took violins, guitars, flutes and other musical instruments with them. They entertained their comrades at camp or on board ship with informal concerts. But music was more than just a pastime: it gave the men c way to express their emotions and moods. Singing helper to relieve boredom from the daily routine of camp or shipboard life; it helped to combat fatigue and weariness c the long march; and gave the men courage in battle. There were patriotic songs; songs about soldiering life; tender ballads to express feelings for a loved one; and songs that reflected domestic life. The music of North and South was a mixture of Negro spirituals, gospel tunes, minstrel songs and folk songs. Both sides borrowed each others music and changed the lyrics to express an opposing point of view. It was not uncommon for Confederate and Union bands to compete with one another on the field of battle! Although the Civil War divided the country, the men who fought could sympathize with one another and achieved spiritual oneness through their mutual love of music.


Make copies of the songs provided and pass out to students. Read through the lyrics and discuss the meaning of the songs with the students. Have pianist, if available, play through the songs to familiarize students with the tunes. Have students sing the songs along with the music. After students have sung all the songs, you may want to divide the group in half. One half will be "Yankees" the other half will be "Rebels". Since the "Bonnie Blue Flag" and "Battle Cry of Freedom" have "northern" and "southern" versions, the students can compete with one another to see which side delivers the best rendition.

Classroom Activities:

  • Music
  • Social Studies


  • K- 12


Students will sing songs that were sung by Union and Confederate soldiers during the Civil War. Older students will be able to discuss the meaning of the Civil War songs and define the term "musical borrowing"

Materials: Copies of songs from masters provided: Musical accompaniment if available. Note: Civil War musical tapes are available for check-out at Vicksburg National Military Park if music teacher is not available.

Songs Provided:

1. "The Bonnie Blue Flag"

2. "The Bonnie Blue Flag (With the Stripes and Stars)"

3. "Battle Cry of Freedom" - Northern Version

4. "Battle Cry of Freedom" - Southern Version

5. "A Life On The Vicksburg Bluffs"

6. "Aura Lee"

7. "When Johnny Comes Marching Home"

8. "Goober Peas"

Last updated: April 14, 2015

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