Something for the weekend. Mister Here’s Your Mule! The Civil War had a great many comic songs and one of the best was Mister Here’s Your Mule which was popular with soldiers on both side. Written in 1862 by C.D. Benson, the song swiftly became a campfire favorite.
Something for the weekend. The Cumberland and The Merrimac, a song recalling the one sided engagement between the USS Cumberland and the CSS Virginia, (Merrimac) on March 8, 1862 which brought to an end the era when “the best of ships were still wooden ships, but the men were iron men“.
Something for the weekend. American Civil War Fantasy. Written in 1971 this piece attempts to convey the emotions of the Civil War. From a description of the composition: (more…)
Something for the weekend. Jim Bridger, Johnny Horton’s 1960 tribute to the mountain man. Bridger was the Zelig of the early West. There were few major events in the West between 1822-1868 that he wasn’t involved in. Raising two families with Indian women he married, his first wife dying in childbirth, Bridger was the first white man to set foot in various parts of the far West. Active in the fur trade, he founded Fort Bridger and at the age of 60 in 1864 he blazed the Bridger Trail from Wyoming to Montana. (more…)
Something for the weekend. Tennessee Ernie Ford gives a stirring rendition of the Marching Song of the First Arkansas Colored Regiment, one of the more famous endless variants of The Battle Hymn of the Republic. (more…)
Something for the weekend. Keep Cool and Keep Coolidge!, the campaign song of Calvin Coolidge in 1924. Although Coolidge is one of my favorite presidents, perhaps one of the most competent presidents the country has ever had, I think the campaign song is rather blah. I doubt if Silent Cal approved of it!
Something for the weekend. The intro to the movie Spartacus (1960), one of the best film intros, with a superb melding of the music and “Roman” statuary. I saw this film initially in 1967 when it was first broadcast on television and it awakened a lifelong love of ancient history in me.
The film is full of historical howlers, par for the course for Hollywood. Crassus, the richest man in Rome, was not a proto-Fascist dictator. Spartacus, who is a shadowy figure because the source material is sparse (only Plutarch’s Life of Crassus and a brief section in Appian’s Civil Wars), did not simply march to the sea to escape Italy with his liberated slaves, but marauded throughout Italy, defeating several Roman consular armies in the process. There was no Senator called Gracchus, magnificently portrayed in the film by Charles Laughton, who led the opposition to Crassus, and Crassus wasn’t interested in personal dictatorship in any event during the time he put down Spartacus and his slave army. The list of substantial factual errors in the film could go on for considerable length.
However, all that is beside the point. The film is a magnificent work of art, and it gets the atmosphere of the late Roman Republic right: old Roman morality being forgotten, a growth of decadence fueled by ever more wealth from foreign conquests, endless amounts of slaves flooding into Italy from the same foreign conquests, factions in the Senate engaging in what amounted to a cold civil war between bouts of hot civil war, the Roman Republican government teetering on the brink of military dictatorship, the movie presents all of these elements more clearly than any classroom lecture could.
At the time the film attracted attention because it, rightly, broke the Black List against Communists in Hollywood by listing Dalton Trumbo as the screenwriter. The movie was loosely based on the novel of the same name by former Hollywood Communist Howard Fast. (Fast quit the Communist Party in disgust after the Soviets crushed the Hungarian Uprising in 1956.) The leftist politics are fairly easily to discern with Crassus as a proto-Fascist dictator, howlingly anachronistic, and Spartacus and his slave followers as the revolting proletariat. It is a tribute to the quality of the film that this ham-fisted attempt at agit-prop fails to destroy the film. (more…)
Something for the weekend. A variant on Wait For the Wagon, The Southern Wagon, that was popular in the Confederacy, sung by Bobby Horton who has waged a one man campaign to bring Civil War music to modern audiences. Wait for the Wagon was published in 1850, although by whom is a matter for speculation as variants of the song appeared in different parts of the country in 1850-51 with different authors named. Here are the lyrics to The Southern Wagon: (more…)
Something for the weekend. The Ballad of the Green Mountain Boys, celebrating the exploits of the Vermont militia during the American Revolution. The Green Mountain Boys mustered again in the War of 1812, the Civil War and the Spanish American War. The Vermont National Guard today is informally known as The Green Mountain Boys.
Something for the weekend. The Battle Cry of Freedom was a popular Union song during the Civil War. It did not take long for the Confederates, who firmly also believed that they were fighting for freedom, to come up with their own version of the song. (more…)