Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Music During the Civil War

By Paisley Kirkpatrick
Music can be a peacemaker of sorts. At least during the Civil War it had a way of bonding the conflicting troops.
Before the fall of Atlanta, the brass band of Major Arthur Shoaff's battalion of the Georgia Sharpshooters gave their expert cornetist to the cause. Each evening after supper, the musician went to the front lines and played for the Confederates along the entrenchments. When firing was heavy, he would disappear.
"Hey, Johnny!" Across the lines, Federal pickets would shout. "We want that corner player."
"He would play, but he's afraid you'll spoil his horn," the major would reply.
"We'll hold our fire."
"All right, Yanks."
The cornetist would then mount the works and play solos from operas and sing tunes like Come Where My Love Lies Dreaming and I Dreamt I Dwelt in Marble Halls in a fine tenor voice.
Colonel James Cooper Nisbet, who was on hand, never forgot the scene. "How the Yanks would applaud! They also had a good cornet player who would alternate with our man."
Once the concert was over, the battle would resume.
According to Webster's Dictionary 1911, the short model traditional cornet was also known as a Shepherd's Crook shaped model.
The cornet is a brass instrument similar to the trumpet, but distinguished from it by its conical bore, more compact shape, and mellower tone quality. The most common cornet is a transposing instrument in B♭, though there is also a soprano cornet in E♭. Both are unrelated to the renaissance and early baroque cornet.
The Civil War, Strange & Fascinating Facts, by Burke Davis author of Gray Fox.


  1. Paisley,

    You took me on a pleasant stroll down memory lane. My maternal grandpa was a cornet player. Thank your for sharing this Civil War tidbit.

    1. Nice, Kaye. To me, I felt the pain the soldiers in the Civil War had having to shoot to kill. It was a sad time in our history.

  2. When I think of music during the American Civil War I think of Stephen Foster. Everything he wrote was so memorable. I always have liked the way Ken Burns included music of the period in his series about the Civil War.
    I liked your account of how the two sides would come together to play music and then go back to fighting. It would have broken my heart to kill a musician I had just played with minutes before the battle. So much about that war is just heartrending.
    Such a lovely blog, Paisley.

    1. Thank you, Sarah. Sometimes I feel we forget the agony of fighting brother against brother at times. To enjoy a few moments of music in such tragedy....

  3. An unforgettable piece. Thank you, Paisley.

    1. Thank you, Arletta. It moved me a well, It proves music is a great healer.


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