A Nation Remembers in Song During the Centennial

Bonus Material: Contrast this with Lyndon Johnson’s 1963 Memorial Day Address at Gettysburg. I have never heard of this before today. Check it out.

This is a fabulous film from 1963 of the U.S. Army Band and Chorus commemorating the Civil War Centennial.  The narrator makes it clear at the beginning that the “Union found itself split in two over the issue of states rights.”  There is not one mention of slavery or black Union soldiers exactly one hundred years later. Songs include “Down By The Riverside”, “When Johnny Comes Marching Home”, “We are Coming Father Abra’am”, “Lorena”, “Tenting On The Old Camp Ground”, “The Battle” (new music & spoken word piece), “In the Sweet By-and-By / The Army Bean”, “Yellow Rose of Texas”, “Bonnie Blue Flag”,”Home! Sweet Home!”, “Dixie” & “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”.

About the author: Thank you for taking the time to read this post. What next? Scroll down and join the discussion in the comments section. Looking for more Civil War content? You can follow me on Twitter. Check out my forthcoming book, Searching For Black Confederates: The Civil War’s Most Persistent Myth, which is the first book-length analysis of the black Confederate myth ever published. Pre-order your copy today.

7 comments… add one
  • Pat Young May 25, 2013 @ 2:30

    “War is hell” is a masterpiece of understatement?

  • Christine M. Smith May 25, 2013 @ 5:21

    First of all, I’m old enough to remember “The Big Picture”, and hadn’t thought of it in years! Seems it was an program sponsored by the U.S. Army, but I’m short on detais. Second, I am reminded of those recordings of Union and Confederate music which were put out by Capitol Records about this same time. They were so very properly sung, by chorus and trained singers, but they are also where I got my first real taste of CW music. I have them on CD now. (And, if anyone cares, Bill Hayes is in his 80’s, still singing and performing the last I heard, with his wife Susan Seaforth Hayes. He went on to become part of one of the first soap opera “super couples” with her on “Days of Our Lives”, and they still have recurring roles on the program I understand.) This is a true “period piece”, and while it doesn’t reflect the historical environment of the music, as it would today probably, it was still an attempt to honor the Centennial and those who fought. And, as I tell my students, every argument for what caused the South to go to war can almost always be traced right back to slavery, so just say slavery and get on with it. It is the crux of social, economic, and states rights issues often argued as “why they fought”.

  • Brendan Bossard May 25, 2013 @ 9:22

    Context is everything in this case. I don’t blame the organizers of the concert for avoiding a political land mine. Concerts are not the place for political debate. LBJ, on the other hand, was speaking as the VP of the United States. It was his job to face the unvarnished truth.

    • Kevin Levin May 25, 2013 @ 11:01

      I don’t blame anyone either.

  • TF Smith May 26, 2013 @ 9:23

    Interesting that “The Battle Cry of Freedom” didn’t make the list; presumably “down with the traitor” would have hit to close to home…

  • TF Smith May 26, 2013 @ 9:35

    PLus LBJ gives a hell of a speech – and coming from a Texan, there’s a tang to it that is quietly and quintessentially “American”…

    And to give him his due, he did wear the uniform and take the oath; more than a lot of his peers did.

  • popsbarker Aug 4, 2013 @ 15:52

    It was a pleasure to see this movie and to remember the “labor” involved: all week in a studio in NYC to make 28min 34sec of film for the movie. If you’re interested, I’m the tall fellow in the “Union” quartet. Seeing all of the members of The Band and The Chorus was a lot of fun. Since that was 50 years ago, many of the guys are no longer with us. Thank you to whoever put the webpg together.

Now that you've read the post, share your thoughts.