“The Heart of the Nation”: The Significance of Music in the American Civil War

Main Article Content

Louis William Reed-Wood


Music and lyrics are valuable for studying the values and opinions of a historical era. This article uses historical lyric sheets from the American Civil War to examine the impact of music on the mindsets of both civilians and soldiers, their ability to cope with the war’s hardships, and their emotional motivation to press on. Music reinforced existing Christian beliefs, as well as each side’s justifications for war. It also served as a way of expressing one’s feelings about the war, slavery, secession, and other contemporary issues. Many individuals were directly employed through music, working either in the wartime publishing industry or as regimental musicians. Music also proved a useful tactical tool, allowing commanders to control the movements of their troops and to garner information about enemy troops’ activities. For these reasons, the study of music during the Civil War is far more than simply the study of wartime entertainment.