How the US Civil War Influenced Music

Though music had become ubiquitous in American life even before the Civil War, the conflict between North and South launched it to new heights of importance.

For the more than 3 million soldiers who joined the Union and Confederate armies from 1861-65, music provided a backdrop for their daily activities, lifted their spirits ahead of challenging battles and kept up much-needed morale as the war dragged on. For those on the home front, the music that emerged from the conflict served as a link to their loved ones, and eventually worked its way into the fabric of American life.

Soldiers played a huge role in popularizing songs during the Civil War. Both Union and Confederate regiments would play and sing as they marched and in their camps, spreading their chosen songs to the communities they encountered around the country. In addition to the large military bands assigned to army units, smaller groups of field musicians played instruments such as fifes, drums and bugles to accompany the troops in their daily activities—from wakeup and roll call to drills and marches to light’s out—and even during battle. According to some estimates, the total number of military musicians who served during the war reached nearly 54,000.

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