Just a brief note – it most definitely will be out on Monday, but I just can’t get it done and scheduled early today.
Thanks for your interest! I hope you enjoying reading these weekly posts as much as I enjoy putting them together.
In the meantime, here are some Civil War songs, generally from a Northern viewpoint.
And from the Southern point of view, too!
A little more about “Oh, Susanna!”
Both sides knew “Oh, Susanna!” well, per Jonathan Bernstein:
In 1847, the country is growing up, too. “Oh! Susanna” is the story of a country coming to terms with itself and its problems. If the minstrel song does little to subvert or challenge the many traditional blackface tropes it contains, there’s a pointed reason the singer is having such a hard time getting to Louisiana. In 1847, traveling, restlessness, and a yearning for movement are all improbable luxuries for the assumedly enslaved narrator, and he’s faced with the consequences and punishments of leaving. He’s faced with violence and death, confusion and terror, detours and failures, and by the end of just the second verse it’s unclear whether he’ll make it out alive. There’s still a long way to go.
Perhaps that’s why both Confederate and Union soldiers would sing “Oh! Susanna” during the Civil War, when the country’s two halves never felt further from each other and when the nation’s future looked as hard and bleak as the journey to Susanna. The Union sang a song about Southern place and pride (“I says, I’se coming from de souf,” the singer boasts) while Confederates sang a song championing a runaway slave as they fought and died for the right to preserve the plantation. “It rained all night the day I left, the weather it was dry. The sun so hot froze I froze to death.” Both sides, North and South, reassured themselves about what it’d be like to finally reunite with a happier time, they reassured each other that everything would be all right. “Susanna, don’t you cry,” they must have sung.