Patriotic Sheet Music

Immediately after the attack on Fort Sumter, a tidal wave of flag imagery swept the Northern home front. The flag provided a symbol that was obvious and timely, as well as easy to produce and recognize. Its message was one of national unity, hope, and ultimate triumph, even during the darkest days of the war.

“Flag mania” penetrated every genre of northern visual culture, including magazines, books, stationery, jewelry, and other media. Most ubiquitous was the icon of the American flag that appeared on sheet music covers with titles such as The Bonnie Flag with the Stripes and Stars and Song of a Thousand Years. Broadsides decorated with red, white, and blue borders commanded northerners to Stand by the Flag or to Unfurl the Glorious Banner. These everyday objects enabled those at home to display their patriotic sentiments and to express their support for soldiers on the front.

Battle Cry of Freedom

George F. Root, Battle Cry of Freedom
Chicago: Root & Cady, 1862
Newberry Case sheet music M1. A13 no. 2785
Gift of the family of James Francis Driscoll

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Battle Cry of Freedom, audio

One of the firm’s most successful songwriters was Henry Clay Work, whose Song of a Thousand Years is shown here.

Song of a Thousand Years

Henry C. Work, Song of a Thousand Years Chicago: Root & Cady, 1863 Newberry VM 1497 M.67 v. 1

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Song of a Thousand Years, audio

The Bonnie Flag with the Stripes and Stars is a direct and forceful challenge to the Union’s southern foes. The third verse reads:

We do not want your Cotton, we care not for your slaves
But rather than divide this land, we'll fill your southern graves
With Lincoln for our Chieftain, we'll wear our country’s scars
We rally round that brave old flag, that bears the Stripes and Stars!

The Bonnie Flag with the Stripes and Stars

James Lorraine Geddes, The Bonnie Flag with the Stripes and Stars
Saint Louis: Balmer & Weber, 1863
Newberry sheet music VM 1640 .G29b

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The Bonnie Flag with the Stripes and Stars, audio