The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
VOLUME XVI. Early National Literature, Part II; Later National Literature, Part I.

II. Poets of the Civil War I

§ 14. Songs of the Soldiers

In the armies themselves the most popular verses were naturally less fine than those which have chiefly been remembered as the poetic fruits of the war. It was to furnish more worthy words to the tune of John Brown’s Body that Julia Ward Howe wrote her noble poem The Battle Hymn of the Republic, but the words proved too fine to suit the soldiers, who would not sing of “grapes of wrath” or “the beauty of the lilies.” They preferred instead such pieces as Three Hundred Thousand More, Marching Through Georgia, and The Year of Jubilee, which have been already mentioned, the equally favoured The Battle Cry of Freedom, Tramp, Tramp, Tramp, and Just Before the Battle, Mother, of George Frederick Root, and Walter Kittredge’s Tenting on the Old Camp Ground. Now forgotten, but famous in its day, was William B. Bradbury’s Marching Along, most frequently sung by soldiers of the Army of the Potomac. The song perhaps most frequently heard from soldiers of both sides in the conflict was When This Cruel War Is Over by C. C. Sawyer. In the Northern version “blue” rhymes with “true”; with cheerful unconcern for the rhyme, the Southerners substituted “gray.” This song was sentimental, without poetic merit or rhythm, without even a trick of melody to recommend it, but it voiced the eager longing for peace and was heard in every camp many times every day. Other popular songs were the Song of the Soldiers by Halpine and

  • I’d rather be a soldier,
  • A tramping, camping soldier
  • by John Savage.