The Bonnie Blue Flag

Words by Harry McCarthy; to the tune of "The Irish Jaunting Car," 1861

According to this song, what issues eventually led to the secession and formation of the Confederacy?

The song refers to “rights” and “property.” What do you think these words mean?

What light does this shed on why soldiers might volunteer for the fight?

How does this song depict the motives of the South?

What is propaganda? Do you think this song is propaganda? Why or why not?

What role do symbols like a "Bonnie Blue Flag" play in a new nation like the Confederate States of America?

How important do you think songs like this were to the Southern cause?

What about the words and music makes this a good rallying song?

Which side do you think had the best songs and why?

"The Bonnie Blue Flag" performed by Bill Schustik on Sing for Me Tonight. Available on iTunes, Spotify, and YouTube.

Bill Schustik is an amateur historian as well as singer. His knowledge of history combined with his vocal and arranging talent result in historically informed renditions of important songs such as this. The voices that join in the chorus emphasize the pride felt by the entire group, who join in singing the last verse together. The addition of different instruments, such as flute and drum, sustains interest and provides variety through the several verses of the song.

View the lyrics for "The Bonnie Blue Flag."

View the published score.

Bonnie Blue Flag

The bonnie blue flag.

Harry McCarthy was an Irish-born variety entertainer and comedian who emigrated to the United States in 1849 and settled in Arkansas. "Bonnie Blue Flag" was premiered in Jackson, Mississippi, and ensured McCarthy's popularity as it celebrated the first Confederate flag. New verses were added to this southern propaganda number as new states joined the Confederacy and by the end of the war there were eleven different editions of this song in print. McCarthy fell into disfavor, however, when he left the South late in the war and moved to Philadelphia. "The Irish Jaunting Car," the melody of which provided the inspiration for "Bonnie Blue Flag," was probably familiar to McCarthy as a nationalistic song that celebrates the Irish and denounces war.


propaganda: Materials distributed by believers of a particular doctrine in hopes of swaying others to agree with their beliefs.

Other rally songs in this unit:

"John Brown's Body"

"Battle Hymn of the Republic"

"Marching Through Georgia"

"We Are Coming Father Abraam, 300,000 More"

How do these songs help explain the reasons for the war and the motives of each side?



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