Song of the Southern Volunteers


Who seems to be singing this song?

How well do you think this song reflects the young women’s feelings about the war and sending someone off to fight?

How well do you think this song reflects the young women's feelings about the war? …about sending someone off to war?

Does it sound like she has a boyfriend in the army now? How differently do you think she might have felt if her boyfriend or fiancé was volunteering?

How do you think people at home might deal with conflicting feelings of patriotism and concern for men joining the army?

This song was written in 1861. What was going on in the war at that time? By the end of the war, how might this song have changed?

What difference does popular opinion make during a war?

Can you think of a time in American history when a war was unpopular with people at home? How might this song be different if it had been written during an unpopular war like Vietnam?

"Song of the Southern Volunteers" performed by Dear Friends on Songs of the Blues and the Grays, Pittsburgh: Thomas Studios [TS8710], provided courtesy of Thomas Studios, © 1987. Used by permission.

The recommended rendition is by Dear Friends, recorded in 1986 during a live performance of songs of the Civil War.

View the lyrics and music for "Song of the Southern Volunteers."

This song is an adaptation of an original English ballad, "Soldier Boy for Me," as collected by Cecil Sharp in 1918 in the Appalachian mountains (printed in English Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians, vol. 2, No. 272). Sharp noted two different versions of this song. The second version most closely resembles the melody of "Song of the Southern Volunteers," while the first has a very similar text. The difference in the melodies is not surprising since melodies often changed when new words were added.

Another version of the same song was found in the Mississippi Valley by Arthur Palmer Hudson (published in Folksongs of the Mississippi, 1936) with a different title and perspective. Entitled "I Would Not Be Alone," Palmer's text de-emphasizes marriage and stresses "I wouldn't be alone, I wouldn't be alone, I wouldn't be alone to weep and moan." A song about occupations (the singer would not marry alternatively a blacksmith, doctor, or farmer), it was easily adapted by southerners to persuade more young men to volunteer for the war in "Song of the Southern Volunteers."Southern "Volunteers" [New York?] Published by Currier & Ives, [1862?]

conscript vs. volunteer: conscripts were drafted or compulsorily enlisted for military service. Volunteers, as their name implied, enlisted for the army of their own free will.

Southrons: Southerners.

belle: a privileged, young, white Southern woman.

Compare this song to:

"The Cruel War" (1960s version of the Civil War ballad) and "Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye" (in this unit). Both are sung from the woman's point of view.



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