Marching Through Georgia

Henry Clay Work, 1864

From whose point of view is this song being sung? What was happening in the War when this song was written in 1864? Why? Who is singing this song? During what event does the song take place?

What words would you use to describe the mood of this song? How would you feel singing this song with a company of soldiers on the march? What makes this song a "rallying song"? How does the rhythm of the song contribute to this feeling? March rhythm.

What does "jubilee" mean? Who are they bringing the jubilee to? Enslaved people.

How would the following people feel singing this song?

 

 

 

•A soldier marching with Sherman's troops;
•A veteran at a reunion;
•A family singing at a parlor piano. (What if the family had someone in the service?)

How might each of the following people feel listening to this song:

 

     

     

•A freed slave;
•A Union prisoner of war;
•A Confederate war widow;
•An Atlanta shopkeeper.

Did Georgians feel that Sherman's troops were bringing the "Jubilee"? What words might they use instead?

How well do you think this song describes the reality of Sherman's March to the Sea for both sides?


"Marching Through Georgia" performed by Tennessee Ernie Ford on Tennessee Ernie Ford Sings Songs of the Civil War, Hollywood, CA: Capitol Records [CDP7957052], © 1991. Available on Spotify and YouTube. The same recording on a different album is available on iTunes.

Tennessee Ernie Ford (1919–91) began his radio career as an announcer at station WOPI in Bristol, leaving in 1939 to study classical music and voice at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. After serving in World War II, Ford worked at radio stations in San Bernardino and Pasadena, California, before signing a recording contract with Capitol Records in 1949. He released almost 50 country singles through the early 1950s, several of which made the charts, and took over from bandleader Kay Kyser as host of the NBC quiz show College of Musical Knowledge.

View the lyrics for "Marching Through Georgia."

View the published score.

Henry Clay Work

Image of Henry Clay Work from The Songs of Henry Clay Work (1884).

Henry Clay Work was a printer as well as a composer with strong abolitionist sentiments dating back to his childhood in Illinois, where his father maintained one of the stations on the Underground Railroad.

"Marching Through Georgia" celebrated Sherman's devastating march that divided Georgia and represented the first example of "total warfare." What the modern listener to Work's brisk tune and triumphant words may not appreciate is the bitterness the piece inspired in Southerners even years after the war.

Compare this song to other rallying songs:

"The Bonnie Blue Flag,"

"Battle Hymn of the Republic,"

"John Brown's Body,"

"Dixie's Land."

"Over There"

Jubilee: An occasion of joyful celebration or general rejoicing; the Biblical year for releasing slaves; the Emancipation.

darkeys: patronizing slang for African Americans.

[Note to teacher] Have the class sing a rousing version of the song as if they are Union troops on the march. Then distribute at random slips of paper with the roles listed above on them. Sing it again, asking each to stay "in character." Continue role-playing to let students interact as these characters might during Sherman's March to the Sea.

 

 

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