The Debt; I Have Enlisted for the Army, My Name is “Bob’; I Want to be a Soldier; Yankee Volunteer

The war saw large numbers of ballads produced as recruitment propaganda and moral boosting songs on both sides, including “We are coming father Abraham,” rapidly written in response to Abraham Lincoln’s call to arms in 1862. Most successful on the Union side was “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” written by Julia Ward Howe in 1862, using an existing tune that had been used as a hymn and soldier’s song.

Some ballads were written to give a personal touch to the propaganda. “I Want to be a Soldier” uses simple language to give incentives to fight. It names prominent figures such as Confederate president Jefferson Davis and General P.G.T. Beauregard, and singles out “traitors” as targets for violence.  This was used as a means to rally recruits who shared a common desire for vengeance.

“The Yankee Volunteer” and “I Have Enlisted” show two men more than willing to provide for the war effort. “The Yankee Volunteer” offers his service to fight while his father can provide food for the troops from his farm. His sister and brother are also both eager to serve even though they are not able to enlist. “I Have Enlisted” is the story of “Bob” who escaped a trade, being bound “to a dirty Snob” to fight his “way to glory.”

Civil War Ballads Gallery

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