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Civil War music

Civil War music — ”Songs of the Civil War,” ”Waltz of the Wind,” and more albums feature the simple, minimalist tunes from the battlefields

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The songs of the Civil War — ”Dixie,” for instance, and ”The Battle Hymn of the Republic” — had to be simple: They were performed at home or at campfires with minimal accompaniment. Some were wildly popular. George Frederick Root wrote ”Rally ‘Round the Flag Boys” in the summer of 1862, responding to Lincoln’s calls for more troops, and by fall more than 500,000 copies of the sheet music were in print.

These days, collections of Civil War music are harder to find. The Civil War centennial inspired several albums, but they’ve been relegated to used-record stores. A more recent effort, Songs of the Civil War ($15.98 from New World Records), has just been reissued. On it are plain, starched-collar renditions of such songs as ”Tenting on the Old Camp Ground” and ”When Johnny Comes Marching Home.”

Music from PBS’ The Civil War, a mix of old and new songs, will be out on a soundtrack album by Christmas. The show’s theme music is a 1984 tune by Fiddle Fever from its Waltz of the Wind album (Flying Fish Records, $15.98). The label received more than 300 calls after the series aired. ”We’ve had artists on Letterman, Arsenio, and The Tonight Show,” says a spokesman. ”But we’ve never had a response like this.”