Rush the Growler

SONGS OF GETTYSBURG- 2018

In August of  2018, Scott and Brian spent a weekend in one of their favorite places in the world- Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.  It seems that there are many songs that have a particular connection to a regiment that was at Gettysburg and many of these units have a Western New York connection. A lot happened that weekend, but for a large part of the trip, we were focused on performing and recording Civil War music at various places around the battlefield.   We played a bunch of pieces at appropriate spots on the battlefield and wanted to share the resulting videos here.  They aren't all great performances, but we are proud of what we did there any way because we are proud of what they did here.

First Day of the Battle- July 1st 1863

#1.  "The Battle Cry of Freedom"- at the 9th NY Cavalry Monument

This song is the perfect song to start with.  It is the quintessential song of the Union soldier and was extremely popular with the men in the army.  According to their regimental history, some of the men in the 9th New York Cavalry first heard the song on their way through Gettysburg on the way to where the battle was to be.  That same regimental history says that Corporal Alpheus Hodges fired the first shot of the battle.  Although that story was challenged by the 8th Illinois Cavalry, the moment is depicted on the 9th NY's monument.

#2. "Morgenrot "-  45th NY Inf. and 74th PA Inf. monuments

The 11th Corps, which saw its largest engagement on the first day of the battle, was made up largely of German immigrants.  "Morgenrot"  is a Napoleonic era song that was enormously popular with the German troops.  We only perform the first verse here- once in German and once in English.  

Historian James S. Pula wrote that on the night before the battle, General Schurz ordered the German band of the 45th NY to play  After their performance of patriotic songs, marches, and polkas, the German soldiers around their campfires began singing "Morgenrot."   [James S. Pula, The Sigel Regiment: A History of the 26th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry, 1862-1865, p 157]

The dramatic statue of the nearby 74th Pennsylvania is also included here.  It is based on the classical sculpture called "The Dying Gaul."

 We only perform the first verse here- once in German and once in English.  To hear a better recording of the rest of this song, and for more information about it, see our German Songs page.

#3. "Army Song of the Cattaraugus Boys"- at the 154th NY Inf. monument

This song was written in 1862 by Sgt. J. Byron Brown of this regiment.  Eight of its ten companies were from Cattaraugus County and the remainder were from Chautauqua County.  This song helped inspire Scott's interest in Civil War music in the first place because this was the regiment that his great-great-grandfather fought in.  The song's opening line, "A song for our own," gave us the title for our collection of songs by, for and about the 154th New York.

#4.  "Children of the Battlefield"- at the 154th New York Inf. monument

The 154th New York was engaged north of town on the 1st day of battle, trying to help cover the retreat of the 11th Corps, of which it was part.  After that fight, one unknown soldier was found clutching a picture of his three children.  After circulating the picture throughout the North, he was eventually identified as Sgt. Amos Humiston of the 154th NY.  The story of him and his family inspired several poems and songs, the most famous of which is this one.

Second Day of the Battle- July 2nd, 1863

#5. "Abraham's Daughter"- at the 73rd NY monument

Although we perform it as an instrumental here, the war-time words to the song are about joining the Fire Zouaves to "fight for Abraham's Daughter" (the Union).  The first Fire Zouaves were the 11th NY Inf., but the 73rd NY was the Second Fire Zouaves.  The 73rd NY was recruited from among New York City's firemen, which explains the statue of the fireman who accompanies the soldier on this monument.  The monument is located near the Peach Orchard on the southern part of the battlefield.

#6. "Dixieland"  a.k.a. "Kilrain"- at the 20th Maine Infantry monument

The 20th Maine is one of the best known regiments that fought at Gettysburg, to a large part because of the post-war writing of its colonel, Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain.  A fictional version of the story of the regiment was included in the novel The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara, which in turn inspired the movie Gettysburg, which included Jeff Daniels as Col. Chamberlain.  This song is a recent composition by Steve Earle.

The character of Kilrain was a composite character, and there was no one by that name in the original regiment.  In fact, his name is probably taken from the first syllables of the words "Killer Angels."  In the movie, he was played by Kevin Conway.  

#7. "Ellsworth Avengers" at the 44th New York Infantry monument

The young Col. Elmer Ellsworth (of the 11th NY Infantry, the "Fire Zouaves") was one of the first major Union casualties of the war.  He was shot dead after he had removed a rebel flag from the roof of a building in Alexandria, Virginia.  His martyrdom inspired many enlistments across the North.  The 44th New York was called the "Ellsworth Avengers" and was formed in his memory.  The regiment was supposed to include members from every county in the state of New York.  Perhaps that is why it has one of the largest regimental monuments on the battlefield, very visible at the crest of Little Round Top.

#8. "The Minstrel Boy"- at the NYIrish Brigade monument

This song was one of the favorites of the Irish soldiers in the Civil War.  We perform this song as an instrumental at the New York Irish Brigade monument, which stands at the edge of the Wheatfield.  It was erected by the three New York regiments from that brigade- the 63rd NY, 69th NY, and the 88th NY Infantries.  The monument features an Irish wolfhound.  

#9. "Honest Pat Murphy of the Irish Brigade"- at the 116th PA and 28th Mass. Inf. monuments

This war-time song tells the fictionalized story of "Pat Murphy," a soldier who fought in the Irish Brigade.   The brigade included the 63rd NY, 69th NY, and the 88th NY (mentioned above) as well as the 116th Pennsylvania and the 28th Massachusetts.   The brigade had been devastated by the hard fighting it experienced in earlier battles like Antietam and Fredericksburg.  At Gettysburg, this undersized brigade fought through the infamous Wheatfield to the location of this monument group.

The statue of Father William Corby is also featured in this video.  Corby was the chaplain of the brigade, and as their part in the day's fighting was about to begin, hegave final absolution to the brigade's many Catholics (and some Protestants) who were about to sacrifice their lives in the cause of the Union.

#10 "The Vacant Chair"- the 64th NY Inf. monument and Capt. Henry Fuller monument

Our affection for the 154th NY is known.  Their sister regiment, also largely from Cattaraugus County, is the 64th New York infantry.   We wanted to do something at their monument, but we didn't know of a specific song that was associated with the regiment.*  We chose an instrumental version of the war-time song, "The Vacant Chair."

"The Vacant Chair" seemed appropriate, because among the dead of the 64th's fight in the Rose Woods was Captain Henry Fuller.  The stone marking where he fell is in a secluded and hard-to-find spot, and there have been times when Scott has looked for it and been unable to find it.  Still, it is a cherished site for us, and well-remembered by our re-enacting comrades in the Excelsior Mess.   Fuller himself is now buried in the cemetery in Little Valley, NY.  Rest in peace. 

(* If we were to do this again, Scott would sing his version of "Our Dead Comrades," which uses the poem that was originally read at the monument''s dedication.  When we took this trip, Scott had not yet set it to music.  Perhaps we'll post a version of it here in the future.)  

#11- "Dis Battery ist Unser"- at the monument forWiedrich's Battery

Michael Wiedrich, himself an immigrant from German-speaking Alsace, led a unit made almost entirely of German immigrants who had moved to Buffalo, NY.  Their artillery battery became designated as Battery I, 1st New York Light Artillery, but it was commonly referred to as Wiedrich's Battery, after its captain.  These artillerymen saw heavy fighting on East Cemetery Hill, where their monument is.  A rebel regiment known as the Louisiana Tigers nearly drove the Germans from their guns, but the Germans fought hand-to-hand until they were saved by arriving Union regiments.  According to on story, a rebel officer declared, "This battery is ours!" just as he arrived at the guns.  "Nein!" a German from Wiedrich's battery is supposed to have replied.  "Dis battery ist unser!" (i.e., "This battery is ours!")

Because of the battery's connection to Buffalo, we wanted to do a song here, but couldn't find an appropriate one that was connected to it.  So Scott wrote one himself.  One account in their regimental history says that "Marching Through Georgia" was played by the bands when this monument was dedicated.  That song didn't seem appropriate, but  Scott took its melody and wrote his own lyrics the morning that this video was made.

Third Day of the Battle- July 3rd, 1863

#12- "Mother Kissed Me in My Dream"- at the 86th New York Infantry

This song was supposed to have been based on words said by a dying soldier after he had been wounded at the battle of Antietam in 1862.  

According to at least one account, a soldier from the 86th New York Infantry was heard singing this song somewhere near this monument in the Wheatfield on the morning of July 3rd.  Imagine that scene here, with dead and wounded from the previous day's bloody fight still laying in the wheat and among the stones.  It is one of several pieces of music that are said to have been performed while the battle was in progress. 

Scott will be the first to admit that there are a few errors in the way he sings the melody here and he did not choose the best key to try to sing it in.  However, he had discovered this song shortly before this trip, and the story behind it was so powerful, he had to at least attempt it while we were there.

#13 "Kathleen Mavourneen"- by several monuments associated with Generals Hancock and Armistead

It is true that many soldiers found themselves fighting old friends in this war, and it was especially true for officers who had attended West Point together or served in the pre-war army in Mexico or the West.  Union General Winfield Scott Hancock and rebel General Louis Armistead were known to be friends.  According to one story, at the last gathering that they were able to attend as comrades, someone sang the Irish ballad, "Kathleen Mavourneen."  The story is recalled in the novel Killer Angels, as well as in the movie Gettysburg which was made from it. 

That song will now always be associated with these two leaders, whose men would fight each other in the climax of the battle, known as Pickett's Charge.  Both men were shot.  Armistead was mortally wounded, and Hancock was inflicted with a wound that would cause him pain for years.  The two markers show that they would have been within sight of each other when this happened, but with the chaos of the battle all around them, they would not have known.

Once again, Scott didn't choose the best key for this song, but it was something we were going to have to do.  The rainbow at the end of this video came out just as we were ending the recording of this song at Hancock's equestrian statue on East Cemetery Hill.  It felt like someone was approving of our performance in spite of its weaknesses.


#14 "Garryowen"- at the Michigan Cavalry Brigade monument

The cavalry fight that came after "Pickett's Charge" on July 3rd is an often overlooked part of the battlefield, and it's location is not often visited.  We chose to play an instrumental version of "Garryowen" here because it was said to be General George A. Custer's favorite and will forever be associated with him and his cavalrymen.  Custer would die ignominiously fighting Native Americans in the West, but at the time of the Civil War, was seen as a heroic young leader.

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