One of the many reasons I enjoy writing historical western romance novels and short stories is the research involved to make sure all the historical details are accurate—or at the very least, reasonably accurate. In a story I’ve been working on, I have a scene in which the heroine has a mental image of someone stomping about in heavy boots while singing a marching-type song.
Battle Hymn of the Republic, John Brown’s Body, and When Johnny Comes Marching Home immediately came to mind, but they weren’t quite right. (Then I couldn’t think of any other songs because all three had achieved earworm status.)
I realized, though, these songs shared a common thread: the American Civil War. Since my heroine was in her twenties then, she would have known the songs of that time period. So I did a Google search and hit pay dirt right off with a song I should have thought of on my own—Battle Cry of Freedom. Great. I had my song, and I finished writing the scene.
My research could have ended there, but I have a tendency to tumble down research rabbit holes, especially if there’s even the slightest chance trivia will turn up.
So here's a little Battle Cry of Freedom trivia:
- George Frederick Root, an American composer, wrote Battle Cry of Freedom (aka Rally ‘Round the Flag') in 1862 to support the Union cause.
- H. L. Schreiner (composer) and W. H. Barnes (lyricist) adapted the song for the Confederacy.
- Root's version was modified as the campaign song for Lincoln/Garfield for the 1864 presidential election.
- Garfield used the song during his campaign in 1880.
- Composer Louis Moreau Gottschalk suggested it should be America’s national anthem.
- Composer Charles Ives referenced the song in his song, “They are There”.
- Ken Burns (known for documentaries) referenced the song in “The Civil War” documentary.
- Film composer John Williams incorporated the song into the soundtrack of the movie “Lincoln”.
- The 1939 film “Young Mister Lincoln” starring Henry Fonda and directed by John Ford has the song sung during the opening credits.
References and further reading:
McWhirter, Christian L. (July 27, 2012). "Birth of the 'Battle Cry'". The New York Times. New York. Retrieved January 11, 2016. (http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/07/27/birth-of-the-battle-hymn/?_r=2)
Until next time,
Writing the West one romance at a time