The National Music of America - online book

The Sources & Factors Influential In Forming America's Music.

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252 The National Music of America.
It is a very old camp-meeting song, dating from at least 1856, and is said to have been used in Charleston, both in coloured churches and among the firemen, long before the Civil War. At the outbreak of the war the Second Battalion of Massachusetts's Infantry, famil­iarly known at that time as "The Tigers," received orders to occupy Fort Warren, in Boston Harbour, and to place it in as good a state of defence as possible. The company possessed a Glee Club, and from this club they had learned the Methodist hymn already given. It was just the kind of rhythmic song that would fit itself to lighten labour with pick and spade and wheelbarrow, and while entrenchments were being thrown up and the rubbish of the old fort carted away, the men sang the swingy tune.
Very soon they began to improvise verses of a less sacred character to the melody. It will be noticed that no rhyming ability was necessary for such improvisations, since the
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E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III