[Songs of the American Civil War] [Copperheads]

Handwritten Civil War Union Soldiers Hymn (Parody) and Shape-Note Manuscript

Intriguing musical manuscript penned on July 4, 1863, a date many consider to be the turning point of the American Civil War. Luzerne Township, Fayette County [Pennsylvania]. One leaf, apparently disbound. Various hands.

Recto: Title "Life's Harvest / Sentimental department / Stereotyped edition [pasted in: 'Motto: The Union must be preserved'] Hieroglyphical shapes [...] / Systematically patented scientifically illustrated dedicated and arranged expressly." Date: July 4, 1863. Header followed by Isaac Woodbury's 1850 hymn "Nearer to Me" (not identified or credited here). Musical notation in shape notes, one staff, G clef, C major; first two stanzas of text, "Ho reapers of Life's Harvest..." and "Thrust in your sharpened sickle..." More words to foot of page (no continuation of the hymn) mostly faded and difficult to decipher; final line: "Luzerne Township Fayette County."

Verso: Text of "Union Soldiers' Song," to be sung to the tune of "John Brown." Text of first six stanzas, in which each line begins with the words "Tell Abe Lincoln," is identical with the "White Soldier's Song" published by the daily The Liberator, Boston, March 27, 1863, p. 1. One extra stanza, beginning, "Tell the Abolitionists...," added to the end; as the ink has faded, it is mostly illegible. The song is an anti-war song asking President Lincoln to stop the Civil War from a typical racist, quasi-Confederate point of view; the third stanza reads: "Tell Abe Lincoln to let the [N-word] be / Tell Abe Lincoln that we don't want him free / Tell Abe Lincoln that to this he did agree." The Liberator comments: "The... parody is being sown broadcast by the Copperheads of Connecticut in aid of Col. Tom Seymour's election."

12 x 7.5 inches (30.5 x 19.2 cm). Edges frayed, especially to (former) gutter. Repair with plastic tape to verso of (former) gutter.

July 4, 1863, was the day when the Confederate Army capitulated at Vicksburg, Mississippi. The day before, the Confederates under General Lee had been defeated in the Battle of Gettysburg. Thomas H. "Tom" Seymour (1807-1868), formerly governor of Connecticut, ran for the U.S. presidency as a Democrat in 1860 and 1863, but lost the nomination to General George B. McClellan. (9667)

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