Dulcimer Music for Civil War Songs

byron ed

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Mar 22, 2017
Location
Midwest
Yes, "close-enough" is the very hallmark of mainstream reenacting, and mainstream reenacting is great precisely because it is so inclusive. Having campfire music is better than not having campfire music.

But a fair question might be: If you're selecting an instrument for Civil War reenacting why not start with an authentic thing, one that was actually and commonly in use by soldiers? If only on behalf the 'taters and the newbys. Authentic choices are gut-string banjos and guitars, concertinas, fiddles and jaw-harps (if nothing else). And for rhythm add a set of bones. Several of these are as easy as lap dulcimer at the beginner stage.

Now to set aside all niceties and passes: on campaign dulcimers (either type) were statistically insignificant, as were mandolins. That a few could have existed in the U.S. is the best you can authentically claim, until some quantity of period accounts come to light that indicate otherwise. And lately some good evidence has been recovered that harmonicas were not a thing either.*



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* Apparently known battlefield-dug harmonica reeds have turned out to be post-war patterns, that instrument becoming so popular after the war that they were carried -- and lost -- everywhere. They only began to be imported by music stores by the end of the war, so that is the best you can claim there, though I admit it's reenactor sacrilege to say that. The hobby from the start has been endemic with campfire and battle-pause harmonica playing!
 
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Jay W.

Cadet
Joined
Dec 8, 2017
Regardless, as an adult beginner, I haven't been able to find anyone to play with, and I got a cool reception when I mentioned it to other Civil War reenactors--it's not period correct, no accounts of them in camp, etc., etc., one guy even sent me pictures of hippies playing them in the 60's. People are so weird.

Sounds like you've had more success with the instrument and found some folks who are more welcoming. I'm glad I saw this thread--reminded me how much I enjoy it. I'm going to get it out and play it tonight!
Hey, Claude, and Albert Sailhorst. I'm a dulcimer player in Central Florida (originally from Fulton Cty, IL). I would direct you fellas to "Everything Dulcimer" and "Discovering Dulcimer" on Facebook. You'll be in touch with thousands of other players who will be great resources for you. Also to Dulcimertab.com, which has lists state by state, of dulcimer clubs, instructors and events. There are more of us than you think!
 
Joined
Jul 12, 2007
Location
Aledo, IL
Hey, Claude, and Albert Sailhorst. I'm a dulcimer player in Central Florida (originally from Fulton Cty, IL). I would direct you fellas to "Everything Dulcimer" and "Discovering Dulcimer" on Facebook. You'll be in touch with thousands of other players who will be great resources for you. Also to Dulcimertab.com, which has lists state by state, of dulcimer clubs, instructors and events. There are more of us than you think!
Thanks!
On Facebook, I am a member of the Discovering Dulcimers group, but I did not know of the Everything Dulcimer group! I will check it out!
I appreciate the help!
 

Mary L

Cadet
Joined
Jan 22, 2020
View attachment 326793
-https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/8332015125

I am learning to play the Mountain Dulcimer.
As such, I want to play it in camp at my Civil War reenactments.
I am in search of Civil War music that I can learn for my instrument. I have "Googled" it and found 2 sources for purchase, but I am wondering if anyone has the music that they would be willing to share, or if anyone knows of website where I can find the music.
Thanks! I appreciate it!
I google mountain dulcimer
View attachment 326793
-https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/8332015125

I am learning to play the Mountain Dulcimer.
As such, I want to play it in camp at my Civil War reenactments.
I am in search of Civil War music that I can learn for my instrument. I have "Googled" it and found 2 sources for purchase, but I am wondering if anyone has the music that they would be willing to share, or if anyone knows of website where I can find the music.
Thanks! I appreciate it!
I just came across your post. I have been playing md at Civil War events for 8 years. You would not have found a md in either camp because it was still up in the mountains. However, it's a great attention getter. By now you probably found what you're looking for. Here are a few suggestions: Songs of the Civil War by Maureen Sellers, Civil War Songs by Joe Collins. A Treasury of Civil Wat Songs by Larry Conger All are for DAD. Also, if you are looking for a particular song Google mountain dulcimer tab & the name of the song. Hope some of this helps.
 

Arioch

Sergeant
Annual Winner
Joined
Dec 24, 2010

I always liked this one...a few years ago, I went on a kick trying to find as authentically traditional / ACW era music arrangements as I could....that were recorded fairly recently.

This was one I always liked: The tune is a traditional / ACW era song called 'Soldiers's Joy'

This arrangement is by a band named 'The Foot in the Air Band'....I don't know much about them (a few other tunes)
 

curtis payne

Private
Annual Winner
Joined
Mar 22, 2012
Albert Sailhorst, just in case you don't know, many of us who play civil war period music, stay away from the dulcimer. I would compare it to the photo of the Texan soldier wearing a Tiger skin trousers, while you can prove by the photo that a soldier actually dressed that way, it certainly won't be portraying what the common experience was like. That is how I see bringing a dulcimer and playing it at a civil war reenactment. For this reason I stay away from allowing them in my group.
 
Joined
Jul 12, 2007
Location
Aledo, IL
I google mountain dulcimer

I just came across your post. I have been playing md at Civil War events for 8 years. You would not have found a md in either camp because it was still up in the mountains. However, it's a great attention getter. By now you probably found what you're looking for. Here are a few suggestions: Songs of the Civil War by Maureen Sellers, Civil War Songs by Joe Collins. A Treasury of Civil Wat Songs by Larry Conger All are for DAD. Also, if you are looking for a particular song Google mountain dulcimer tab & the name of the song. Hope some of this helps.
Thannk you for finding my post and thanks for responding! :smile:
 
Joined
Jul 12, 2007
Location
Aledo, IL
Albert Sailhorst, just in case you don't know, many of us who play civil war period music, stay away from the dulcimer. I would compare it to the photo of the Texan soldier wearing a Tiger skin trousers, while you can prove by the photo that a soldier actually dressed that way, it certainly won't be portraying what the common experience was like. That is how I see bringing a dulcimer and playing it at a civil war reenactment. For this reason I stay away from allowing them in my group.
Agreed.....but I would like to play it when camps close to the public so that it can be enjoyed around the campfire with my Pards. In no way would I try to pass this off to the "public" as authentic.
 

Mary L

Cadet
Joined
Jan 22, 2020
Agreed.....but I would like to play it when camps close to the public so that it can be enjoyed around the campfire with my Pards. In no way would I try to pass this off to the "public" as authentic.
I tell visitors that the dulcimer would not have been in either camp. I play the dulcimer because a back injury makes it very uncomfortable to play a guitar.
 

7thWisconsin

First Sergeant
Joined
Nov 21, 2014
There are probably more dulcimers and players now than there ever were historically. The instrument had a rather short life and was severely restricted in its geographical spread. Knowing that though, I'd be hard pressed to not play one though. It has a more historic sound than a big box accoustic guitar. At a time when most people play their phones, we need to start all over again and expose folks to folk music.
 

byron ed

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Mar 22, 2017
Location
Midwest
...At a time when most people play their phones, we need to start all over again and expose folks to folk music.

My only caveat to that would be that too many think of folk music as that genre from the 1960s, which in reality was not true folk at all but merely played as folk on TV. And athough I loved them all; Berl Ives, Odetta, Pete Seeger and that whole set essentially disassembled and reassembled folk music into something it never had been before (think "Michael Rowed the Boat Ashore" and "Tom Dooley").

So the way I'd put it is that we need to start all over again and expose folks to their musical roots from the time of the Civil War and before.
 

7thWisconsin

First Sergeant
Joined
Nov 21, 2014
Yeah - I don't think any of us will ever miss "Michael Row the Boat Ashore." Actually, the first American folk music preservationists - the Alan Lomax, Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger generation - were all heavily influenced by Hervy Ledbetter's music. I was shocked how many Leadbelly songs I knew that I didn't know he wrote or collected that were preserved by those guys. The big names in 60s folk all stood on his shoulders. I guess I'd like to see a middle ground. 3 verses of "Pretty Peggy," done well, would be better than 12 verses of an obscure but fully period minstrel song that is unfortunately tuneless (Something like "Happy Land of Canaan." Try as I may, I just can't bring myself to like that song despite 30 years of trying). Folk musicians can get a little laser focused that way, hence Tom Lehrer warning audiences before his "Irish Ballad" that "like true purists, we're going to sing all 19 verses."
 

byron ed

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Mar 22, 2017
Location
Midwest
...a few years ago, I went on a kick trying to find as authentically traditional / ACW era music arrangements as I could....that were recorded fairly recently...This was one I always liked: The tune is a traditional / ACW era song called 'Soldiers's Joy'...This arrangement is by a band named 'The Foot in the Air Band'....I don't know much about them...
1591283502949.png

...

Just to clarify, "Soldier's Joy" predates even the American Revolutionary war, but ok it was played through the ACW. This band though is nowhere near authentic for ACW era music, though pretty good for traditional. It's not possible they'd have an authentic arrangement for ACW with such out of period instruments. They are in 1930s mountain folk mode.

The lap and hammered dulcimer didn't look like that until decades later and were only barely to be found in the U.S. in some isolated rural regions before that. The Autoharp is completely out -- far too modern, and the big Dreadnaught guitar and flat-back A-mandolin are way-too-modern versions of their Antebellum / CW ancestor instruments (mandolins were not in general use in the U.S. til decades after the ACW).
 
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