‘Both sides were cheering, jumping up and throwing up hats and doing everything which tended to show enthusiasm’

Some might have noticed that I’m partial to Civil War stories that point to the common humanity of the soldiers who fought. By the time of the American Civil War, the song “Home, Sweet Home,” lyrics by John Howard Payne and melody by Henry Bishop, was apparently a universal favorite across the country whose sons were locked in combat.

Here’s an excerpt from a memoir by Frank M. Mixson, who had been a private in the 1st S.C. He describes an incident from the winter of 1862-63 in the wake of the Battle of Fredericksburg:

“After the enemy had recrossed the river we were taken to woods just off of the field, where we remained in position, ready for an attack at any moment, should they make an advance. We did not move back to these woods till about dark, consequently, during the afternoon we and the enemy were very near together, with the Rappahannock River only between us, but no fighting going on. Just before sundown the Yankee band came down to the river bank and commenced to play. Very soon our bands were on the bank on our side. The Yankee band would play the popular airs of theirs amid much yelling and cheering; our bands would do the same with the same result. Towards the wind-up the Yankee band struck up “Yankee Doodle.” Cheers were immense. When they stopped our band struck up “Dixie,” and everything went wild. When they finished this, both bands, with one accord and simultaneously, struck up “Home, Sweet Home.” There was not a sound from anywhere until the tune was finished and it then seemed as if everybody had gone crazy. I never saw anything to compare with it. Both sides were cheering, jumping up and throwing up hats and doing everything which tended to show enthusiasm. This lasted for at least a half hour. I do believe that had we not had the river between us that the two armies would have gone together and settled the war right there and then. I saw old weather-beaten men, naked, barefooted, hungry, dirty and worn out, with tears streaming down their cheeks; men who were not afraid to leave their homes, their wives, their families, their all; but men with hearts, who could not restrain the tears when it was so vividly brought to them.”

[Text source: Frank M. Mixson, Reminiscences of a private. 1910. Columbia, S.C.: The State company. Pages 37-8. Illustration source: Winslow Homer. Home, Sweet Home. About 1863.]

Sheet Music Cover: Henry R. Bishop, “Home! Sweet Home!” 1856. Philadelphia: Lee & Walker.

ARB — 3 Nov. 2021

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