Fifth Grade - Music - Lesson 15 - Two Civil War Songs

Note for the Teacher

Last month, in a Literature lesson, the students learned the song "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" with words written by Julia Ward Howe. In this Music lesson, the students will sing the song with words attributed to Captain Lindley Miller, a white officer of the First Arkansas Colored Regiment.


Sing a Civil War song from the First Arkansas Regiment.

Sing a song sung by both Union and Confederate soldiers in the Civil War.


Words for "Marching Song for the First Arkansas (Negro) Regiment" for copies (attached)

Music and words for "When Johnny Comes Marching Home," for transparency (attached)

Suggested Book

Silverman, Jerry. Ballads & Songs of the Civil War. Pacific, MO: Mel Bay Publications, 1993.

Large black and white photos of the Civil War are included as are guitar chords and piano accompaniments for all the songs. A special group of Lincoln songs is on pp. 65-84. Words for the First Arkansas Regiment song are on p. 14; music and words for "When Johnny Comes Marching Home," pp. 156-157.


Ask the students the name of song they learned with words by Julia Ward Howe ("The Battle Hymn of the Republic"). Tell them the music for the song comes from a song very popular during the period just before the Civil War called "John Brown's Body." Have the students sing the song as they learned it; then tell them that several other versions of the song exist using the same melody. The one they will sing next was the marching song of the First Arkansas Regiment in the Civil War, which was a regiment made up of African American men from the state of Arkansas.

Have the students take turns reading verses of the song (attached), and help them identify the various characters mentioned in the text. (They should be able to identify and define the words Union, Rebel, Jeff Davis, Yankee, Gabriel, Proclamation, January 1863, Father Abraham, and Yankee Doodle. They may need help understanding the adjective bully, the phrases wages of their sin, kith and kin, possum up the gum tree, and sable army.) Then have everyone sing the song together, using the new words.

When the students have sung the song, tell them they are going to sing another Civil War song, this one called "When Johnny Comes Marching Home." Tell them that this song was sung by both Union and Confederate soldiers, although both the words and music were written by a man named Patrick S. Gilmore, who was a bandmaster of the Union Army.

Show the students the transparency with the music and words of the song. Ask them what the time, or meter, signature is for this piece? (6/8) Ask them whether they have seen this signature before (probably not). If not, ask for a volunteer to guess what the signature might mean (six beats to the measure; 8th note gets one beat). Ask them: If an 8th note gets one beat, how many beats does a quarter note get? (two) What about a dotted quarter? (three) Tell them there are two joined notes in this piece that are different from any they have seen before. Ask where they are (on the last beat of measure 9) Tell them these two notes are 16th notes. Ask: If an 8th note gets one beat in this song, how many beats would two 16th notes get? (one)

Congratulate the students on figuring out new information on the basis of what they have already learned, and teach them the song, having them repeat each line after you have sung it for them first. If you have a guitar, this would be a good opportunity to play a simple chordal accompaniment, strumming on the first and third beat of each measure.

Fifth Grade - Music - Lesson 15 - Two Civil War Songs

Marching Song of the first Arkansas (Negro) Regiment

1. Oh, we're the bully soldiers of the "First of Arkansas,"

We are fighting for the Union, we are fighting for the law,

We can hit a Rebel further than a white man ever saw,

As we go marching on.


Glory, glory, halleluja,

Glory, glory, halleluja,

Glory, glory, halleluja,

As we go marching on.

2. See, there above the center, where the flag is waving bright,

We are going out of slavery; we're bound for freedom's light;

We mean to show Jeff Davis how the Africans can fight,

As we go marching on! Chorus

3. We have done with hoeing cotton, we have done with hoeing corn,

We are colored Yankee soldiers, now, as sure as you are born;

When the master hear us yelling, they'll think it's Gabriel's horn,

As we go marching on. Chorus

4. They will have to pay us wages, the wages of their sin,

They will have to bow their foreheads to their colored kith and kin,

They will have to give us house-room, or the roof shall tumble in!

As we go marching on. Chorus

5. We heard the Proclamation, master hush it as he will,

The bird he sing it to us, hoppin' on the cotton hill,

And the possum up the gum tree, he couldn't keep it still,

As he went climbing on. Chorus

6. They said, "now colored brethren, you shall be forever free,

From the first of January, Eighteen hundred sixty-three."

We heard it in the river going rushing to the sea,

As it went sounding on. Chorus

7. Father Abraham has spoken and the message has been sent,

The prison doors he opened, and out the pris'ners went,

To join the sable army of the "African descent,"

As we go marching on. Chorus

8. Then fall in, colored brethren, you'd better do it soon,

Don't you hear the drum a-beating the Yankee Doodle tune?

We are with you now this morning, we'll be far away at noon,

As we go marching on. Chorus

When Johnny Comes Marching Home

1. When Johnny comes marching home again, Hurrah, hurrah!

We'll give him a hearty welcome then, Hurrah, hurrah!

The men will cheer -- the boys will shout,

The ladies -- they will all turn out,

And we'll all feel gay when Johnny comes marching home.

2. The old church bell will peal with joy, Hurrah, hurrah!

To welcome home our darling boy, Hurrah, hurrah!

The village lads and lassies say,

With roses they will strew the way,

And we'll all feel gay when Johnny comes marching home.

3. Get ready for the Jubilee, Hurrah, hurrah!

We'll give the hero three times three, Hurrah, hurrah!

The laurel wreath is ready now,

To place upon his loyal brow,

And we'll all feel gay when Johnny comes marching home.

4. Let love and friendship on that day, Hurrah, hurrah!

Their choicest treasures then display, Hurrah, hurrah!

And let each one perform some part,

To fill with joy the warrior's heart,

And we'll all feel gay when Johnny comes marching home.

Fifth Grade - Music - Lesson 16 - Requiem for the death of Lincoln

Note for the Teacher:  This lesson should be taught after American History Lesson 32 and after the Literature lesson on "O Captain! My Captain!"


Hear the term requiem.

Listen to lines from Walt Whitman's poem, "When Lilacs Last In the Dooryard Bloom'd."

Recall the role of Walt Whitman in the American Civil War.

Listen to the opening of Paul Hindemith's When Lilacs Last In the Dooryard Bloom'd.


Recording of Paul Hindemith's When Lilacs Last In the Dooryard Bloom'd, see Suggested Recording

Lines from Whitman's poem for transparency (text attached)

A few branches of fresh lilac (optional)

Suggested Recording

Hindemith, When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd, Telarc CD 80132

Background for the Teacher

Paul Hindemith is one of many German artists and composers who found it impossible to live in that country once Hitler came to power, and so immigrated to the United States. He was born in 1895 and died in in December of 1963. His "Requiem For Those We Love," a setting of Walt Whitman's poem "When Lilacs Last In the Dooryard Bloom'd," was written as a commission from Robert Shaw and the Collegiate Chorale in 1945. The commission did not specify anything about the music Hindemith was to write, except that it had to be for chorus and orchestra. World War II was just ending, President F. D. Roosevelt had just died, and Hindemith--who was teaching music at Yale at the time--chose to make it a requiem, setting what was probably the most powerful poem that Whitman had ever written, to honor the death of his president, Abraham Lincoln.

The first performance, at its completion in 1946, was in New York by Shaw and his Chorale; the second was not until April of 1963, at Philharmonic Hall with Hindemith conducting. Within the year President Kennedy was assassinated and Hindemith's requiem was repeated many times across the country. Hindemith himself died in Switzerland about a month after the assassination and so did not live to hear the many performances and recordings his piece finally received. Hindemith is one of the three or four greatest classical composers and musicians of the twentieth century; he wrote music for every conceivable combination of instruments and voices as well as some classic books for teaching theory and musicianship to students.

The students will have learned the outlines of Walt Whitman's life from their Literature lesson on Whitman's "O Captain! My Captain!" In addition to the many poems Whitman wrote about his experience in the Civil War and about Lincoln, he delivered a moving address about "The Death of Lincoln" (included in his Collected Poetry and Prose) in three major cities. In it he tells a story about the first time he ever saw Lincoln (in New York City, where Lincoln had stopped briefly while traveling to his inaugural in Washington) and then, in excruciating detail, a minute-by-minute account of the events going on at the Ford Theater stage the moment that Lincoln was shot on Good Friday, April 14, of 1865.

The three images (he refers to them as a trinity) Whitman introduces at the beginning of "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd" and follows throughout are the lilacs, the western star, and the hermit thrush singing. All three have very specific meanings in Whitman's experience of Lincoln's death: the lilacs, in bloom at the time Lincoln's casket went from Washington, D.C. to Springfield Illinois, were the flowers people most frequently brought to offer as the train went by, and their smell permeated the air. The western star, obviously referring to Lincoln's origins, had made a dramatic appearance at the time of the president's second inaugural. At the time, many people had seen it as an omen of good fortune for a quick end to the Civil War. The hauntingly beautiful song of the hermit thrush is heard for just a brief time each year, and may well be Whitman's idea of the poet as well as a reminder of the loneliness and brevity of Lincoln's life.


Ask the students to tell you what they can recall of the order of events from Lincoln's second inaugural through the end of the Civil War and the death of Lincoln (from History Lesson 32 and the Civil War timeline). The point is not to have all the dates exact but that the students are aware of the very condensed time period (March and April of 1865) in which so many dramatic events took place. Ask them to tell you the name of the poem written by Walt Whitman about the death of Lincoln ("Oh Captain! My Captain!") and what they remember about the poem. (Accept any thoughtful responses. Some of them may recall the metaphor of the ship, the dangerous voyage [Civil War], the port symbolizing peace and death.) Remind them that the poet, Walt Whitman, had himself participated in the Civil War, as nurse to the wounded and reporter of events; he had also seen Lincoln and loved him for his courage and dedication as president of the Union. He knew how shocked the people of the United States were by the assassination of their President. He also knew how deeply people were mourning the loss of sons, fathers, brothers, and others who had died in the Civil War.

Write April 14, Good Friday, the assassination on the board and remind the students of the following events surrounding Lincoln's death and burial in 1865.

April 15, the death

April 16, Easter Sunday, memorials begin, and embalming

April 18, Lincoln lies in state in East Room, mourners fill White House lawn

April 19, Funeral service in East Room, casket in black hearse drawn by six gray horses

brought to sound of muffled drums to Capitol rotunda, 60,000 spectators watch parade of 40,000 mourners

April 20, special viewing by wounded soldiers from nearby hospitals; 25,000 soldiers

April 21 - May 4 casket travels by train from Washington, D.C. to Springfield, Illinois &

Lincoln lies in state for public viewing in special buildings in selected large cities

Tell the students that Whitman wrote a long poem to commemorate these sad times when people were mourning the losses of the Civil War and the shock of President Lincoln's assassination. Write its name on the board--"When Lilacs Last In the Dooryard Bloom'd." Say to them: Whitman described the long, sad train going through the war-torn country with people lined up all along the way to honor Lincoln, some of them bringing flowers and carrying torches at night. This is the way he describes the funeral procession. (Read the lines aloud from the overhead or have several students read them. Help the students with words they may not know, such as flambeaus, depot, and dirges.) Then point out how many visual clues Whitman uses to paint the picture (ask the students to name them and write them on the board) and how many auditory clues (do the same with these).

Next, tell the students that a composer set Whitman's long poem to music at another time of great sadness--in 1945, just at the end of the Second World War. Give them some biographical information about Paul Hindemith--himself an immigrant fleeing from Hitler's Germany. Say to them: Hindemith's music is called a Requiem (write it on the board), which is a Latin word that comes from the first word of a special Mass that was sung since the Middle Ages to honor someone who died. Over the years, Requiem has become a musical term for a funeral piece written for chorus and orchestra. We talked about a memorial sculpture (recall St.-Gaudens Shaw Memorial, and some of you may have seen the Lincoln Memorial or the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C.) A Requiem is a similar thing, expressed in music instead of sculpture.

Play the "Prelude" and first two sections of the Hindemith piece for the students, first telling them there are three strong images they will hear: one is a flower, the second is a star, and the third is a bird. (Write the three words on the board.) Say to the students: First you will hear the "Prelude," which is an introduction with no voices, just orchestra, and you will hear how much suspense and foreboding the composer makes us feel. When the voices come in, listen carefully to the text of Whitman's poem, and see whether you can identify the flower, the star, and the bird he talks about, and why he chooses those particular images for his poem. (The "Prelude" takes 3 minutes; Sections I and II, about 7 minutes together.)

If the students are able to identify the three, discuss them together. They may think about the fact that lilacs traditionally bloom in April, that lilac bushes were found near the dooryard of houses from colonial times and were brought to the West with the pioneers. (If you were able to bring in some lilac branches, let the students smell them and show them the heart-shaped, green leaves. Remind them of the distinctive odor of lilacs. Tell them about the star that appeared in the West at the time of Lincoln's second inauguration, and the ancient idea of stars and planets as prophetic. Finally, tell them about the specially musical nature of the song of the hermit thrush, of its loneliness that Whitman uses to make us feel Lincoln's loneliness as president during the Civil War.

Coffin that passes through lanes and streets,
Through day and night with the great cloud darkening the land,
With the pomp of the inloop'd flags, with the cities draped in black,
With the show of the States themselves, as of crape-veil'd women standing,
With processions long and winding and the flambeaus of the night,
With the countless torches lit, with the silent sea of faces
and the unbared heads.
With the waiting depot, the arriving coffin, and the sombre faces,
With dirges through the night, with the thousand voices
rising strong and solemn,
With all the mournful voices of the dirges pour'd around the coffin,
The dim-lit churches and the shuddering organs--where amid these you journey,
With the tolling bells' perpetual clang,