SOMEBODY'S DARLING: Songs of the Civil War

by Rebecca Blackwell Drake

On Saturday, October 9th, at 4:30 p.m., Lester Senter, concert artist, will present a Jubliee [musical happening] at the Courthouse in Raymond. "During the war years," Senter commented, "A favorite recreation of the Confederate Army was to gather and stage singing events. According to the book, 'In the Life of Johnny Reb' by B. D. Wiley, these events were referred to as Jubilees." Many of the numbers to be performed at the Raymond Jubilee are included in the recent CD, Somebody's Darling: Songs from the Siege of Vicksburg and the Battle of Raymond.

"The songs on the CD have been thoughtfully selected," commented Senter. "I did a great deal of research to find songs that were sung in Raymond and Vicksburg during the Vicksburg Campaign. Many of the numbers I managed to locate were unique and unknown to the public. My search led me to the Courthouse Museum in Vicksburg where Jeff Gaimbrone, historian, helped to find a beautiful, sad, song called 'Kitty Wells.' A visit to McRaven Plantation in Vicksburg led to the discovery of a unique piece of piano music called "The Belle of Vicksburg." Mr. Leland French, owner of McRaven Plantation, let me copy his rare piece of sheet music. The Mississippi Department of Archives and History was also helpful by letting me into their rare manuscripts.

Hoping to find music unique to Raymond during the war, Senter carefully researched the Battle of Raymond. The search proved productive when she located a copy of Raymond, Miss. During War Times, by Estelle Trichell Oltrogge. The article appeared in a 1910 issue of The Confederate Veteran. While reading Oltrogge's memoirs, Senter discovered that two fund raising concerts were held in Raymond prior to the war. At the first concert [circa 1861] Oltrogge stated that a quartet performed a Stephen Foster tune Come Where My Love Lies Dreaming. In 1862, at the second concert held at the Courthouse, The Bonnie Blue Flag was performed. Oltrogge recalled the concert saying, "The Bonnie Blue Flag was sung by several young ladies, each representing a Southern State and carrying its flag." Senter plans to recreate the 1862 performance and has ordered flags for the states of South Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Texas and Louisiana.

"The Bonnie Blue Flag" was first performed in Jackson during the spring of 1861 and soon became a favorite throughout the South. It was premiered by an Irish comedian, Harry Macarthy. "McCarthy was an vaudeville entertainer who traveled with his wife, Lottie, doing 'personation concerts, stated Senter. "When the Mississippi's Ordinance of Secession was signed on January 9th, 1861, a ceremony was held and the Bonnie Blue Flag was raised over the Capitol Building. Macarthy was in the crowd and witnessed the rousing event. A short time later, he wrote the lyrics, 'Hurrah! Hurrah! For Southern Rights Hurrah! For the Bonnie Blue Flag that bears a Single Star,' and set them to a pre-existing Irish tune called 'The Irish Jaunting Car.' The song was an immediate hit after his Jackson concert.

A short time later, Mrs. Mims Williams of Magee helped to set a different set of lyrics [The Homespun Dress] to the air of The Bonnie Blue Flag. The chorus of the ladies rendition went, "Hurrah! Hurrah! For the sunny South so dear; Three cheers for the homespun dress the Southern ladies wear!"

The Bonnie Blue Flag was performed a second time in September of 1861 at the New Orleans Academy of Music - this time to a group of soldiers headed for the Virginia front. The second time was the charm. The audience went wild. After Blackmar & Brothers in New Orleans published The Bonnie Blue Flag, Mccarthy was lauded as one of the South's most popular performers during the Civil War years. Following the publication of The Bonnie Blue Flag, Mccarthy traveled throughout the Southern states performing to packed houses only. Another song written and performed by Macarthy was The Volunteer - dedicated to the Orleans Cadets.

The highlight of the CD is a parlor song called, "Somebody's Darling." The moving song tells about a soldier [somebody's darling] who was killed in battle and is on his way to be buried. How Senter found the song is an interesting story. "After performing a concert of Civil War music in Shreveport," stated Senter, "an elderly fan came backstage and told me about an old Civil War song called "Somebody's Darling." I was not familiar with it. After returning to Jackson, a packet arrived in the mail and the sheet music was inside. The fan had enclosed a note that read, 'The song I was telling you about is called "Somebody's Darling." The note also mentioned that when she [fan] was younger that she often sang and played "Somebody's Darling" for friends whose loved ones had served in the Confederate Army.'

"The song was just beautiful," said Senter. I knew immediately that it would become a part of my Civil War repertoire. After promising to donate a concert to benefit Friends of Raymond, SOMEBODY'S DARLING seemed the perfect tribute for the Battle of Raymond.

"Somebody's Darling," featuring Lester Senter, mezzo-soprano, and Colman Pearce [former conductor of the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra], accompanist, is scheduled to be sold at the Raymond Jubilee. All funds from the purchase of the CD will be donated toward the purchase of the Raymond Battlefield. "At a time when the public's interest in the Civil War is at a peak," states Senter, "I find it really uplifting to be a part of the Raymond experience. I'm excited about the concert and looking forward to it. So a cordial invitation to all - Friends of Raymond, Civil War buffs and music lovers. Anyone and everyone come out and enjoy the concert and purchase a CD to support Friends of Raymond in this great project."


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