Make your own free website on
77th New York Regimental Balladeers

Irish Music in the Civil War

     Near the end of the Civil War, thirty percent of the Federal army were immigrants, mostly Irish, Scotch and German. In 1846 blight destroyed the potato which was a mainstay of the Irish diet. Families were reduced to poverty and starvation overnight. As an alternative to the hardships of surviving in their homeland, many Irish immigrated to the United States. They brought with them their culture and mores, including their musical heritage. Many of their songs were sung in Union and Confederate camps, in the evening, as a diversion from the perilous events of the day.

     One such song, "When Johnny Comes Marching Home", is pictured here (from the collection of Michael Yates). It was written by Patrick Gilmore who was born in Ireland and immigrated in 1849 to "Amerikay". This song became the favorite of both civilians and soldiers. Gilmore didn't get much credit for the song because he used a fictitious name, Louis Lambert. The song has a melody which is similar to several other Irish folk songs (like, "Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye" and "Shule Agrooh"). It's thought that he brought the melody with him from Ireland.

     Gilmore became the father of the modern concert band. He celebrated the end of the Civil War with a jubilee in 1867, conducting a 1,000 piece band and a 10,000 member chorus in Boston.

     Some other popular Irish songs of the period are:
     Patrick Murphy of the Irish Brigade
     Paddy's Lamentation
     Garryowen (General George Armstrong Custer's favorite song, it became the anthem for the 7th Cavalry)
     Wild Rover
     Kathleen Mavourneen
     The Minstrel Boy

Send Email to the 77th New York Regimental Balladeers at: 

Back to 77th New York Regimental Balladeers Home Page

Entire Contents Copyright 1999-2001 77th New York Regimental Balladeers

Web Site by WA2FTI