Civil War Music Band - Banjo, Guitar, Fiddle

photo Civil War band

Fiddles, Banjoes, Mandolins and Dulcimers were musical instruments used for bands playing music for dancing enjoyed by almost everyone in America during the Civil War - young and old, rich and poor, urban and rural, North and South. During the 1860's, a ball was one way to forget, at least for an evening, the Civil War. Unlike modern dancing that is couple oriented, dancing in the mid-Victorian era was much more "social." Almost all dances were done in formations of circles, squares or lines, with couples interacting with other couples. It was considered ill-mannered to dance with the same partner all evening. Everyone at a ball had a social duty to mingle and to ensure that everyone else had a pleasant time.

From the loud field drum that kept everyone in step to the sentimental songs that soldiers sang in their free time, music played an extremely important part in the American Civil War, which lasted for four years. Songs and ballads were inspirational marching songs written to boost the morale of soldiers on both sides. Drumbeats originally served two purposes: to tell soldiers what to do, and to keep them in step. Drum calls issued commands to soldiers, while other drumbeats with fife accompaniments helped soldiers march. Fife music was popular during the war because the shrill tone of the fife could be heard well above the rumbling of cannon and the other noises on the battlefield.

Buglers were crucial in the war because they too were responsible for sounding out commands. These included reveille in the morning, tattoo at night (and numerous calls in between), as well as field commands such as advance and retreat.

Dancing in the mid-nineteenth century was very different from dancing today. Back then, there was no separation of types of dances into various categories. They did not have events, as we do today, that are solely for ball room, polka, rock and roll or square dancing. A typical mid-1800's ball would feature both traditional dances and currently popular dances. Additionally, almost all dances of the period were "social dances" that required a group of dancers to interact with each other in various formations. Dances of the period were intricate patterns of movements that, to a certain degree, reflect Victorian notions of cooperation and their fascination with clockwork machinery.

During the mid-1800's, a typical ball with two dozen dances might have one to four dances that were couples' dances. It was not until the later part of the century that couples' dances became associated with the sophisticated urban ball room and group dances were relegated to quaint country barns. Although dancing was part of the courtship ritual, dancing and mixing with people was seen as a social duty. That is why it was not proper to dance with the same person too often. In fact, if the company were large enough, it would have been considered ill-mannered to dance more than once with the same person.


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