During the four years America was engaged in the Civil War, over half a million people perished, in a country that only had a population of 30 million. As the saying goes, “War is Hell,” but this war was beyond hellacious. Fought with primitive weapons and with abysmal medical conditions, there are few positives that could come from such a brutal conflict.

However, if there was anything good to say about The Civil War, it would be that it resulted in the Great Awakening of American song. Inspired on both the North and South sides, Americans composed over 10,000 songs during this period, of which many have become classics and are still sung today.

Songs became almost as prevalent as the sound of cannon fire during the war. They were sung at home as well as on the battlefield. There were marching songs, wistful ballads of fallen heroes, hymns, psalms, Negro and white spirituals, slave songs, minstrel tunes, and anthems. Alternately inspiring, mawkish, and achingly beautiful, these songs brought out the best in Americans at the worst moment in our history.