WE SING AMERICA
Touring show created by
Deanna R Hoying & Brian Robertson
Concept and study guide created by
Deanna R Hoying, Director of Education
WE SING AMERICA study guide for teachers and students
The WE SING AMERICA school tour is designed to introduce new audiences to the operatic
voice by celebrating the American history through song. From the Mayflower to modern
history, WE SING AMERICA uses American folk songs to tell the history of this great country.
Each chapter is a starting point for discussion and will contain links for extended infor-
mation. WE SING AMERICA also has a special emphasis on Kentucky history, people and
geography including the Cumberland Gap, Daniel Boone, The Hunters of Kentucky (Battle
of New Orleans), Stephen Foster, John Jacob Niles, and Bill Monroe.
While American history dates back almost 40,000 years, for our purposes WE SING AMERICA
begins with the pilgrims and the Mayflower.
This study guide will follow the order of songs performed in WE SING AMERICA elaborating
on the history of the songs as well as other interdisciplinary materials. All materials enhance
Core Content assessments, especially in Social Studies and Arts/Humanities.
• Songs that made the journey to the New World; Barbara Allen
• Songs of Revolution; Yankee Doodle and Hail Columbia!
• Songs of Discovery; Simple Gifts, Shenandoah, Cumberland Gap
• Songs of the American folk hero; Daniel Boone, Ballad of Davy Crockett, The Lord is
Good to Me (Johnny Appleseed aka John Chapman)
• Songs of America at War (1812 & Civil War) and Stephen Foster; Star Spangled Banner,
The Hunters of Kentucky, My Old Kentucky Home, Dixie, Tramp! Tramp! Tramp!, When
Johnny Comes Marching Home
• Songs of working in America (railroads & mining); Drill ye Tarriers, Drill, Workin’ on the
Railroad, John Henry, Clementine
• Songs of the American West; Home on the Range, Git along Little Dogies
• Songs of World Wars and Depression —Over There, Brother, can you spare a dime?,
Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy
• Songs from the 20th century folk era; The Lass from the Low Countree, Blue Moon of Ken-
tucky, This Land is your Land
At the end of each section, there will be some ESSENTIAL QUESTIONS as well as extended
learning information and ideas.
Let’s begin the journey.
Songs that made the journey to the New World; Barbara Allen
American history dates back to the pre-Columbian era (pre-
European settlement anywhere from 40,000 to 13,000 years
ago), with the first Asian nomads crossing the Bering Land
Bridge (Beringia) into North America. The Paleo-Indians then
spread throughout North and South America. From 1,000 BCE
to 1,000 CE, also known as the Woodland Period, Native Ameri-
can tribes lived throughout the Midwest and Canada. Perhaps
the most familiar remnants of that culture are the burial
mounds, with the closest to Kentucky outside of Chillicothe,
Ohio. The Woodland culture transitioned into the mound builders or Mississippian culture (up
to around 1500 CE).
By the arrival of Europeans (Vikings in 1000, Columbus in 1492 and Hernando DeSoto in 1539),
much of the Mississippian culture had dispersed throughout the Midwest and southern por-
tions of North America.
The European led exploration of North and
South America reads like a “who’s who” of
explorers; Christopher Columbus, Ponce
de León, Hernán Cortés, Francisco Coro-
nado, Sir Walter Raleigh, Henry Hudson,
and Hernando DeSoto to name a few.
The most familiar is Christopher Columbus
who made four journeys to the Americas
with the first in 1492; although it should be
noted that Columbus never set foot on
what is now North America.
After Columbus, the flood gates opened
with multiple expeditions from a variety of European countries exploring all of the Americas.
While Columbus explored what is now the Bahamas, Hispaniola (now Haiti and the Domini-
can Republic), Venezuela and parts of Central America, other explorers moved deeper into
the Americas. Hernando de Soto took his expedition through the southeastern portion of
North America becoming the first European to cross the Mississippi River. Francisco Vásquez
de Coronado explored the southwest, Henry Hudson upper New York
Bay, Juan Ponce de León discovered Florida (the supposed location of
the Fountain of Youth) and Sir Walter Raleigh attempted a settlement
(1585 & 1587) on Roanoke Island just off of the North Carolina coast
(this colony was not successful and much has been made of the mys-
tery surrounding the sudden disappearance of the settlers).
The first English colony was in Jamestown, Virginia in 1607 alt-
hough its initial success is questionable as only 61 of the original 500
settlers survived the first three years. Led by Captain John Smith,
Jamestown has become synonymous with Smith and his relationship
with Pocahontas (she later married successful tobacco farmer John
Rolfe and journeyed to England where she died from smallpox at the
age of 22).
In 1620, a group of settlers arrived in Massachusetts on a
ship called the Mayflower and established the Plymouth
Colony—we know these settlers as Pilgrims. Unlike the
Jamestown settlers who were primarily there for busi-
ness, the pilgrims were fleeing religious persecution. But
like Jamestown, the fame of this colony comes from its
stories; the first Thanksgiving, Squanto and the monu-
ment known as Plymouth Rock.
The pilgrims were a group of religious separatists out of
England led by John Robinson, William Brewster and Wil-
liam Bradford. They broke with the Church of England
over the fact that they felt the Church was too much
like the Catholic Church. In essence, the separatists wanted all vestiges of the Catholic
Church erased from the Church of England so they met separately from sanctioned religious
services (hence the term “separatists”). This was a problem because the 1559 Act of Uniformi-
ty made it illegal not to attend official Church of England services; punishment for not attend-
ing services included fines for each day missed with more severe punishments for holding sep-
arate services (more severe fines, imprisonment and even death). This particular group met
on Scrooby Manor, many of whom suffered under the strict interpretation of the Act of Uni-
formity. It was decided that the group would leave England for a more tolerant Amsterdam
and would settle in Leiden. This departure had to be stealthy because England would not
give official permission for the group to leave. By 1609, this group of separatists lived and
worked in Leiden but found that the Dutch language was difficult and the lifestyle was too
“libertine” for their tastes. So in August 1620, the group originally planned to ship out on both
the Speedwell and the Mayflower, but the Speedwell
was found to be unsafe so the larger Mayflower was
employed to bring the entire group to America. By
November, land had been sighted and with charter in
hand (granted by England), the pilgrims arrived at
Plymouth. The pilgrims also included servants as well
as hired English military officers including an advisor to
the colony—Captain Myles Standish.
They quickly determined that a rule of law was needed
and created the Mayflower Compact promising cooperation among the settlers, and creat-
ing a “majority rules”/democratic body. They also elected John Carver as the first governor of
The term “pilgrim” to describe this group came from the writings of William Bradford. In his Of
Plymouth Plantation, he wrote “So they lefte [that] goodly & pleasante citie, which had been
ther resting place, nere 12 years; but they knew they were
pilgrimes, & looked not much on these things; but lift up their
eyes to ye heavens, their dearest cuntrie, and quieted their
William Bradford was made governor in 1621 after the death
of John Carver and served in that capacity as well as other
elected offices until his death in 1657.
Even though the Mayflower was a good sized ship, carrying 102 passengers meant very little
room for personal items. As with the immigrants that followed, the pilgrims brought things that
took up no space; their stories and songs.
The song Barbara Allen (aka The Ballad of Barbara Allen or Barb’ry Allen) is thought to be
more than 400 years old and of Scottish origins. The first written mention of the song is from the
diaries of Samuel Pepys (1633-1703) that he wrote for almost a decade in his younger days.
On January 2, 1665, Samuel wrote “Up by candlelight again, and wrote the greatest part of
my business fair, and then to the office, and so home to dinner, and after dinner up and
made an end of my fair writing it, and that being done, set two entering while to my Lord
Bruncker's, and there find Sir J. Minnes and all his company, and Mr. Boreman and Mrs. Turner,
but, above all, my dear Mrs. Knipp, with whom I sang, and in perfect pleasure I was to hear
her sing, and especially her little Scotch song of "Barbary Allen."
The Scottish version is "Sir John Grehme and Barbara Allan," and the English version, "Barbara
Allen's Cruelty." From Percy's "Reliques," Series III:
In Scarlet towne where I was borne,
There was a faire maid dwellin’,
Made every youth crye, Wel-awaye
Her name was Barbara Allen.
All in the merrye month of May,
When greene buds they were swellin,
Yong Jemmye Grove on his death-bed lay,
For love of Barbara Allen.
The first printed edition appeared in England in 1750 (first U.S. printing in 1836) but we know the
song existed as part of the oral tradition earlier given the 1665 date from Mr. Pepys.
1) What is the importance of keeping an oral tradition like singing and story telling alive?
2) What does this song tell you about the culture?
3) What is the definition of a folk song?
4) How does this song reflect the time period?
• Read and compare the different versions of Barbara Allen and learn more about the song
• Study the early explorers (Columbus, Hudson, Coronado) and the early colonies (Roanoke
Island, Jamestown, Plymouth)
• Learn more about Pocahontas
• Learn about the story of the Pilgrims
• Find out if your family is related to any of the original Mayflower passengers from The May-
flower Society or Pilgrim Hall.
• Learn more about Samuel Pepys and his diary
• Study the Mayflower Compact and why it is such an important document in U.S. history
• Learn about the first Thanksgiving
• Find out more details about Christopher Columbus and 1492
• Learn more about American history from pre-Columbian to modern times
Songs of Revolution; Yankee Doodle, Hail Columbia!
While the journey was never easy, after the
colonies at Jamestown and Plymouth were
established, more people made the jour-
ney to the New World. The largest settle-
ments were primarily English along the East
Coast, but the Spanish, Dutch and French
also had a stake in this new country. The
Dutch were also along the East Coast, pri-
marily in the Hudson Bay region, the Span-
ish were in the southwest and the French
were in the southeast up to Canada. Be-
tween 1607 and 1733, the Thirteen Colonies
were formed and included Delaware,
Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia, Connecticut, Massachusetts Bay (later divided into
Massachusetts and Maine), Maryland, South Carolina, New Hampshire, Virginia, New York
(later divided into New York and Vermont), North Carolina, Rhode Island and Province
By 1775, the population had grown to almost 2.5 million within the Thirteen Colonies
with the vast majority being English, Irish and Scottish (about 10% were German and 4%
were Dutch). Even though these new colonies were considered British territory, the rules of
the game had changed because there was no pre-existing land-owning aristocracy. Each
colony created its own rules but the basics of a broad-based voter/election system were
established. At the time, this was a novelty because there was no voting in Europe—the
monarch and aristocracy ruled and that was that. And while broad-based voting really on-
ly applied to white male land-owners, it was a start.
But the years leading up to the American Revolu-
tion were hardly without conflict. Perhaps the greatest
impact on this new land prior to the Revolution was the
French and Indian war (1754-1763). Waged from Virgin-
ia up to Nova Scotia, this war pitted the British colonists
against the French and their Native American allies
(although it should be noted that Native Americans
fought on both sides). To set the stage, both the British
and French had a fur trading network albeit in different
parts of the country; the French were more in-land and
the British along the coast. The lands in-between were
occupied by Native America tribes including the
Mi’kmaq and Abenaki in Acadia (New Brunswick, Can-
ada), the Iroquois Nation (Delaware, Shawnee and Min-
go in upstate New York and Ohio), tribes inland (more
southern region included Cherokee, Choctaw, Creek
and Catawba), and tribes from the Great Lakes regions
(Huron, Mississauga, Ojibwa, Winnebago and Potawato-
mi). The Spanish were primarily in Florida (Pensacola, St.
Augustine) with a fairly small population compared to the British and French. And while
their territories in Cuba and the West Indies were objectives in the war, Spain did not play a
large role in this particular conflict.
Prior to 1747, land speculation was growing with an eye to expanding the British ter-
ritory for the lucrative fur trade. So in 1747, a group of influential men in Virginia formed
the Ohio Company to capitalize on the potential opportunities (original members includ-
ed two of George Washington’s brothers). A rival group of Virginia land speculators
formed the Loyal Company, including Thomas Jefferson’s father. The British Crown award-
ed the Ohio Company a land grant for 200,000 acres at the fork of the Ohio River (the
confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers—the site of modern day Pitts-
burgh). The French felt that the British were straying too far into their territory and expedi-
tions were launched (British and French) to determine rights (losses occurred on both sides
and included some of the Native Americans caught in the middle).
The Governor of Virginia (Robert Dunwiddie) sent a
young Major into Ohio to deal with the French presence. That
young Major was a 21 year old George Washington. Both Dun-
widdie and Washington had a stake in the Ohio Company so
they had a vested interest in keeping the French forces at bay.
In 1754, tensions escalated when Washington and his forces
surprised a French scouting party resulting in the death of their
commanding officer, Joseph Coulon de Joumonville. This
would not normally spark a war, but the manner in which
Joumonville was killed did. He had been captured by Wash-
ington and was being questioned when an affiliated Mingo
warrior (Tanacharison) walked up and killed him with his toma-
hawk. Word of this reached Joumonville’s brother at Fort Du-
George Washington in his Virginia quesne who launched an attack on Washington at Fort Neces-
regiment uniform. Painted by
Charles Wilson Peale in 1772.
sity in July 1754 (Fort Duquesne would be burned to the ground
in later years when the British won, and renamed Fort Pitt, the
site of the city of Pittsburgh, PA). As part of Washington’s surrender, he signed a docu-
ment that stated Joumonville’s death was an assassination. Unfortunately, Washington
did not understand French and signed the document. This was later used as French prop-
aganda and Washington did not fare well with the British either. However the war gave
him and many future Revolutionary heroes the opportunity to learn military tactics and
obtain battle experience.
Early battles were disastrous for the British as the French
and their allies burned and pillaged frontier settlements. The
French came within 60 miles of Philadelphia before the tides be-
gan to turn, thanks to William Pitt (the Elder, not to be confused
with his son, William Pitt the Younger). William Pitt (1708-1778),
the First Earl of Chatham, was a British statesman (Whig party)
and is credited for the British victory in the French and Indian
War. He realized that North America was key to England’s
global aspirations so he tied up more French troops with fighting
in Germany, while replacing commands in America with young-
er leaders. He also turned over recruitment and supplies to lo-
cals (rather than shipping everything in from England) promising
reimbursements. His efforts were successful in ending the war in William Pitt the Elder
1763 with the Treaty of Paris. While the name William Pitt may
not be as familiar as Washington or Jefferson, the city of Pittsburgh is named after him as
well as a number of cities and counties; Chatham, NH, Pittsfield, MA and Pittsboro, NC to
name but a few. So what happened between 1763 and 1776 to dramatically change
the relationship of the American colonies with their homeland of England?
Up until the French and Indian Wars, the colonies were
truly separate entities with many still feeling allegiance to the
British Crown. But nothing draws a burgeoning country to-
gether like fighting a common enemy. With the French de-
feated, Americans felt a level of freedom to explore and ex-
pand but they were also becoming resentful of England still
looking down on them. There were cultural differences as
well with the British looking down their noses at the
“uncultured” and “uncouth” Americans. New Englanders
(some with staunchly Puritan tendencies) felt that the British
were too blasphemous. And no one in the colonies liked tak-
ing orders from the British redcoats (the British military).
Another problem was taxes—the colonists felt unfairly
taxed by Britain and the British felt that the Americans didn’t
pay their fair share. Eventually this would lead to a key piece
within the Constitution regarding taxation without representa-
After the Treaty of Paris, England’s King George III is-
sued the Royal Proclamation of 1763 that basically re-organized North America after the French
defeat. It was also supposed to help relations with Native American tribes through regulation of
trade, settlement and future land purchases. The British tried to discourage Americans from ex-
ploring this new found territory west of the original colonies.
But curiosity, a sense of adventure, and likely some entre-
preneurial dreams, made the move west tantalizing. Even-
tually, this move would become known in the 19th century
as Manifest Destiny—the belief that the United States was
destined to expand across the continent.
Immediately following the Royal Proclamation of
1763 came two pieces of British legislation that set the tone
for revolution; the Currency Act of 1764 and the Stamp Act
of 1765. The Currency Act tried to regulate money as the
colonies were often short of British currency, so they printed
Spirit of the Frontier by John Gast 1872 their own (not backed by silver or gold). The Stamp Act
was a direct tax on paper; all legal documents had to be
printed on specially stamped paper otherwise the documents were not legal. But this Act didn’t
just include legal documents—playing cards, newspapers and magazines were included. This
was really a way to get the colonists to pay for the British troops stationed in America. And be-
cause this tax was created with no input (or representation) from the colo-
nies, Americans felt it violated their rights as English citizens. The Stamp Act
Congress met in New York in October, 1765 and sent 13 resolutions to the
King as to why this and other recently passed acts were unfair. Included in
the resolutions, along with the reasons for why the taxes were unfair, was
also the reiteration that Americans were British citizens and deserved all the
rights accorded to said British citizens. And while England did repeal the
Stamp Act in 1766, the Act itself gave birth to a group that would become
synonymous with revolution; the Sons of Liberty. Members of this group in-
cluded John and Samuel Adams (John would go on to be the 2nd Presi-
dent of the United States and Samuel was one of the architects of Ameri-
can republicanism), Benedict Arnold, John Hancock, Patrick Henry,
John Adams by Asher B. Durant
and Paul Revere to name a few.
Of course these Acts were not the only events to
push Americans towards revolution. On March 5, 1770,
tensions boiled over when a group of 60+ Bostonians
(men and boys) began to taunt the British regiment un-
der the command of Captain Thomas Preston. The
taunting led to throwing everything from snowballs to
garbage. In the heat of the confusion, shots were fired
from the British killing 5 including the first African-
American killed in the Revolution; Crispus Attucks. This
event became known as the Boston Massacre. The Brit-
ish soldiers were defended by none other than John Ad-
ams (lawyer and future Ambassador to France & England, Vice President to George Wash-
ington and 2nd President of the United States). Mr. Adams won acquittal for Captain Preston
and four of his men with two others convicted of manslaughter but with minimal punishment.
Three years later, a group of Patriots dressed like Native
Americans dumped 342 chests of tea into Boston Har-
bor as a act of defiance against the Tea Act (more tax-
ation on the colonists) and the British East India Compa-
ny. The Boston Tea Party further inflamed both sides
with the costs of the lost tea reaching almost $1 million
in today’s money. Britain was furious and passed sever-
al Acts that came to be known as the Intolerable Acts;
Quartering Act, Boston Port Act, Massachusetts Govern-
ment Act, Administration of Justice Act and the Que-
bec Act. Basically, these acts curbed trade in and out
of Massachusetts, altered the state’s governance and gave away land to France. So on
September 5, 1774, the First Continental Congress met in Philadelphia to discuss this turn of
events. Within less than one year, America would declare its Independence from England
and head into war.
The song Yankee Doodle actually comes from the French and Indian war. It began as a Brit-
ish military song that mocked the disheveled colonists. “Yankee” is fairly obvious but where
does the “doodle” come from? Today a doodle is typically a little
nonsensical drawing that often occurs when one is bored. However
for Yankee Doodle, it is believed that the world “doodle” comes
from the German “dudel” or “dödel” which means fool or simple-
ton. The British thought the colonists were uncouth and uncultured.
The word “macaroni” also had a different meaning that what
comes to mind for today (hint: it has nothing to do with Kraft or
cheese). In those days, “macaroni” was more about fashion than
pasta. To be “macaroni” meant very fashion forward—this also in-
cluded a particular style of wig. So the line “stuck a feather in his
cap and called it macaroni” alluded to the idea that the colonists
thought that sticking a feather in their cap was the same as being
We hold these truths to be self-evident . . .
The First Continental Congress drafted and
sent a declaration of colonial rights (also known as
the Olive Branch petition) to King George III but it
fell on deaf ears. Members of this congress includ-
ed Samuel and John Adams, George Washington,
Patrick Henry, John Dickinson, and Richard Henry
Lee (a distant relation of Robert E. Lee). When this
declaration was rejected, a Second Continental
Congress was convened in May 1775, again in
The Second Continental Congress agreed
that a Continental Army should be formed with
General Washington as the leader as well as the
need to draft a formal Declaration of Independ-
ence (this resolution was introduced to the floor
by Richard Henry Lee on June 7, 1776). A sub-
committee of five members was created to draft
this declaration including John Adams, Thomas
Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Robert Livingston and
The Declaration of Independence was
adopted on July 4, 1776. It was a document that
would have reverberations around the world.
Many of the phrases have become synonymous
with liberty and continue to inspire people across
the country and the world.
Original hand-written draft by Thomas Jefferson
When in the Course of human events, it be-
comes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected
them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and
equal station to which the Laws of
Nature and of Nature's God entitle
them, a decent respect to the opin-
ions of mankind requires that they
should declare the causes which im-
pel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-
evident, that all men are created
equal, that they are endowed by
their Creator with certain unaliena-
ble Rights, that among these are
Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happi-
Declaration of Independence by John Trumbull (1756—1843)
The American Revolution truly began with the adoption of the Declaration of Inde-
pendence on July 4, 1776 finally ending in 1783. The American Revolutionary War would be
a study guide unto itself, so we recommend several sites for further information and research:
The Independence Hall Association in Philadelphia
The Library of Congress papers for the American Revolution
PBS—Liberty! The American Revolution
On September 17, 1787, the Constitutional
Convention was held in Philadelphia to create a
new document that would govern the new coun-
try—this would take two years. Between 1777 and
1789, the country was under the Articles of Con-
federation as the basic outline of what was to
come in the Constitution. The 1787 Constitutional
Convention determined a need for three branch-
es of government; executive, legislative and judi-
cial. The legislative would be bicameral with the
House representing the people and the Senate
representing the states.
The United States Constitution was written
by some of the most brilliant minds of the day, but it also had an English inspiration; the
Magna Carta (1215). Many of the articles, amendments and laws within the Constitution
have direct correlation to the Magna Carta.
The Constitution has many articles and amendments (the first 10 amendments are
known as The Bill of Rights). The preamble , in a single sentence, outlined the direction for this
new country. And the first three words continue to this day to remind us of the role of the
people in government.
“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish
Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the
general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do
ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
While all the states eventually
ratified the Constitution (Rhode Island
being the last one in 1790), one par-
ticular subject was not addressed:
slavery. The conflict between the
northern and southern states was al-
ready brewing and would continue
until the middle of the next century.
On April 30, 1789, George
Washington became the first Presi-
dent of the United States after being
elected unanimously by the Electoral
College. He took the oath of office
at the Federal Building in New York
The song HAIL, COLUMBIA! was written by Philip
Phile in 1789 specifically for George Washington’s inau-
guration. It remained the unofficial anthem of the Unit-
ed States of America until 1931 when THE STAR SPAN-
GLED BANNER was adopted as the new anthem. Alt-
hough the song was replaced as the National Anthem,
it is the official anthem of the Vice President (the Presi-
dent’s anthem is HAIL TO THE CHIEF).
Hail Columbia, happy land!
Hail, ye heroes, heav'n-born band,
Who fought and bled in freedom's cause,
Who fought and bled in freedom's cause,
And when the storm of war was gone
Enjoy'd the peace your valor won.
Let independence be our boast,
Ever mindful what it cost;
Ever grateful for the prize,
Let its altar reach the skies.
CHORUS: Firm, united let us be,
Rallying round our liberty,
As a band of brothers joined,
Peace and safety we shall find.
1) How did these songs play a role in early America?
2) Can you find other songs from colonial America and the American Revolution?
3) What do these songs tell you about life in colonial America?
4) Why are these songs important to remember?
5) How are feelings provoked by songs (melody and lyrics)?
• Watch the HBO/JOHN ADAMS series (please note that some images are disturbing and
should be viewed by the teacher prior to student viewing—recommend PG13)
• Read and learn more about the founding fathers: John Adams, George Washington,
Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin
• Read and listen to Presidential Inaugural Addresses
• Learn more about the song YANKEE DOODLE
• Learn more about Anglo-American folk songs
• Immerse yourself in the American Revolutionary War
• Find an event from colonial America and create a folk song about it
Songs of Discovery; Simple Gifts, Shenandoah, Cumberland Gap
Within the next 50 years, the United States would grow exponentially both in land and
population. In 1803, the Louisiana Purchase (brokered by Third President Thomas Jefferson in
a spectacular deal with France) would double the size of the country; and at less than 4
cents per acre, it was a great deal! The 19th century would not only expand the boundaries
of the country (from the Atlantic to the Pacific), but would also see a civil war, the assassina-
tions of three U.S. Presidents (Lincoln 1865, Garfield 1881, McKinley 1901), and the completion
of the Transcontinental Railroad along with other technological wonders thanks to the Indus-
trial Revolution. All of these were to have an impact on American life but let’s begin with ex-
ploring the country.
Pioneers were nothing new to America as earlier pioneers like Daniel Boone had been
exploring Kentucky via the Cumberland Gap as early as 1775 (we’ll learn more about Daniel
Boone in Songs of American folk heroes as well as the Cumberland Gap later in this section).
But this expansion was not without conflict. As seen in the French and Indian War, many
groups had a stake in different parts of the country.
Expansion primarily meant heading west,
but it also included north to Maine. As early as
1604, Maine had European settlers (primarily
French) as well as the indigenous Algonquin-
speaking tribes (Abenaki, Passamaquoddy, and
Penobscots). In 1652, Maine became part of the
Massachusetts Bay Colony although the territory
was much fought over between the French, British
and Native Americans. From the 1740s to 1820,
with the French out of the territory, British and
Americans continued to battle over Maine. But on
March 15, 1820, Maine became the 23rd state with
the capital in Portland (until it moved to Augusta in
Pioneers consisted of many different types of people including religious based groups.
One of the groups to call Maine home were the Shakers. The Shakers (United Society of Be-
liever’s in Christ’s Second Appearing) were founded in the mid-18th century in England. They
got the name “Shakers” by their exuberant and enthusiastic nature of their worship (literally
shaking). In 1774, many of the Shakers (including Ann Lee or “Mother Ann”) moved to Ameri-
ca and settled in New York and New England. They were very forward thinking in their views
on gender equality with many women preaching. They also believed in celibacy so mem-
bership was increased by conversion, and adoption.
Handcrafting furniture is a legacy from this community that is still widely used and ap-
preciated today. Simplicity and attention to detail are hallmarks of the Shaker furniture style.
In 1848, Elder Joseph Brackett composed a tune called Simple Gifts. He lived in the Shak-
er community in Alfred, Maine. Perhaps the most famous use of the tune was by Aaron Cop-
land in his 1944 ballet with Martha Graham Appalachian Spring. Originally thought to be a work
song, most now believe that it was written to be a dance song.
'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free
'Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
'Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gain'd,
To bow and bend we shan't be asham'd,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come 'round right.
More recently, John Williams’ Air and Simple Gifts was composed as a quartet to be per-
formed at the inauguration of President Barack Obama in January 2009.
Yo-Yo Ma and Alison Krauss have a lovely ver-
sion available to watch on Youtube.
The King’s Singers also have a nice version
called The Gift on Youtube.
The origins of this classic American
folk song are not as clear. There are multi-
ple versions of lyrics as well as interpreta-
tions. According to the Library of Congress,
American folklorist Alan Lomax suggested
that Shenandoah began as a sea-shanty
with the original “composers” perhaps
French-Canadian explorers. A sea-shanty is
a work song that sailors would sing to make
their chores go faster. The typical form is a
solo voice melody alternating with a chorus
(not unlike the call and response of the Afri-
The Valley of the Shenandoah c. 1864 by Currier & Ives
in print of
Shenandoah came in an article by William L. Alden for
Harper’s New Monthly Magazine in 1882 titled Sailor’s Songs
(see original to the right). As with many folk songs, lyrics were
likely added and adapted by sailors, traders, and pioneers to
express their feelings about love, home, loss and triumph.
I long to see you,
Away you rolling river
I long to see you,
Away, I'm bound away
'cross the wide Missouri.
I love your daughter
Away, you rolling river.
For her I'd cross,
Your roaming waters.
Away, I'm bound away,
'Cross the wide Missouri.
There are many wonderful recorded versions by a
wide variety of performers including Welsh opera baritone
Bryn Terfel, Norwegian singer Sissel, Celtic Woman, American
singer Tennessee Ernie Ford, American baritone Thomas
Hampson and the Westminster Choir.
Versions vary from the longing for the Shenandoah riv-
er valley in Virginia to the story of a white trader who falls in
love with the Indian chief’s daughter (Shenandoah is the
The Cumberland Gap (also known
as the Cumberland Water Gap) is a pass
through the Cumberland Mountains at
the juncture of the states of Tennessee,
Kentucky and Virginia.
As early as 1654, the area now
known as Kentucky was being explored,
first by Virginian Colonel Abram Wood
followed by a succession of explorers,
travelers, hunters and observers. These
included George Washington, Thomas
Jefferson, ornithologist Alexander Wilson
and John James Audubon, and, of
course, Daniel Boone.
Until 1763, much of the area west of the Appalachian Mountains belonged to France but
after the Treaty of Paris ceded the land to the British, many felt this opened up the territory for
exploration. The British tried to hold off the settlement of the area to appease the Native Ameri-
cans but the flood gates were open.
In 1750, Dr. Thomas Walker (on behalf of the Loyal Land Company of Virginia) discovered
the Cumberland Gap. But it was Daniel Boone, who in 1775 on behalf of the Transylvania Com-
pany, began blazing a passable trail (also known as the Wilderness Road) through the Cumber-
land Gap. The life and times of Daniel Boone will be explored more fully in the section Songs of
the American Folk Hero.
By the 1790s, the trail was wide enough to accommodate wagons and by 1810, be-
tween 200,000 and 300,000 pioneers had traveled through the Gap to Kentucky, Ohio and be-
yond. The Cumberland Gap saw its share of battles during the Civil War and was occupied by
both Union and Confederates at varying times.
The song Cumberland Gap like-
ly has its origins in the old Scottish song
Bonnie George Campbell. A much
faster version originally for banjo, the
first recording was in 1924 but the most
popular vocal version was recorded in
1957 by Lonnie Donegan.
Cumberland gap, Cumberland gap
Fifteen miles on the Cumberland gap
Cumberland gap, Cumberland gap
Fifteen miles on the Cumberland gap
Cumberland gap ain't nowhere
Fifteen miles from middlesborough
Cumberland gap ain't nowhere
Fifteen miles from middlesborough
Cumberland gap, Cumberland gap
Fifteen miles on the Cumberland gap Daniel Boone Escorting Settlers through the Cumberland Gap
Cumberland gap, Cumberland gap George Caleb Bingham, oil on canvas, 1851–52)
Fifteen miles on the Cumberland gap
1) Why do people write songs about where they live or where they travel?
2) What does each song tell you about the geographic location and the culture that
3) How does the geography play a role in the song either through melody or lyrics?
4) Do other countries/cultures write songs about their geography?
5) If so, how are the songs similar to the United States? How are the songs different?
• Explore more American and European folk songs here
• Check out the Library of Congress collection of folk music
• Explore the work of Alan Lomax
• Learn more about Southern folk music
• Learn more about the Shenandoah river valley
• Find out more about William Penn, a Quaker who founded Pennsylvania
• Explore the Cumberland Gap
Songs of the American Folk Hero—Daniel Boone, Johnny Appleseed (aka
John Chapman) and Davy Crockett
Folk heroes, real and fictitious, have an important place in
American history and lore. This tradition carries over into the folk
song world as well. The three Americans featured in this section
were all real people whose deeds made them worthy of story tell-
ing and songs.
Daniel Boone (1734-1820) was a pioneer, Revolutionary War
officer, frontiersman and politician. He blazed the Wilderness Trail
through the Cumberland Gap and founded Boonesborough, Ken-
tucky in 1775. Much of the mystique surrounding Boone was not
unfounded. His adventures were relayed in several books and he
was the inspiration for the character of Natty Bumpo in James Fen-
imore Cooper’s The Last of the Mohicans. Other books featuring
Daniel Boone his adventures included Cecil B. Hartley’s The Life and Times of Col.
by Chester Harding (1820) Daniel Boone (1859) and John Filson's The Discovery; Settlement
and Present State of Kentucky including an appendix on Daniel
To understand the character of Daniel Boone, one must understand the risks he
took as he explored this new frontier. At the time, anything west of the original Thirteen
Colonies was considered frontier and was the home of many Native American tribes in-
cluding the Shawnee, Delaware, and Cherokees.
During a hunting expedition in Kentucky in 1769, he
and another hunter were captured by the Shawnee.
All of their skins were confiscated by the Shawnee,
who considered them poachers, and they were told
not to return. In 1773, Boone along with his family,
and five other families were to meet up with Captain
William Russell and his group of 40 to begin settling in
Boone sent his 17 year old son James and the Mendenhall brothers ahead on the Wilder-
ness Trail to meet with Russell at Castlewood while Boone’s party continued along. When
James arrived in Castlewood, Russell’s party was not yet ready to leave. So James along with
several other young men, including Russell’s son Henry, were to meet up with Boone and let him
know what was going on. This is where the story becomes murky but the outcome was the
It is possible that James and his group got lost on their way back to meet Boone’s party.
But on October 8, 1773, James and company were still on Wallen Creek. He and most of his
group were captured by a mixed party of Shawnee and Cherkoee. One member, Adam
Crabtree, was not captured but hid until he could make his escape. All of them were tortured
and killed with the only witness being Crabtree. One other member of the doomed party, a
slave named Charles, was captured and while he was not killed that night, he was later killed
during an argument about his ownership among the Shawnee/Cherokee.
After this massacre, the Boone/Russell parties returned to Castlewood. Not to be de-
terred, Boone returned to blaze the Wilderness Trail through the Cumberland Gap in 1775, es-
tablishing Boonesborough and eventually bringing his
family to Kentucky.
The next year, Boone’s daughter Jemima and
her friends Betsy and Fanny Calloway were captured
by the Shawnee. Boone and a group of men from
Boonesborough tracked the Shawnee war party for
two days before ambushing them and rescuing the
girls. It was this incident that was the inspiration for
Cooper’s character of Natty Bumpo in The Last of the
Boone fought in several battles during the
American Revolution as well as skirmishes with the Na-
tive Americans. His loyalty
was even questioned at one point, but he was cleared of all charg-
es. In 1787, Boone was elected to the Virginia state assembly as the
representative of Bourbon County. Boone’s land speculation in Ken-
tucky didn’t go well and he found himself in some financial difficul-
ties. In 1799, he moved to Missouri and spent his final years there with
his family. He and Rebecca are buried in Frankfort, Kentucky. His
legacy continues with references in Lord Byron’s poem Don Juan,
books and the 1960s Disney television version featuring Fess Parker.
Fess Parker played another iconic American folk hero, Davy Crock-
ett, who we will explore in the next section.
Daniel Boone was a man. Yes a big man.
With an eye like an eagle and as tall as a mountain was he.
Daniel Boone was a man. Yes a big man.
He was brave, he was fearless and as tough as a mighty oak tree.
From the coonskin cap on the top of ol’ Dan to the heel of his rawhide shoe
The rippin'est roarin'est fightin'est man the frontier ever knew.
Daniel Boone was a man. Yes a big man.
And he fought for America to make all Americans free.
What a Boone. What a wonder. What a dream comer truer was he.
Johnny Appleseed was born John Chapman on Septem-
ber 26, 1774 in Leominster, Massachusetts to Nathaniel and his
wife Elizabeth. Nathaniel had a small farm and John’s favorite
place was in the orchard. John also apprenticed with Mr. Craw-
ford, who had an orchard full of apple trees.
Nathaniel was away in New York City for much of John’s
early years as he was an officer during the American Revolution.
During his absence, John’s mother died so John and his sister, Eliz-
abeth, were raised by relatives until Nathaniel’s return in 1780.
Nathaniel re-married to Lucy Cooley and they had 10 children.
When he turned 18, John took his half-brother Nathaniel
and half-sister Emily west through Pennsylvania and into Ohio.
The elder Nathaniel brought his family and joined up with John,
the younger Nathaniel and Emily in Ohio. John’s background in
the apple orchards and his dedication to missionary work led to
his life’s work which was planting nurseries and spreading the
word of The New Church (also known as the Swedenborgian
The popular image of John traveling the Midwest random-
ly planting trees is more fiction than fact. While much of his life
was indeed planting apple trees, the idea was more in creating
usable nurseries throughout Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. John
would return to these nurseries every couple of years to tend the trees that were then sold on
credit. He lived a fairly impoverished life even though he
had limited income from the nurseries. He bartered for
many of his needs and in between tending the nurseries,
he preached the Gospel to pioneers and Native Ameri-
John also felt especially close to animals and is
often portrayed at having a special relationships to the
creatures of the forest. John never married so any gene-
alogical relationship to him comes through his sister or his
John died on March 18, 1745 at the age of 60.
Because of his height (between 6’5” and 6’9”) and
frame (very thin), it has been recently speculated that
he had Marfan syndrome but there is no evidence to
suggest this conclusion.
John Chapman’s legacy continues to this day not
only from the trees he planted throughout the Midwest
but through popular culture including the Disney short in
Melody Time from 1948 featuring the voice of Dennis
The lord is good to me
And so I thank the lord
For giving me the things I need
The sun and rain and an appleseed
Yes, he's been good to me
David Crockett (aka Davy Crockett) was born in Greene
County, Tennessee on August 17, 1786 to John and Rebecca
Crockett. Like Daniel Boone, Crockett was a hunter, a politician,
and his life became mythical after his death at the Alamo.
Davy had a difficult childhood and ran away from home
at 13. He returned 3 years later and helped his father by hiring
himself out to repay his father’s debts. In 1806, Davy married Mary
(Polly) Finley and they eventually had three children; John, William
and Mary. The family moved to Franklin County, Tennessee in
1813 and Polly died not long after. Davy remarried in 1815 to Eliz-
abeth Patton and they had three children; Robert, Rebecca and
In September 1813, Davy joined the Second Regiment of
Tennessee Volunteer Mounted Riflemen serving under John Cof-
fee. This regiment moved into Alabama to take part in the
fighting during the Creek War. The Creek War was a civil war between factions within the Creek
Nation. This likely would have stayed internal within the Creek Nation if the skirmishes hadn’t in-
cluded settlers and soldiers.
Thanks to Davy’s skill as a hunter and woodsman, many soldiers staved off starvation due
to the game Davy regularly brought to camp. In March 1814, Davy was discharged and was
eventually elected Lieutenant Colonel of the 57th Regiment of the Tennessee Militia (1818).
In 1826, Davy was elected to the United States House of Representatives but his opposi-
tion to President Andrew Jackson’s Indian Removal Act (1830) cost him his re-election. The Indi-
an Removal Act essentially legalized the removal of Native American
tribes from much wanted lands in primarily the South. This began the
Trail of Tears as first the Choctaw (1831), then the remaining Five Civi-
lized Tribes (Seminoles 1832, Creek 1834, Chicasaw 1837 and Cherokee
1838) were removed from their ancestral lands.
Crockett was re-elected in 1832 but was not re-elected in 1834.
While supporting his autobiography, Crockett supposed said that he
would serve his district faithfully but if he could not, they could go to hell
and he would go to Texas. That is precisely what he did.
Crockett arrived in Nacogdoches, Texas in January 1836. He
joined a group of volunteers and set out for the Rio Grande, meeting up
with Jim Bowie along the way. Crockett and Bowie arrived at The Ala-
mo on February 8th but beginning on the 23rd, the Alamo was under
siege by Mexican General Santa Anna.
Commander William Travis sent out messengers to ask for rein-
General Antonio Lopez de
forcements but none arrived in time. The siege ended on March 6, 1836 Santa Anna c. 1853
when the Mexican army attacked just before dawn. The Battle of the
Alamo lasted about 90 minutes and ended when all its defenders had been killed including
Crockett, Bowie and Travis. Davy Crockett and the Alamo continue to live on in pop culture
through movies and television including Disney’s 1950s era Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Fron-
tier with Fess Parker as Davy.
Born on a mountain top in Tennessee,
Greenest state in the land of the free.
Raised in the woods so's he knew every tree,
Killed him a bear when he was only three.
Davy, Davy Crockett King of the Wild Frontier.
1) What makes a folk hero?
2) What did these three men have in common? How were they different?
3) Can you tell what life was like on the frontier from just these songs?
4) What aspects of their lives inspired these songs?
5) How are these songs different than those of fictional folk heroes?
• Find songs and stories about fictional folk heroes (American and other parts of the world)
• Pick a character from history and write a song about him/her
• Explore Native American folk lore
• Act out a story about Colonial American people, places or events
• Learn more about Johnny Appleseed, Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett
• Learn about John James Audubon and his The Birds of America
• Find out more about the state bird of Kentucky based on Audubon’s paintings
• Visit the Filson Historical Society and see original pieces of Kentucky history
Songs of America at war and Stephen Foster — The War of 1812: Star Spangled
Banner, The Hunters of Kentucky; The Civil War: My Old Kentucky Home, Dixie,
Tramp! Tramp! Tramp!, When Johnny Comes Marching Home
War has always inspired songs of many types; songs of
patriotism, songs of morale boosting, songs of loss and songs
of victory. In this section we will focus on music of the War of
1812, composer Stephen Foster and the Civil War .
As mentioned in the Songs of Discovery, the 19th cen-
tury saw westward expansion grow exponentially first at the
result of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, followed by expedi-
tion of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark to chart the vast-
ness of the American west. Thomas Jefferson, Robert Living-
ston and James Madison had brokered a deal with France to
gain 600 million acres (at less than 4 cents per acre) that dou-
bled the size of the United States; and this new territory need-
ed exploration. In January 1803, Jefferson sent a confidential
letter to Congress asking for $2,500 to fund an expedition to
the Pacific Ocean. Jefferson hoped to establish trade with
the Native Americans in the West as well as find a water route
to the Pacific. Plus he was hoping for many scientific discov-
Portrait of Thomas Jefferson
By Rembrandt Peale c. 1805
eries along the way.
Jefferson chose Meriwether Lewis to lead the expedi-
tion as Lewis was a seasoned military man with experience. He was also Jefferson’s former
secretary and fellow Virginian so Jefferson felt comfortable with Lewis in this new role. Lewis
chose William Clark, a fellow military man and Virginian with whom Lewis had served. William
Clark lived some of his life in Kentucky, but it’s his brother George Rogers Clark and his sister
Lucy Clark Croghan who made Kentucky, in particular Louisville their home. Locust Grove in
Louisville, Kentucky was the home of Lucy and her husband William, and it was here that Lew-
is and Clark stopped in 1806 on their way back from their expedition.
Lewis needed specific scientific skills to lead this expedition
so he traveled to Philadelphia to learn map-making and surveying
from Andrew Endicott, botany from Benjamin Smith Barton, medi-
cine from Benjamin Rush (a good friend of John Adams), anatomy
and fossils from Caspar Wistar and mathematic from Robert Patter-
Lewis, after also obtaining military equipment like rifles and
other supplies, went to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where he would re-
cruit men for the expedition, before
heading down the Ohio River to meet
Clark. After a month overseeing the
construction of a 55’ keelboat, Lewis
and 11 men set off down the Ohio Riv-
er in October and meet up with Clark
By Charles Willlson Peale c. 1807 in what is now Clarksville, Indiana (just
across the river from Louisville, Ken-
tucky). Eventually this expedition (Corps of Discovery) consisted of
50 men including 9 men from Kentucky. By December, Camp Du-
bois of the Corps of Discovery was established outside of St. Louis
for the men to train and stock up on supplies.
In May 1804, the group headed up the Missouri River and by
August, they reached Iowa where they met with the Native Ameri-
cans (Oto and Missouri) and where they would also lose one mem-
ber to natural causes (this would be the only death by an original
Corps member during the expedition). By September 1804, the By Charles Willlson Peale c. 1810
Corps had reached South Dakota where they averted a potential
problem with the Teton Sioux then headed to North Dakota in October. Near present day Bis-
marck, the Corps began construction of Fort Mandan, across the Missouri River from the villages
of the Mandan and Hidatsa tribes (buffalo hunters). They hired a French-Canadian fur-trader,
Toussaint Charbonneau and his wife, Sacagawea (a Lemhi Shoshone) to be their interpreters as
they journeyed west. In February 1805, Sacagawea gave birth to her first child Jean Baptiste
(nicknamed Pompey by Clark who would later adopt and educate the boy). In the spring, the
party split with some going with the keelboat back down the Missouri
with gifts for Jefferson with the remaining Corps of 27 continuing on.
In May 1805, the Corps reached the Rocky Mountains but must
prepare for the difficult task of going around the Great Falls of the
Missouri River then over the mountains. Fortunately, Sacagawea is
familiar with this area as it is the home of her people (now Idaho).
She negotiated horses from her brother so the Corps can cross the
Rocky Mountains. By October, they reached the Columbia River and
in November 1805, they reached the Pacific Ocean. They built a win-
ter camp on a Clatsop site (now known as Fort Clatsop) and in March
1806, they began the journey home reaching St. Louis in September.
Sacagawea and Jean Baptiste
By Glenna Goodacre on US $1 The expansion of the United States wasn’t only to the West, it
gold coin was also to the North into the Northwest Territories, including modern
day Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin. Even though the
British had ceded the territories to the United States in the Treaty of Paris (1783), the Native
Americans wanted to curb the incursion of settlers into what they considered their territory. The
British also wanted a buffer between the Americans and their Canadian settlements. This would
become America’s Second War of Independence; the War of 1812.
President James Madison sent a message to Congress outlining the offenses of Britain
against America including trade restrictions, impressment of Americans into British service and
Britain support of Native Americans (including Tecumseh) to repel Americans from the North-
west Territories. Officially, war against Great Britain was declared on June 18, 1812 by a rela-
tively small majority in the House and Senate.
Chesapeake Bay was considered a ma-
jor military target by the British as it held a
number of major ports like Baltimore. Af-
ter the British had burned parts of Wash-
ington DC, they headed up the Bay to
Baltimore. In September 1814, British Ma-
jor General Robert Ross and 4500 men
landed at North Point to begin the land
portion of the two-pronged attack—Vice
Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane was to
attack Fort McHenry and the harbor from
the water. Ross ran into American forces
led by Brigadier General John Stricker
and was killed. Cochrane was unable to
send in his heaviest ships as the water
was too shallow but began bombard-
ment of the fort. Ross’ forces now under the command of Colonel Arthur Brooke were sur-
prised when they ran into 12,000 Americans just east of Baltimore. As Cochrane’s ships
moved closer, they entered the range of the Fort’s guns (Lt. Col. George Armistead was the
commander of the Fort at the time). When Armistead took over the fort, he insisted on "a flag
so large that the British would have no difficulty seeing it from a distance". For 25 hours, Fort
McHenry endured the British bombardment.
The Star Spangled Banner
Francis Scott Key (1779-1843) and John Stuart
Skinner were sent aboard the British ship HMS Tonnant to
negotiate a prisoner exchange. Key was a lawyer and
Skinner was a Colonel and the American Prisoner Ex-
change Agent. As part of the mission approved by
President James Madison, Key and Skinner were to ob-
tain the release of prisoners, including Dr. William
Beanes (a popular physician accused of aiding in the
arrest of British soldiers). Eventually the British agreed to
the release but because Key and Skinner were aboard
ship during the planning of the attack on Baltimore,
they were held until the attack was over.
They were moved between ships but witnessed
the bombardment of Fort McHenry by the British. Initial-
ly, Key saw the smaller storm flag during the battle—this was eventually lowered and the larg-
er flag (now known as the Star Spangled Banner flag) was raised. Key was so moved by this
that he began to write a poem that would become the Defence of Fort McHenry. He fin-
ished the poem after being released on September 16th in Baltimore. Key gave the poem to
his brother-in-law (Joseph Nicholson) who thought the words would go well with an already
composed piece The Anacreontic Song (aka To Anacreon in Heaven) attributed to
British composer John Stafford Smith. Ni-
cholson got it printed (September 17th)
and two newspapers picked it up on Sep-
tember 20th. Its popularity spread and in
1889, the Secretary of the Navy made THE
STAR SPANGLED BANNER the official song
played when raising the flag.
On March 3, 1931, President Her-
bert Hoover made THE STAR SPANGLED
BANNER the official anthem of the United
States. Since then, the National Anthem
performed at almost every sporting event both amateur and
Even pop culture has performed a variety of rendi-
tions. The most famous took place on the morning of Mon-
day, August 18, 1969, on a farm in upstate New York. To a
soaked, muddy and weary crowd, Jimi Hendrix played his
rendition of the National Anthem. This was the finale to
Custom holds that when THE STAR SPANGLED BANNER
is performed, all should face the flag, right hand over heart
and those wearing hats should remove them (there are ex-
ceptions for military).
The Hunters of Kentucky
The final battle of the War of 1812 took
place on January 8, 1815 (the Treaty of Ghent
officially ending the war had been signed on
December 24, 1815, but news did not reach the
combatants until February 1815).
British forces were intent upon seizing the
city of New Orleans and all the territory gained
from the Louisiana Purchase. Major General
Andrew Jackson (eventually the 7th President
of the United States), led his 5,000 soldiers (25%
of whom were Kentucky riflemen) against 7,500
British soldiers. Thanks to the efforts of the Ken-
tucky riflemen and Jackson’s artillery, British cas-
ualties were over 2,000 while the Americans
This decisive defeat
of the British in-
Woodworth in 1821
to compose the
song The Hunters of
used the song in his
and more recently,
the song has been
the finale to the
Broadway musical Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson.
The Civil War; My Old Kentucky Home
Like the American Revolution, much has been written about
the Civil War and would be a study guide unto itself. This study guide
will focus on the songs performed in We Sing America but if you’d
like more information on African-American history and song, you can
find our OH FREEDOM! study guide here.
Stephen Collins Foster was born on July 4, 1826 in Lawrence-
ville, Pennsylvania. He attended a private academy in Athens,
Pennsylvania (among others) and as a teen, studied with Henry
Kleber (a classically trained musician). He was also influenced by
entertainer and minstrel Dan Rice.
In 1846, Stephen moved to Cincinnati, Ohio where he worked as a bookkeeper for
his brother’s company. While in Cincinnati, Stephen composed Oh! Susanna but it was
returning to Pennsylvania and his partnership with the Christy Minstrels that proved to be
the most productive. Between 1850 and 1854, Foster would compose Camptown Races
(1850), Nelly Bly (1850), Swanee River (1851), and My Old Kentucky Home (1853) among
Unfortunately, the popularity of his music did not translate
into wealth for Foster. He and his family moved to New York City
in 1860. At the time, there was no copyright for music so while
music publishers and printers made money off of Foster’s songs,
he made very little. In fact, he only made $100 for Oh! Susanna.
He died on January 13, 1864 virtually broke. His final song Beauti-
ful Dreamer was published not long after his death.
Even though many of Foster’s songs are about the South,
most agree that Foster had very little contact with southern life.
He did have relatives in Bardstown, Kentucky but the only docu-
mented trips to the south included the first one as a child with a
brief stop in Louisville and the second on a boat trip from Pitts-
burgh to New Orleans. That’s not to say that he wasn’t inspired
by the Federal Hill mansion in Bardstown, Kentucky built by his
cousin Senator John Rowan.
But the history is murky and it’s also possible that Foster was
inspired by Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel UNCLE TOM’S CABIN
Harriet Beecher Stowe
(1851). In fact, the original title of My Old Kentucky Home was
Poor Uncle Tom, Good Night! Regardless of the history, My Old
Kentucky Home remains firmly in the hearts of all Kentuckians. It is the official state song of Ken-
tucky (adopted in 1928), and is a staple at college sporting events. Tradition also holds that the
song is performed by the University of Louisville marching band at the Kentucky Derby.
Dixie, Tramp! Tramp! Tramp!, When Johnny Comes Marching Home
Music has always been used during times of war to inspire the troops, keep the patriotism
levels high at home, intimidate the opponent and sometimes just for propaganda. The same
was true for music during the Civil War. Many songs were sung by both sides but with different
lyrics. Let’s begin with Dixie (or Dixie’s Land).
Composer Daniel Decatur Emmett was born in Mount Vernon,
Ohio on October 9, 1815. A self taught musician, Emmett joined the
Army at 17 and played both the fife and drum. After leaving the ar-
my, Emmett joined forces with other musicians to create The Original
Virginia Minstrels, a blackface troupe (white performers wearing
black make-up to impersonate African-Americans).
Blackface had long been a tradition in Europe and depicted
the horrors of slavery through song (many feel this helped to hasten
the end of slavery in Europe). However in the United States, black-
face changed the characterization from sympathetic to a more
crude, stereotypical depiction of African-Americans to entertain
In 1859, Emmett wrote Dixie’s Land for his new group, Bryant’s
Minstrels (there has been some debate about the origins of Dixie
Daniel Decatur Emmett
however none of the other claims of authorship have been substanti-
ated). The South immediately adopted this new song and it was
played at Jefferson Davis’ inauguration in Montgomery, Alabama and became an anthem for
the Confederacy. Emmett was not pleased; "If I had known to what use they [Southerners]
were going to put my song, I will be damned if I'd have written it." The song was also a favorite
of President Abraham Lincoln who stated "I have always thought that 'Dixie' was one of the best
tunes I ever heard. “
There are multiple versions of Dixie’s Land but the most famous are the traditional/
Confederate and the Union versions.
I wish I was in the land of cotton, old times there are not forgotten,
Look away, look away, look away, Dixie Land.
In Dixie Land where I was born in, early on a frosty mornin',
Look away, look away, look away, Dixie Land.
CHORUS: Then I wish I was in Dixie, hooray! hooray!
In Dixie Land I'll take my stand to live and die in Dixie,
Away, away, away down South in Dixie,
Away, away, away down South in Dixie.
Away down South in the land of traitors,
Rattlesnakes and alligators,
Right away, come away, right away, come away.
Where cotton's king and men are chattels,
Union boys will win the battles,
Right away, come away, right away, come away.
CHORUS: Then we'll all go down to Dixie, away, away,
Each Dixie boy must understand, that he must mind his Uncle Sam,
Away, away, and we'll all go down to Dixie,
Away, away, and we'll all go down to Dixie.
The song Tramp! Tramp! Tramp! (The Prisoner’s Hope)
was composed in 1864 by George Root to give hope to Un-
ion prisoners. Unlike Dixie, this is the only version of the song
and was sung by Union soldiers only.
In the prison cell I sit, thinking Mother, dear, of you,
And our bright and happy home so far away,
And the tears, they fill my eyes 'spite of all that I can do,
Tho' I try to cheer my comrades and be gay.
CHORUS: Tramp, tramp, tramp, the boys are marching,
Cheer up, comrades, they will come,
And beneath the starry flag we shall breathe the air again
Of the free land in our own beloved home.
In the battle front we stood, when their fiercest charge they made,
And they swept us off a hundred men or more,
But before we reached their lines, they were beaten back dismayed,
And we heard the cry of vict'ry o'er and o'er.
When Johnny Comes Marching Home is based on the Irish anti-war song Johnny I Hardly
Knew Ye. Irish-American bandleader Patrick Gilmore (under the name Louis Lambert) penned
the lyrics to When Johnny Comes Marching Home in 1863 for his sister, who was longing for the
return of her fiancé, Union Captain John O’Rourke.
Unlike Dixie, When Johnny Comes Marching Home’s original lyrics were appreciated
and performed by both sides, Union and Confederate. The universal appeal for a triumphant
welcome home after the war was over was one thing both sides could agree upon.
When Johnny comes marching home again,
We'll give him a hearty welcome then,
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.
The old church bells will peal with joy,
To welcome home our darling boy,
The village lads and lassies say
With roses they will strew the way,
And we'll all feel gay
When Johnny comes marching home.
1) How do historic events influence popular music?
2) What are the characteristics of a good national anthem?
3) What are the elements needed to create a patriotic song?
4) Why are some songs from the War of 1812 and the Civil War still popular today while others
5) What aspects of the traditional/Confederate version of Dixie made it appealing to South-
erners? How are Southerners described in the Union version?
6) How did music effect (enhance or hurt) the War or 1812 and/or the Civil War?
• Check out the Civil War music section from the PBS/Ken Burns’ documentary THE CIVIL WAR
• Write lyrics inspired by events in the Civil War
• Study the poetry of the Union and the Confederacy
• Learn more about Band Music from the Civil War era
• Explore the world of 19th century Ohio and Minstrel Songs
• Study the Lyrical Legacy: 400 years of American Song and Poetry
• Learn more about The Star Spangled Banner and When Johnny Comes Marching Home
• Learn more about Harriet Beecher Stowe and Uncle Tom’s Cabin
• Listen to Band Music from the Civil War era
Songs of working in America (railroads and mining)
Drill ye Tarriers, Drill, Workin’ on the Railroad, John Henry, Clementine
During the last decade of the 18th century and the first half
of the 19th century, American manufacturing was born. Up to
that point, manufacturing was either local or within the household
(if you watch HBO’s JOHN ADAMS, you will see the family making
their own ammunition). Textiles, iron, canals and railways became
surging industries. In 1790, the first textile factory was built by Sam-
uel Slater in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. In 1792, Eli Whitney invented
the cotton gin, an invention that would revolutionize the cotton
industry especially in the South, and in 1798, Whitney popularized
manufacturing guns with interchangeable parts. And in 1804, Oli-
ver Evans invented a high powered steam engine that became
adaptable to many industries.
All this industry and new land to the west meant that trans-
portation of cargo and people was necessary to grow business.
Eli Whitney (1822), oil on canvas,
The transportation industry itself grew via the construction of ca- by Samuel F. B. Morse (1822)
nals and the railroad. This also required a huge labor force. Mil-
lions of immigrants from Ireland, Germany and China in particular, met the labor demands of
these new industries. But with these millions of immigrants also came a need for change in
the policies of the country with political parties taking different stands on the rights of immi-
grants. It is a battle that continues in modern day.
The idea of creating a canal con-
necting the Great Lakes to New York City
and the Atlantic Ocean had been around
for more than 100 years until New York
Governor DeWitt Clinton was able to get $7
million from the legislature to begin the
project. Many felt the project was a waste
of resources (nicknaming the canal
“Clinton’s ditch”). However the project
began on July 4, 1817 in Rome, New York
and was finally completed on October 26,
1825. This would become known as the
Eric Canal than runs 363 miles through the state of New York. The canal cut costs of transpor-
tation by 95% and created a population surge in western New York as well as states west in-
cluding Pennsylvania and Ohio. Here are two versions of the song Erie Canal; Pete Seeger
and Bruce Springsteen. In 1834, Ohio built a canal connecting the Great Lakes with the Mis-
sissippi valley, turning Cleveland into a large port city on Lake Erie. In the 1830s, the United
States had connected waterways from New York City to New Orleans and by the 1840s, al-
most 3,000 miles of canals had been created. But it would be the Transcontinental Railroad
that would forever change the face of America.
Railroads had been used in England since the 17th century primarily for moving cargo
and with the improvements to the steam engine (1774-88) by James Watt, further adapted to
boats (1787) by John Finch, the steam engine seemed poised to take over America. All it
needed was the track, and this in and of itself was no mean feat. Like the canals, building
the railroads would take thousands of workers, many of them immigrants, to work in brutal
conditions to connect East and West.
Drill ye Tarriers, drill!, Workin’ on the railroad, John Henry
In 1826, John Stevens proved that a steam locomotion was feasible on an experimental
track on his estate in Hoboken, New Jersey. In an effort to compete with New York City and the
newly built Erie Canal, Baltimore decided to invest in the rails. Two years after the Stevens ex-
periment, the B&O railroad (Baltimore & Ohio) began working on their track connecting the
port of Baltimore to Sandy Hook and this line has since gone on to connect to stops in Virginia
and West Virginia. Other lines followed suit: Mohawk & Hudson (1830), Saratoga (1832), South
Carolina Canal and Railroad Company (1833), Columbia Railroad of Pennsylvania (1834), and
Boston & Providence (1835).
The acquisition of California and the determination of the Oregon boundary, led to the
real possibility of a Transcontinental Railroad that would connect east with west. Asa Whitney
proposed using immigrants as labor with pay being in land along the route of the railroads. This
was turned down by Congress but pressure to connect the coasts via railroads became more
urgent upon the discovery of gold in California (more on this in Clementine). In 1853, then Sec-
retary of War Jefferson Davis was tasked with finding routes to the Pacific so he sent out teams
of surveyors to find the best possible route. The-
se were not simple or safe missions and some
surveyors did not return. But it was determined
that while the railroads could follow any of the
surveyed routes, the 32nd parallel route was the
least expensive so the Southern Pacific railroad
was built connecting the Mississippi River to the
Pacific Ocean. Yet there was not one railroad
that directly linked east with west. The Railroad
Act of 1862 supported the building of a Trans-
continental Railroad and helped create the Un-
ion Pacific Railroad, which eventually joined
with the Central Pacific at Promontory, Utah, on
May 10, 1869, finally linking the continent.
All of this building required workers most
Celebration of completion of the Transcontinental railroad on
May 10, 1869 at what is now Golden Spike National Historic Site of whom were immigrants, mainly Irish and Chi-
nese. Between 1820 and 1870, over seven and
a half million immigrants from mostly Europe came to America—this was more than the entire
population of the United States in 1810. By the mid-19th century, more than one-half of the
population of Ireland emigrated to the United States. This massive emigration was due to a
number of factors; for the Irish it was the great potato famine, for the Germans it was economic
hardship and political unrest. And while many immigrants went to work to create this new
American infrastructure, anti-immigrant sentiment ran high among the population.
For many of these laborers, work songs became a way to get through very long and diffi-
cult days. A work song is a piece of music closely connected to a specific form of work and is
either sung conducting the task or is a song linked to a task or trade. Work songs are also divid-
ed into categories including domestic, agricultural or pastoral (hunting, cultivation, herding as
examples), sea shanties, African American work songs developed during slavery (call and re-
sponse were the most common), cowboy songs, and industrial.
Many of these songs were sung a cappella and with a specific rhythmic pattern, often to
synchronize a group effort for a particular task. An excellent example is Po’Lazarus; you can
listen to the Fairfield Four or James Carter & the Prisoners. This song opened the popular Coen
brother film O Brother, Where Art Thou?
Drill ye tarriers, drill! was first published in 1888 with the words by Thomas Casey and
music by Charles Connelly. The word “tarriers’” refers to the Irish workers in the song but has
two possible meanings; either “to tarry” or delay, or it could be a reference to terriers who dig
their quarry out of the ground. Here is an excellent version by the Chad Mitchell Trio.
Every morning about seven o'clock
There's twenty tarriers a workin at the rock
The boss comes along and he says, "Keep still
And come down heavy on the cast iron drill."
And drill, ye tarriers, drill
Drill, ye tarriers, drill
For it's work all day for the sugar in you tay
Down beyond the railway
And drill, ye tarriers, drill
And blast, and fire.
The boss was a fine man down to the ground
And he married a lady six feet 'round
She baked good bread and she baked it well
But she baked it harder than the hobs of Hell.
The foreman's name was John McCann
By God, he was a blamed mean man
Last week a premature blast went off
And a mile in the air went big Jim Goff.
And when next payday came around
Jim Goff a dollar short was found
When he asked, "What for?" came this reply
"You were docked for the time you were up in the sky."
Tarriers live on work and sweat
There ain't no tarrier got rich yet
Sleep and work, then work some more
And we'll drill right through to the devil's door."
The origins of I’ve been working on the railroad are less clear. The first published version
appeared in 1894 titled the Levee Song. The section of Someone’s in the kitchen with Dinah
may be an older song that became attached to I’ve been working on the railroad. The com-
mon lyrics are:
I've been working on the railroad
All the live-long day.
I've been working on the railroad
Just to pass the time away.
Don't you hear the whistle blowing,
Rise up so early in the morn;
Don't you hear the captain shouting,
"Dinah, blow your horn!"
Dinah, won't you blow,
Dinah, won't you blow,
Dinah, won't you blow your horn?
Dinah, won't you blow,
Dinah, won't you blow,
Dinah, won't you blow your horn?
Someone's in the kitchen with Dinah
Someone's in the kitchen I know
Someone's in the kitchen with Dinah
Strummin' on the old banjo!
Singin' fi, fie, fiddly-i-o
Fi, fie, fiddly-i-o-o-o-o
Fi, fie, fiddly-i-o
Strummin' on the old banjo.
John Henry was a mythical representation of the 19th century
working class man. The story goes that John Henry was born a
slave but freed after the Civil War and went to work for the
Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad Company. He swung a 14
pound hammer and was helping to lay new track. When they
got to Big Bend Mountain near Talcott, West Virginia, a new
steam drill machine was supposed to beat the work of many
men. John Henry challenged the owner of the steam drill to a
contest and he won but died immediately from exhaustion.
When John Henry was a little bitty baby
No bigger than the palm of your hand
His daddy looked down at Johnnie and said
Johnnie’s going to be a steel driving man (Lawd, Lawdy)
Johnnie’s going to be a steel driving man
When John Henry was a little bitty baby
Sitting on his daddy’s knee
Well, he picked up a hammer and a little piece of steel
He said This hammer’s going to be the death of me (Lawd, Lawdy)
This hammer’s going to be the death of me!
My Darling Clementine originated with the
California Gold Rush (1848-1855) and is cred-
ited to Percy Montrose (1884), although cred-
it is also given to Barker Bradford. However
another song (Down by the river liv’d a maid-
en) written in 1863 by H.S. Thompson is likely
the inspiration for the Montrose version.
The California Gold Rush began on
January 24,1848 when James Marshall found
gold at Sutter’s Mill in Coloma, California.
Folks along the west coast, Mexico and even
into South America heard about this new dis-
covery and started making their way to California. But it wasn’t until late 1848 and early 1849
that the gold-seekers arrived in droves. As an example, San Francisco grew from a settle-
ment of 200 in 1846 to a boom-town of 36,000 by 1852. In 1849, President James Polk officially
declared a “gold rush” and that’s where the name “Forty-niners” comes from in describing
the gold seekers.
Americans were the only ones seeking riches in California; thousands came from Latin
America, Australia, Europe and China to pan for gold. And while a lot of gold was found, the
average miner left with not much more than they had started with. But the benefits to Cali-
fornia were enormous not only in founding some of the larger cities, but the boom in popula-
tion led to a state constitution and eventually statehood in 1850. New methods of mining
were developed to make gold extraction easier, steamships were used to transport miners up
the Sacramento River and railroads connected California to the rest of the country. This
boom was not without the negative side effects including forcing hundreds of thousands of
Native Americans off their lands and detriment to the environment.
My Darling Clementine has two possible interpretations as far as point of view; either
the story of a forty-niner who has lost his love or a miner who has lost his daughter. Depend-
ing on which verses are used, either interpretation is valid.
In a cavern, in a canyon,
Excavating for a mine
Dwelt a miner forty niner,
And his daughter Clementine
Oh my darling, oh my darling,
Oh my darling, Clementine!
Thou art lost and gone forever
Dreadful sorry, Clementine
Light she was and like a fairy,
And her shoes were number nine,
Herring boxes, without topses,
Sandals were for Clementine. --Chorus
Drove she ducklings to the water
Ev'ry morning just at nine,
Hit her foot against a splinter,
Fell into the foaming brine. -- Chorus
1) What elements identify a song as a “work song”?
2) How do work songs help us to understand a culture or time period?
3) What is the purpose of a work song?
4) How did work songs help to build America?
5) Are work songs different in other countries? How?
6) What other industries or tasks in America generated work songs?
• Learn more about oral traditions like work songs
• Create and perform an original work song
• Listen to different work songs from the John and Ruby Lomax collection
• Research the legend of John Henry
• Explore the origins of call and response
• Learn more about slave work songs from the colonial period
• Participate in Colonial Williamsburg’s 2011.12 Electronic Field Trips
• Learn more about Texas prison work songs from a short film by Pete Seeger
• Learn more about sea shanties or work songs of the sea
• Learn more about the California Gold Rush
Songs of the American West; Home on the Range, Git along little dogies
Once the railroads connected East to
West, Americans by the thousands moved west
driven by Manifest Destiny or the belief that the
United States was destined to expand across
the continent from the Atlantic to the Pacific.
But the way west was not an easy one and the
two halves of the country couldn’t be more
different. The more developed, industrialized
East coast vs. the sparsely populated, patch-
work of homestead farmers, miners and cattle
Geography could also be problematic
as the Donner Party discovered in the winter of
1846-47 when they were stranded in the Sierra
Westward the Course of Empire takes its Way Nevada mountains on their way to California.
by Emanuel Leutze (1860) Native Americans also struggled with this
mass migration from east to west. Conflicts be-
tween Native Americans and settlers were always possible but prior to the railroads, most set-
tlers moved via horse and wagon. Once the railroads were complete, settlers could move
faster and cheaper, and the conflicts with Native Americans increased.
In 1851, the United States and seven Indian nations agreed to the Treaty of Fort Laramie.
This treaty stated that the U.S. recognized that the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes owned land
encompassing present day parts of Wyoming, Nebraska, Colorado and Kansas.
But another gold rush, this time in the Rocky Mountains of Colora-
do (Pikes Peak Gold Rush) in 1858, saw another influx of miners into the
previously recognized Cheyenne/Arapaho territory. By February 1861,
chiefs from the Cheyenne and Arapaho had to negotiate again with the
United States. This resulted in the Treaty of Fort Wise that essentially ced-
ed the lands from the Treat of Laramie from the tribes to the U.S. govern-
ment. The new reserve was 1/13th the size of the 1851 lands and not all
Native Americans approved of this new treaty, including a more militant
group of primarily Cheyenne and Lakota eventually known as the Dog
Soldiers. The Dog Soldiers refused to abide by the new treaty and were
instrumental in the Cheyenne resistance for the next several decades.
Sitting Bull The American Civil War led to organized military forces in the Colorado
territory. Tensions between the Native Americans, settlers and these sol-
diers led to the Sand Creek massacre in 1864 between 800 mostly Northern Cheyenne under
Chief Black Kettle and the 700 troops in the U.S. army under Col. John Chivington. Numbers
vary but the Cheyenne took heavy losses.
Unfortunately, this was not the end of the conflicts or the blood
shed. Native American leaders like Geronimo, Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse
and Chief Joseph led the resistance but technology and numbers
were not on their side. Sitting Bull’s vision, along with the command-
ers Crazy Horse and Gall, led the successful defeat of Lt. Col. George
Armstrong Custer at the Battle of the Little Bighorn on June 25-26, 1876
in eastern Montana. Not just a defeat, but the decimation of Custer’s
army—only a horse survived. After that defeat, the crackdown on
Native Americans was relentless. The next tactic used by settlers and
soldiers was to decimate the herds of buffalo. Estimates suggest that
between the periods of 1865 to 1900, tens of millions of buffalo were Lt. Colonel George Armstrong
killed, leaving only a few hundred remaining. Without a food source, Custer
many Native American tribes had to find other ways to survive.
Chief Joseph and Nez Percé had different problems when gold was discovered on
their land in 1877. US officials wanted 90% of their land, and after a stand-off, Chief Joseph
ordered his people to make a run to Canada to avoid capture. They almost made it but af-
ter a 1,700 mile chase, the army caught up to them before they could reach Canada. They
were sent to Oklahoma where almost half of them died of disease and despair.
The final showdown came on the morning of December 29, 1890 between the Sioux
and the army. A commander in the army demanded that the Sioux relinquish all their weap-
ons. A shot was fired although no one is sure who fired. But the result was that the army
opened fire and killed 300 Sioux. This became known as the Wounded Knee Massacre. Dee
Brown wrote a best selling book about this event titled Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee also
made into a 2007 HBO special .
Part of the vast expansion into Native American lands was driven by the cattle indus-
try, this included the American Cowboy. The cowboy is essentially an animal herder, typically
on horseback, who also performs a number of ranch related tasks. The late 19th century
American cowboy comes out of the tradition of the Mexican vaquero. The vaqueros taught
the tricks of the trade to the Texans who realized that there was great profit to be had.
The tools of the trade included appropriate dress (wide brimmed hat, bandanna,
chaps) and a lariat. They worked in teams (drovers) to move cattle up to 1500 miles where
they could be sold at market. Often using the Chisholm Trail that led from Texas to Abilene,
Kansas, cowboys were constantly on the alert for predators as well as cattle rustlers.
Home on the Range is the state song of Kansas and was writ-
ten as a poem in the early 1870s by Dr. Brewster Higley. Originally
titled My Western Home, the poem was published in 1873. Music
was later added by Higley’s friend, David E. Kelley. But the most
familiar version comes from Texas composer David Guion. The orig-
inal poem is slightly different but the sentiment expressed was
quickly picked up by settlers, farmers and cowboys.
Oh, give me a home where the buffalo roam,
Where the deer and the antelope play,
Where seldom is heard a discouraging word
And the skies are not cloudy all day.
Home, home on the range,
Where the deer and the antelope play;
Where seldom is heard a discouraging word
Dr. Brewster Higley
And the skies are not cloudy all day. (1823-1911)
Git along little dogies, also known as Whoopie Ti Yi Yo , was another cowboy song that
was more specific to the cattle drive. A “cowpuncher” is another name for a cowboy; a
“dogie” is a motherless calf on the range and a “cholla” (pronounced choya) is a type of
As I was a-walkin’ one mornin’ for pleasure,
I spied a cowpuncher a-lopin’ along.
His hat was throwed back and his spurs was a-jinglin’
And as he approached he was singin’ this song:
Whoopee ti-yi-yo, git along little dogies,
For you know that Wyoming’ll be your new home.
Whoopee ti-yi-yo, git along little dogies,
For you know that Wyoming’ll be your new home.
It’s early in spring that we round up the dogies.
We mark them and brand them and bob off their tails.
We round up the horses, load up the chuckwagon,
And then throw the dogies up on the long trail.
Your mother was raised away down in Texas,
Where the jimson weed and sandburs grow.
Now we’ll fill you up on prickly pear and cholla,
Till you are all ready for the trail to Idaho.
Oh, you’ll be soup for Uncle Sam’s Injuns,
“It’s beef, heap beef!” I hear them cry.
Git along, git along, git along little dogies;
You’ll be beef steers by and by.
Same as “work songs”
• Learn more about Cowboy songs
• Listen to some classic versions of cowboy songs: Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, Johnny Cash,
the Sons of the Pioneers, and even Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters
(in order Git along little dogies, Home on the Range, Ghost Riders in the Sky, Tumblin’ Tumble-
weeds, Don’t fence me in)
Songs of World Wars and Depression; Over There, Brother can you spare a dime?,
Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy
As the 19th century came to a close,
America was a booming country. Connect-
ed via rail and water, cargo of all kinds
moved across the country. The booming
economy also created a new class of
wealthy Americans including Cornelius Van-
derbilt (railroads), John D. Rockefeller (oil),
Andrew Carnegie (steel), and J. Pierpont
Morgan (banking) to name a few.
America also added more land like
Alaska (the 49th state in 1959), and also expanded overseas to include Samoa, Hawaii (the
50th state also in 1959), Guam, Puerto Rico, the Philippines and the Virgin Islands. The United
States also built the Panama Canal (1904-1914) to connect the Atlantic to the Pacific via the
Isthmus of Panama. One of the most difficult engineering projects in modern history, the Pan-
ama Canal had an enormous impact on shipping, cutting time in half as well as making the
journey less dangerous (original routes were either through the Straits of Magellan or around
This was also a time of social and political change. America in 1900 was very different
than just 50 years earlier and many felt that government needed to take a more hands on
approach with social issues. Progressive minded presidents (Theodore Roosevelt, William
McKinley and Woodrow Wilson) as well as a ground swell of popular support addressed issues
like worker and consumer protections, conservation of natural resources, the plight of the ur-
ban poor, temperance and women’s suffrage. This movement would add four amendments
to the Constitution; 16—Income tax (2/3/1913), 17-Senators elected by popular vote
(4/8/1913), 18-Liquor abolished (temperance—ratified 1/19/1919, repealed by Amendment
21 12/5/1933), 19-Women’s suffrage (the right to vote) (8/18/1920).
The rise of the new class of wealthy Americans garnered the attention of social activ-
ists who felt that those resources should be put to better use (although many eventually be-
came great philanthropists and established well known foundations that are with us today).
Journalists and writers also examined the business practices of industries like oil, meat pack-
ing, the stock market, child labor, the steel industry and racial oppression.
These journalists were known as Muckrakers but their work changed industries as well as social
issues. Perhaps the best known of this breed of writer was Upton Sinclair and his book that ex-
posed the Chicago meat packing industry, The Jungle. Within months, President Roosevelt
and Congress passed the Pure Food and Drug Act and the Meat Inspection Act to curb the
abuses in the industry. Roosevelt was also an avid outdoorsman and
by the time he left office, he had preserved more than 150 million
acres of land as national forests.
But the early 20th century was not without conflict including sev-
eral skirmishes along with the Spanish-American war. Isolationism had
long been the American policy especially when it came to European
conflicts. Sparked by the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of
Austria on June 28, 1914, World War I (also known as the Great War)
drew in all the major countries of the world. This also coincided with
the Russian Revolution . As with other large scale wars mentioned in
this study guide, World Wars I and II are incredibly complex in scale
and scope. Links to more information will be included along with Es-
The United States joined the war on April 6, 1917 when they de-
clared war on Germany (who had been attacking passenger ships via George M. Cohan
their submarine program). The song Over There was composed by (1878-1942)
George M. Cohen (Give My Regards to Broadway and You’re a Grand
Old Flag) in 1917 and was popular with soldiers in both world wars.
Over there, over there,
Send the word, send the word over there
That the Yanks are coming, the Yanks are coming
The drums rum-tumming everywhere.
So prepare, say a prayer,
Send the word, send the word to beware -
We'll be over, we're coming over,
And we won't come back till it's over, over there.
World War I officially ended with the Treaty of Versailles on June 28, 1919, although
many commemorations have the end of the war as November 11, 1919. The effects of the
war were devastating. More than 10% of France’s active male population had been killed
(15% for Germany and 17% for Austria-Hungary), half of the European soldiers who were mobi-
lized during the war were either killed or permanently injured and disease was rampant (the
post World War I influenza pandemic killed millions). President Woodrow Wilson outlined
peace for a post war world in his Fourteen Points.
The 1920s saw a boom of industry and an increase in the standard of living for many
Americans. Henry Ford’s horseless carriage and his invention of the assembly line made cars
affordable for many and changed the way Americans traveled, ate, slept, vacationed and re
-located for work. While diners and fast food became more popular, older establishments
and the rails suffered. The 1920s was paradoxical in that while there were more restrictions in
some areas (prohibition and its effects including speakeasies, bootleg alcohol and the rise of
organized crime (think Al Capone in Chicago)) but new freedoms in others (women’s right to
vote). The 1920s also saw the Harlem Renaissance, the rise of supermarkets and department
stores, radio and the National Broadcasting Company, the first Miss America Pageant, maga-
zines like Time and Reader’s Digest, and great baseball players like Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth.
But the good times were not to last. Throughout the 1920s,
the stock market boomed. By September 1929, the total value in
the market was approximately $87 billion. On October 24, 1929,
also known as Black Thursday, investors began selling off their
stocks at an alarming rate and by October 29th, the market was
in free fall. By November 17th, the stock market had lost $30 billion
in value. The Great Depression was underway. And while a vast
majority of Americans did not have any money in the stock mar-
ket, the crash had a cascading effect throughout the economy
effecting everyone. President Herbert Hoover tried to calm fears
and assure the nation that the economy was solid. Banks began
to close as debts went unpaid, businesses laid off workers, and
manufacturing slowed due to over production and huge invento-
ry. Unemployment rose to an alarming 25% by 1932 with many
Iconic photo taken by Dorothea turning to odd jobs and soup kitchens. But the stock market crash
Lange of Florence Thompson and
her children in a migrant farm worker
was not the only problem.
camp in California. Over farming and a drought turned much of America’s
heartland into a Dust Bowl with Oklahoma hit the hardest. Chroni-
cled in John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men, migrant farm workers
moved to California, hoping to begin a new and better life. Large scale work project like the
Golden Gate Bridge and the Los Angeles aqueduct began in the early 1930s under President
Hoover, but the economy did not turn around in time for the next election cycle and Franklin
Delano Roosevelt was elected in a landslide. Roosevelt ran on
the platform of the New Deal for the American people. Within
his first term, FDR passed legislation to reform the banks and
stock market, aid to the unemployed and farmers as well as
housing and regular talks with the American people via the ra-
dio. FDR’s Fireside Chat became a staple in American house-
holds. As part of this New Deal, FDR created the FDIC (Federal
Deposit Insurance Corporation), FERA (Federal Emergency Relief
Act), Social Security, SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission),
FHA (Federal Housing Authority) and the Works Progress Admin-
istration (WPA) to name a few. To better manage the Dust Bowl,
the Soil Conservation and Domestic Allotment Act paid farmers
to grow clover and alfalfa to put nutrients back into the soil that
corn and wheat had depleted.
Written in 1931 by Yip Harburg and Jay Gorney, Brother Franklin Delano Roosevelt
can you spare a dime? is one of the best known American de- 32nd President of the United States
pression songs. The song asks the question why men who built
America were now abandoned to the bread line.
They used to tell me I was building a dream, and so I followed the mob,
When there was earth to plow, or guns to bear, I was always there right on the job.
They used to tell me I was building a dream, with peace and glory ahead,
Why should I be standing in line, just waiting for bread?
Once I built a railroad, I made it run, made it race against time.
Once I built a railroad; now it's done. Brother, can you spare a dime?
Once I built a tower, up to the sun, brick, and rivet, and lime;
Once I built a tower, now it's done. Brother, can you spare a dime?
While America was struggling with the Great Depression, Europe and Asia were in tur-
moil with Japan attacking Chinese Manchuria, Italy attacking Ethiopia and Germany under
Adolf Hitler. America had hoped to keep to its isolationist policies seeking to remain neutral
while parts of Europe were taken over by Germany beginning with the invasion of Poland on
September 1, 1939. But on December 7, 1941, Japanese fighter pilots attacked Pearl Harbor in
Hawaii in an effort to cripple the US Pacific Rim fleet. America was drawn into another world
One of the outgrowths of World War II was the crea-
tion of the USO or United Service Organizations by President
Roosevelt in 1941. As it became clear that America was
going into war, many service groups wanted to provide
support for the troops. This included entertainment over-
seas with many notable performers of the day volunteering
their time including Bob Hope, Judy Garland, Bing Crosby
and the Andrews Sisters to name just a few. And for the An-
drews Sister, their big hit Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy, was a
popular song with the troops.
The song Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy was written in
1941 by Don Ray and Hughie Price and tells the story of a
Chicago street musician who is drafted but is only used to
blow Reveille until more musicians are drafted and join him.
Check out two versions of Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy with the original version with the
Andrews Sisters in the 1941 Abbott and Costello movie Buck Privates and the other from Bette
He was a famous trumpet man from out Chicago way
He had a boogie style that no one else could play
He was the top man at his craft
But then his number came up and he was gone with the draft
He's in the army now, a-blowin' reveille
He's the boogie woogie bugle boy of Company B
They made him blow a bugle for his Uncle Sam
It really brought him down because he couldn't jam
The captain seemed to understand
Because the next day the cap' went out and drafted a band
And now the company jumps when he plays reveille
He's the boogie woogie bugle boy of Company B
Iconic images from World War II includ-
ing Rosie the Riveter and raising the flag
on Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima.
J. Howard Miller created the We Can
Do It! Poster and Joe Rosenthal was the
photographer on Iwo Jima. The title Ro-
sie the Riveter comes from the song of
the same name. For a video, click here.
1) What style would you say best describes each of the songs in this section?
2) What role does music and entertainment have in a war effort? How about the effect it has
on the general population?
3) Can you identify other music from these time periods that also reflect the sentiment of the
4) How was popular culture effected by the different World Wars and the Great Depression?
5) Are there modern songs that reflect the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq? How are they similar
or different than the songs in this section?
• Learn more about the USO
• Find out more on World War I from PBS and the BBC
• Study the women’s suffrage movement from the History Channel, the National Archives
and the Library of Congress as well as Prohibition from PBS
• Find out more on World War II from the History Channel, and the BBC
• Learn about the Holocaust and the survivors from the Shoah Foundation at USC
• Look at images from World War II via the National Archives
Songs from the 20th century folk era; The Lass from the Low Countree,
Blue Moon of Kentucky, This Land is your Land
The European portion of World War II officially ended on May 8, 1945 (known as V-E day)
when Germany surrendered. But ending the war in the Pacific theater was a more difficult
challenge. Japan had lost ground with American forces taking over Okinawa and Iwo Jima
but still had a large army on the mainland prepared for possible invasion. President Harry S.
Truman faced a difficult decision. The United States had developed a brand new and devas-
tating technology—the atomic bomb. Japan was presented with the option of unconditional
surrender that was refused. On August 6, 1945, the plane Enola Gay dropped an atomic
bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. Three days later, another atomic bomb was
dropped on Nagasaki. The Japanese government surrendered on August 14, 1945. World War
II was finally over. But conflict around the world would continue to plague the 20th century.
After the first half of the 20th century had seen two world wars, a depression and the mi-
gration of Americans across the country, what had been previous localized music found new
audiences. Roots music and the American folk music reviv-
al had many champions including the three composers rep-
resented in this section; John Jacob Niles, Bill Monroe and
John Jacob Niles (1892-1980) was born in Louisville,
Kentucky and began composing folk music in his teens. He
graduated from DuPont Manual High School and began
transcribing oral folk music. He enlisted in World War I allow-
ing him to collect even more folk songs and publishing two
books; Singing Soldiers (1927) and Songs My Mother Never
Taught Me (1929).
After returning from the war, Niles attended the Cincinnati Con-
servatory of Music (CCM) at the University of Cincinnati eventually moving
to Chicago to sing with Lyric Opera of Chicago. During the 1920s and
1930s, Niles continued to compose, transcribe and perform folk music as
well as publishing more materials. He began recording in the late 1930s
and maintained his performing, recording and touring career until his
death in 1980. He and his wife Rena are buried at the St. Hubert’s Episco-
pal Church in Clark County, Kentucky. The University of Kentucky is the
home of the John Jacob Niles Center for American Music.
The Lass from the Low Countree was recorded in 1941 and tells the
story of a young girl who falls in love with someone above her station who
does not return her affections.
Oh, he was a lord of high degree,
And she was a lass from the Low Countree.
But she loved his lordship so tenderly!
Oh, sorrow, sing sorrow!
Now she sleeps in the valley where the wildflowers nod,
And no one knows she loved him but herself and God.
William Smith Monroe (aka Bill Monroe) was born in Rosine,
Kentucky in 1911. The youngest of eight children, Bill grew up in a
house full of music. Because his brothers played fiddle and guitar,
Bill played the mandolin (which would become his signature instru-
ment). Like Niles, Bill Monroe listened to the music around him and
was greatly influenced by his uncle, Pendleton Vandiver, with
whom he lived after his parents died. Along with some of his broth-
ers, Monroe formed several groups but still hadn’t found the
“sound” he was looking for. That came in the 1940s with his new
group the Blue Grass Boys and a the additions of a North Carolina
banjo prodigy, Earl Scruggs and singer/guitarist Lester Flatt. The re-
cording sessions for Columbia Records in 1947 and 1948 produced the original bluegrass sound
and some of Monroe’s famous songs including Blue Moon of Kentucky, now the official blue-
grass song of Kentucky. Monroe gave his blessing to Elvis Presley to do a rock-and-roll cover of
the song in 1954 as a “B” side to That’s Allright Mama; both became hits for Presley. The rise of
rock-and-roll led to a momentary downturn in Monroe’s career that was later revived with blue-
grass festivals and recognition from other musicians of his importance in the world of country
music. Bill Monroe died in 1996 and is buried in Rosine, Kentucky. In recent years, Blue Moon of
Kentucky has been named one of NPR’s 100 great songs. To hear the NPR program, click here.
I said blue moon of Kentucky, keep on shining
Shine on the one that's gone and left me blue
I said blue moon of Kentucky, keep on shining
Shine on the one that's gone and left me blue
Well, it was on one moonlight night
Stars shining bright
Wish blown high
Love said good-bye
Woodrow Wilson “Woody” Guthrie was born in Oke-
mah, Oklahoma in 1912 and was named after the then Gov-
ern of New Jersey, Woodrow Wilson (who would go on to be
the 28th President of the United States). His father, Charles,
was politically active and Woody often accompanied him
as he campaigned throughout the county. Woody’s moth-
er, Nora, was institutionalized when Woody was 14. She died
in 1930 from Huntington’s disease, a degenerative genetic
disorder that strikes typically in middle age and has no
Woody took many odd jobs in his teens and clearly
had an affinity for music as he seemed to learn to play by
ear easily. During the 1930s, Woody moved to California as
many did during the Dust Bowl years, joined the Communist Party and composed and per-
formed his own music that would eventually appear on his Dust Bowl Ballads. In 1940, he
moved across the country to New York City. As a reaction to Irving Berlin’s God Bless America,
Woody composed This Land is Your Land inspired by his cross country trip with several verses
directly challenging class inequality. That year also introduced him to fellow folk musician Pete
Seeger as well as some steady employment, allowing him to bring his family to New York. But
that didn’t last long with the Guthries moving back to California, then up to Washington State.
He was hired by the Department of the Interior as a narrator and songwriter (recommended by
Alan Lomax) for a film on the Grand Coulee Dam project. In one month, he wrote 26 songs
inspired by the Dam and the surrounding landscape.
He returned to New York (without his family—they went back to California and Mary, his
wife, divorced him) and joined Pete Seeger’s folk-protest group, the Almanac Singers. In 1944,
Guthrie finally recorded This Land is Your Land for Moe Asch of Folkways Records. Woody met
and eventually married a dancer, Marjorie Mazia with whom he had three children including
singer/song-writer, Arlo Guthrie. In the 1950s and 1960s, Woody’s health deteriorated and
eventually diagnosed with Huntington’s disease. Bob Dylan, a huge fan of Woody, sought him
out in his last years and revived the interest in this American original. Woody Guthrie died in
1967 from complications of Huntington’s disease. His three children with Marjorie, including Ar-
lo, did not inherit this disease; although it should be noted that two of his daughters with Mary
died from the disease.
This land is your land, this land is my land
From California to the New York Island
From the Redwood Forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and me.
As I went walking that ribbon of highway
I saw above me that endless skyway
I saw below me that golden valley
This land was made for you and me.
I roamed and I rambled and I followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts
While all around me a voice was sounding
This land was made for you and me.
1) How do these songs reflect the life and times of these composers?
2) Why is it important to document oral traditions and songs?
3) How were these three men (Niles, Monroe and Guthrie) similar? How were they different?
4) How have American folk songs remained the same through the centuries? How are they
• Listen to John Jacob Niles and other musicians sing his more of his songs: Joan Baez, Jen-
nifer Larmore, and Barbra Streisand.
• Compare and contrast different versions of Blue Moon of Kentucky: Bill Monroe, Elvis Pres-
ley, Patsy Cline, LeeAnn Rimes, the remaining Beatles, and even King of the Hill.
• Listen to Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs; Foggy Mountain Breakdown and Cumberland Gap
• Hear Woody Guthrie and other musicians sing This Land is Your Land; Johnny Cash, Bruce
Springsteen, Peter, Paul & Mary, Pete Seeger, and Arlo Guthrie.
This study guide is a starting place for learning more about American history through
folk songs. Excellent sources for other recorded materials, information and lesson ideas in-
The Library of Congress
National Museum of American History
PBS American Roots Music
PBS American Masters
For more information on Kentucky specific history and historical sites, we recommend
Filson Historical Society
Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, KY
Abraham Lincoln birthplace
Thomas Edison house