Saturday, February 27, 2021

The Colored Volunteers

The American Civil War created an opportunity for the composition of hundreds of songs. Tunes written from 1861-1865 covered a wide array of subjects dealing with the conflict. Some praised various military leaders, and denigrated others. Some songs chided legal acts like conscription, while others told stories of heartbreak on the home front. Still others, took up political issues like emancipation and the enlistment of African American soldiers. “The Colored Volunteers,” was just one such song. Supposedly written by an unknown private in the 54th Massachusetts, it went:

“Fremont told us, when this war was first begun,

How to save this Union, and the way it should be done,

But Kentucky swore so hard, and old Abe he had his fears,

So that’s what’s the matter with the Colored Volunteers.



Give us a flag all free without a slave,

We will fight to defend it as our fathers did so brave

Onward boys, onward, it’s the year of jubilee,

God bless America, the land of liberty.


Little Mack went to Richmond with three hundred thousand brave—

Said keep back the negroes and the Union he would save;

But Mack he was defeated, and the Union now in tears,

Is calling for the help of the Colored Volunteers.



 Old Jeff he says he’ll hang us if we dare to meet him armed—

It’s a very big thing, but we are not at all alarmed:

He has first got to catch us before the way is clear,

And that’s what’s the matter with the Colored Volunteers.



 Here’s to the gallant Fourth which has not yet been tried,

They are willing and are ready with their brothers to divide;

General Birney leads us on, so we have no right to fear,

And that is the making of the Colored Volunteers.”

Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

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