Saturday, May 26, 2018

Civil War Humor 1861-1865

Civil War Political Cartoon

Parody was a favorite form of humor among the troops of both sides. The soldiers of the Army of Northern Virginia, often referred to as “Lee’s Army”, sometimes parodied the title of Victor Hugo’s popular novel Les Miserables and referred to themselves as, “Lee’s Miserables .”

Popular songs were a source for parody. The song Just Before The Battle, Mother (I was thinking most of you), was mangled into:

Just before the battle, Mother,
I was drinking mountain dew,
When I saw the Rebels coming
To the rear I quickly flew.

Not even prayers were spared. The classic children's 18th century prayer:

“Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep,
If I shall die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take.”

was revised by Union soldiers on Burnside’s celebrated “Mud March”:

“Now I lay me down to sleep
In the mud that’s many fathoms deep;
If I’m not here when you awake,
Just hunt me up with an oyster rake.”

Despite the horrors of war, or maybe because of them, humor still had a place in American life. Abraham Lincoln best summed up the role of humor in the war when he said, “With the fearful strain that is on me night and day, if I did not laugh I should die.”

A brief but fascinating look at humor in the Civil War including: (1) Stories Around the Campfire, (2) Parody, (3) the Irish, (4) Humorous Incidents, (5) Civil War Humorists, and (6) Lincoln.

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