Today in History:

Music of the Civil War

Emancipation Spirituals (Spiritual Songs)


During the Civil War many runaway slaves, then known as "contrabands," sought refuge in Washington, D.C. President Lincoln frequently visited contraband camps, often stopping on his way to the Summer White House. On one documented occasion of a meeting at the contraband camp on Seventh Street in 1863, the meeting opened with a prayer followed by all singing, "America." For an hour the group, including Lincoln, sang spirituals such as "The Song of the Contrabands" - "Go Down Moses." The president wiped tears from his eyes at the singing of "Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen." When they sang "Free at Last" Lincoln bowed his head. Lincoln's friend and an employee at the White House, Aunt Mary Dines, remembered that the president, although sometimes choked with emotion, sang along with the group. When he came to the camp, he was not the President. He was just like them. He stood and sang and prayed as they did.

Free At Last Anon.
This was a bold song of "deliverence" for the slaves. The bold word "free" is couched in the symbolism of the Bible.
lyrics   listen to song 

Go Down Moses Anon.
This song was a favorite among black troops during the Civil War. It was known as "The Song of the Contrabands."

Nobody Knows The Trouble I've Seen Anon.
This is one of the most moving of the spirituals of the mid-nineteeth century.

Swing Low, Sweet Chariot Anon.
"Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" was one of the first spirituals universally sung by Afro-Americans and was undoubtedly one of the most popular spirituals during Foster's time.