Following the implementation of the recently created Soldiers Aid Society last week, one hundred and fifty years ago, Arkansasawyers were not lacking in patriotism for their new country. Central Arkansas erupted into fundraising, patriotic speeches, and songwriting. Though by the end of the Civil War there were countless renditions of the song “Dixie”, October 1861 witnessed the first widespread evidence of an evolving song that would become known as the unofficial anthem for the Confederate South.
Most sources agree that the popular version of “Dixie” that we all now today was written in 1859 by Ohioan Daniel Emmet. It has its origins in the traditional mid-nineteenth century blackface minstrel shows. Over time, the song’s lyrics took on a multitude of variations. Below is the first stanza of “A Southern Song” sang to the tune of “Dixie” as a “Call for Volunteers”. The authorship is unknown, but according to an 1861 Arkansas newspaper, its was signed, “By an Arkansian”:
“Ye brave sons of the South arise!
Sever awhile the dearest ties!
Away, away, away to the frontier!
Think not upon the smile of love
While you your pride of country prove,
Away, away, away out on the frontier,
Don’t you want to be a soldier?
To fight, to fight?
Don’t you want to be a soldier
To fight like a faithful knight.
Away, away, away out on the frontier!
Away, away, away out on the frontier!”
Because of the Southern fervor running rampant in Arkansas in 1861, troops numbering in the thousands began finding their way into Confederate service. Among those groups of soldiers mustering into military service one hundred and fifty years ago was the Second Arkansas Battalion in Jefferson County at Camp White Sulphur Springs located west of Pine Bluff on Sulphur Springs Road. Next week’s column will focus on these troops.