As a music teacher and collector of sheet music, the unexpected acquisition of several pieces of original sheet music dating from 1834 to 1882 was an exciting experience. I have had them framed and they decorate the walls of my den. I live with them and admire them daily. They have become my friends and I feel as if the songwriters and poets who produced them and the artists who performed them speak to me about the history of American music and the fascinating part early music played in the life of a young evolving country, moving westward, growing up.

From the influence of the singing schools of Boston, to major music publishers in Louisville and Chicago, through the bloody years of the Civil War and into reconstruction and economic depression of the 1870s, until finally there is the dawn of the "Gilded Age," this collection reflects the ideals and attitudes of each decade.

The Story:

The music was lying in the bottom of a box of old paper in a junk shop in Sparta, Tennessee. I paid $6.00 for it and brought it home, and stored it away. While in one of my "throwing out" phases, I decided to look it over before discarding it. The paper felt strange to the touch, like brushed felt, rag content. The cover pages were oddly decorated and I didn't know a single title until I came upon TENTING ON THE OLD CAMPGROUND, by Walter Kittredge.
I began to recognize the collection for what it was as I took the pieces our and arranged them chronologically. I was sure the music belonged to someone who cared, for each piece was carefully protected by layers of old newspaper. Although I didn't understand the importance of these pieces, which were in excellent condition, I began to search for information. At the local library I happened upon the book "The Singing Sixties, The Spirit of Civil War Days Drawn from the Music of the Times," by Willard A. and Porter W. Heaps, and selected the title BELL BRANDON as the first song to research.

It is difficult to describe my elation at finding this obscure 1854 edition listed and to realize that it is rare outside of private collections and major libraries. If that was true of BELL BRANDON,
might it also be true of the others? But why these particular songs? I love detective stories and my search for information about this collection is a detective story of major proportions and a labor of love for a music teacher who is also a history buff.
It wasn't until I began to dig into the background of several songs and their composers that I found that every song in the collection had some connection to the Civil War. Sometimes it was the composer, sometimes the performer(s), or lyricist, or someone who fought in the war but always the shadow of the conflict that divided America was on this music.

How could I share it? It belonged to the nation, not me. I wrote a one-woman show, billed myself as the "Confederate Widow," and took my act on the road. In black from head to toe, and heavily veiled I have performed throughout the southeast, telling my story and singing my songs to all who will listen. My motives are preserving the music of our nation. I have made a tape and CD which are available and they are reasonable, covering only the cost of production and mailing. Copies can be ordered by emailing

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