West: Dixie remains point of contention

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Just like many other issues raised by the Civil War, the origins, meaning and intent of the song, "Dixie," remains a topic of debate.
Both Confederate and Union troops had their own favorite songs both patriotic and sentimental.
"The Battle Cry of Freedom" was a Union favorite, but there was a Southern version of the song as well.
The Battle Cry Of Freedom Northern Version
Yes, we'll rally 'round the flag, boys
We'll rally once again
Shouting the battle cry of freedom
We will rally from the hillside
We'll gather from the plain
Shouting the battle cry of freedom.
The Union forever, hurrah, boys, hurrah!
Down with the traitor, up with the star!
While we rally 'round the flag, boys,
Rally once again
Shouting the battle cry of freedom.
The Battle Cry Of Freedom Southern Version
Our flag is proudly floating on the land and on the main,
Shout, shout the battle cry of Freedom!
Beneath it oft we've conquered, and we'll conquer oft again!
Shout, shout the battle cry of Freedom!
Our Dixie forever! She's never at a loss!
Down with the eagle and up with the cross!
We'll rally 'round the bonny flag, we'll rally once again,
Shout, shout the battle cry of Freedom!
"John Brown's Body" was transformed by poet Julia Ward Howe into the "Battle Hymn of the Republic."
Confederates particularly enjoyed "The Bonnie Blue Flag" and the romantic "Lorena." Both armies shared songs like "Just Before The Battle Mother," "Tenting Tonight on the Old Camp Ground"

Then there was "Dixie," or more properly, "Dixie's Land."
The song was written in 1859 by Daniel Emmett, an Ohio native, who was a member of Bryant's Minstrels. Some believe "Dixie" was really a tune passed on to Emmett by a pair of African-American brothers born to parents who were slaves.
Emmett was a proficient song writer who also penned "Turkey in the Straw," "Old Dan Tucker," and "Blue-Tail Fly."
When Bryant's Minstrels introduced the song in New York City it quickly became a hit with its infectious 4/4 beat. The song wasn't intended to be serious. Its nature was more satirical. But the fact that it was performed by white minstrels in blackface with exaggerated black English vernacular was the first of many reasons the song became so racially charged.
It was the first verse and chorus of the song that caused it to become the unofficial anthem of the Confederate states:
I wish I was in the Land of Cotton
Old times there are not forgotten
Look Away! Look Away! Look Away! Dixie Land
In Dixie Land where I was born in
Early on one frosty mornin'
Look Away! Look Away! Look Away! Dixie Land
Then I wish I was in Dixie
Hooray! Hooray!
In Dixie Land, I'll take my stand
To live and die in Dixie
Away, Away, Away down South in Dixie
"Dixie" became a hit in the South when the Rumsey and Newcomb Minstrels performed the song in New Orleans in March 1860. Emmett told a fellow performer that same year, "If I had known to what use they were going to put my song, I will be damned if I'd have written it."
After the South began using his song as a rallying call, Emmett wrote the fife and drum manual for the Union Army.
But Dixie was a favorite of President Abraham Lincoln, who said, "I have always thought that 'Dixie' was one of the best tunes I ever heard. I had heard our adversaries had attempted to appropriate it. I insisted yesterday that we had fairly captured it."
There were even Union lyrics for the song:
Away down South in the land of traitors,
Rattlesnakes and alligators,
Right away, come away, right away, come away.
Where cotton's king and men are chattels,
Union boys will win the battles,
Right away, come away.

During the Reconstruction period, rancor continued to grow for the song and its ties to slavery.
However, it didn't truly fall out of favor until the rise of the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s. Some of the earliest protests came from Southern universities where the song was a marching band staple. The fact that segregationists adopted "Dixie" as their answer to songs like "We Shall Overcome" was the death knell for the song which was increasing regarded a as a racist relic.
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Dixie, Mike West
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