Music in the camp.
Our Confederate soldiers had their hours of rest and relaxation, and sometimes music of various kinds was interspersed with their recreation hours.
There were a few fiddlers in the 12th Alabama, but the most noted and skillful one was Ben Smith
of my company, an old bachelor, a quiet but true soldier, always ready for duty.
He was a Georgian, like myself, in an Alabama regiment.
His skill with the fiddle was unequalled.
I have heard many violinists since the war, in the great orchestras of Thomas
and Sousa and Creatore, but none of their number could equal great Ben Smith
He had gifts, and his knowledge of distinctive Southern music, peculiar to country life, some of which I have heard our slaves often play with exquisite taste and great gusto on our Georgia
plantations, was wonderful.
Among the choicest in Smith
's repertoire were, ‘Hell broke loose in Georgia
,’ ‘Billy in the Low Grounds
Traveller,’ ‘Dixie,’ ‘Money Musk,’, ‘The Goose Hangs High,’ ‘When I saw Sweet Nellie Home,’ ‘My Old Kentucky Home,’ ‘When This Cruel War is Over,’ ‘The Girl I Left Behind Me,’ etc. Crowds would gather around him and laugh and applaud and clap their hands, and joyously express their pleasure and appreciation.
Then sometimes sweet songs would float through the air from manly voices, and ‘Backward, Turn Backward, Oh Time in Your Flight,’ ‘All Quiet Along the Potomac
To-night,’ ‘Dixie,’ ‘Lorena,’ ‘Marseillaise,’ etc., were among the songs sung.
Occasionally, particularly on Sunday, we would have hymns, and the songs at church were sung with great sweetness and reverence.
When encamped on the banks of the Rapidan
, and on the Rappahannock
, often we could hear snatches of songs from the encampment or pickets of the Federal
soldiers on the opposite side of the river, and our men, satisfied that there was no danger from the hands of the enemy, would sing from our side, and more than once the sweet tones of ‘Home, Sweet Home,’ were sung by the opposing men, and echoed and re-echoed from bank to bank.
This rare, unequalled song of John Howard Payne
always recalled the tenderest recollections, and sweetest memories, and banished every evil thought.