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The Bonnie Blue Flag

June 2024
1min read

We are writing in response to a letter in the December 1995 issue in which Clark E. Finks claims that the song used in Glory to portray Union camp life—“The Bonnie Blue Flag”—was inappropriate. In defense of Richard Snow, and whoever else provided historical advice for Glory , the song in question was originally an Irish melody, “The Irish Jaunting Car,” before Annie Chambers-Ketchum wrote the lyrics to “The Bonnie Blue Flag.” Moreover, while a prisoner of war in Selma, Alabama, the Union colonel J. L. Geddes of the 8th Iowa Infantry wrote lyrics to the same melody, which he titled “The Bonnie Blue Flag with the Stripes and Stars.” This version soon became a popular Northern answer to the Southern song. One verse states:

We do not want your cotton, We care not for your slaves, But rather than divide this land, We’ll fill your Southern graves. With Lincoln as our chieftain, We’ll wear our country’s scars We’ll rally round that brave old Flag Which bears the Stripes and Stars.

Now, having come to Mr. Snow’s defense on this point, may we offer our opinion on another? In his comments in the “Letter From the Editor” of the February/March issue he said that he had “trouble with re-enactors” and their “inescapably modern faces.” As re-enactors we can reproduce the clothing, weapons, and shelters of the Civil War soldiers. Many of us sport period haircuts and whiskers, but the fact remains that we are products of the twentieth century, and regardless of how accurate we are historically, what we do is still a portrayal, not a time warp.

Granted, there are some in our ranks who re-enact merely to burn powder and blow smoke, but as he stated, many re-enactors are “scrupulously faithful historians” who participate out of a love of history and a desire to honor our ancestors and others who went before us to weld this great nation together. In the words of the author (and re-enactor) Harold Coyle, “By donning the uniform and marching in the ranks … I gained an insight into the War Between the States that no amount of study could ever equal.”

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