PROGRAM: Comedy & Tragedy in Civil War Era Music

Selections from the funniest and saddest songs of the times…

The Hardtacks present a diverse mix of songs, tunes, speeches, poetry, prose, and visual arts, exploring the heights of pathos and depths of humor in Civil War folk and popular music.  Driven by the engaging music, period instruments, projected images, and audience participation throughout, this Lyceum-style performance brings 19th century United States cultures and perspectives to vivid life and challenges the audience to make new connections between the primary sources they encounter.  From the theatrical class-, gender-, and race-bending comedies of the antebellum minstrel stage to the rowdy parodies composed by anonymous soldiers in every camp, from the abolitionist sympathies of early anti-slavery blackface songs to the morose wartime parlor ballads contemplating sacrifices of the war effort, this program demonstrates how laughter and tears often work side by side to inform, inspire, offend, honor, and invoke the “big issues” of the era.


  • Antebellum Focus = ~45 minutes
  • Wartime Focus = ~45 minutes
  • Antebellum + Wartime Sets = ~90 minutes, with intermission

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Sample songs:


George Caleb Bingham, “Jolly Flatboatmen in Port” (1857)

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