The Song about Civil War

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The song “Just Before the Battle Mother” is an extremely emotional song to listen to in light of its resonance at such an important moment in our nation’s history during the Civil War. The lyrics show the underlying nature of the song as a national song in which the author addresses himself to his mother and God. The narrator embodies the American ideals of country, family and religion through his calls to “mother,” “comrades,” and “God.” The word choices the author makes are effective in painting a realistic atmosphere for the listener of a battle. The following military terms, “enemy,” “banner,” “soldiers,” “bugle,” “signal for the fight,” and “rally” all function in combination to create a mental image for the listener of a soldier gearing up for battle. Additionally, the author uses juxtaposing words and phrases in order to further highlight the main points and themes of the song. For example, we see reference to “comrades brave” as well as “traitors all around,” emphasizing the bravery of American soldiers in battle. The author also talks in the same verse of “thoughts of home” and waiting for the enemy “while upon the field,” thereby illustrating the need to give up the safety of one’s home for the dangers of a battlefield.

The chorus line “farewell, mother, you may never press me to your heart again,” evokes a feeling of sadness in listeners due to the possibility that a mother may lose her son. However, the lyrics, “press me to your heart again,” go further than just serving as a poetically written line. The lyrics summon an image of a mother holding, or rocking, a young child close to her chest, a picture that exaggerates, but reminds us of the youth of these soldiers torn away from their families.

Furthermore, the execution of the song musically works to augment the lyrical messages. The author is telling the story of a young soldier off at work before an ensuing battle so it follows that the tempo be 4/4 creating a more consistent, work type beat that would be typical of a battle or military feat. Additionally, the rhythm throughout the song is extremely constant and unwavering. The guitar is played almost lazily, and at a consistent speed all throughout the song, which contributes to the idea that there is continuous movement and preparation on the battlefield. The idea of movement is also supported by the singer’s return to the same first line, aiding the sense of nonstop movement in a circular pattern. Moreover, the singer at times holds long drawn out words that are often sung in two distinct syllables in the form of an eighth note followed by a quarter note. The longer notes and drawn out beats leave the listener intrigued, waiting on the singer’s every word to hear the rest of the story. The singer’s voice itself is quite monotone, contributing to the sense of repetition and steady motion, as well as setting the tone of the melancholy of a soldier longing for home. Finally, the accompanying female voices that join in just during the chorus help the listener follow the story and imagine not only the feelings of the soldier, but those of his mother left at home full of worry for her son. Adding on the female vocals in the background during only the chorus make the lyrics, “Farwell, mother, you may never press me to your heart again, but, oh, you’ll not forget me, mother, if I’m numbered with the slain” that much more powerful.

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The Song About Civil War. (2022, Apr 14). Retrieved June 23, 2024 , from

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