In the May 19, 2011, issue of The Macon County News, there is an article about the Blackberry Jam Festival. In that article, it is stated that “‘Battle Hymn of the Republic’ was the song of choice to kick off the event, performed by musical troupe Carolina Brass.”
This sentence is fraught with error; I do not know whether the errors result from misinformation being given out by spokesmen for Carolina Brass or from the reporter relying on assumptions rather than on research.
First, songs have words. Carolina Brass presented no songs, only tunes.
Second, the tune which The Macon County News referred to as “Battle Hymn of the Republic” was applied to other songs long before “Battle Hymn of the Republic” was ever written. It was first published in the early 1850s as the tune of a camp meeting song popular in the South. It may have been even older than that as the tune of a Negro spiritual. The words of a Southern patriotic song were also set to that tune.
The tune was popular in both the North and the South and was popular in the South years before “Battle Hymn of the Republic” was ever written. Since Blackberry Jam was organized to celebrate Southern Mountain culture and since “Battle Hymn of the Republic” was written to incite Northern soldiers to kill Southern soldiers, it does not follow that Carolina Brass intended to open Blackberry Jam by celebrating “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” The tune, yes; its Southern roots are deep, but not the battle hymn of the invader. Playing the tune at a Southern cultural festival is appropriate, but referring to the tune as “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” at a Southern cultural festival, is not appropriate.
George Crockett — Franklin, N.C.