Steve Ball, a Columbus-based historian-musician, weaved facts about the American Civil War with popular songs from that era on March 4 in the Delaware County District Library’s Main Branch
Ball wore a Union shell jacket and strummed an 1855 Martin guitar during his hour-long presentation in a packed Community Room. His wife Lisa was in the audience, wearing a dress from that era.
“Never was music more important to a war,” Ball said. “All the good stuff came from Ohio in the Civil War – the generals and the music.” However, Ulysses Grant once said he only knew two songs – one was Yankee Doodle, and the other isn’t.
The first song Ball sang was “Darling Nelly Gray,” by Westerville’s Benjamin Hanby. Ball said this song about a man pining for his sweetheart became the anthem of the abolitionist movement.
Ball said “Dixie” was written by Dan Emmett of Mount Vernon, Ohio. He performed it in the original lyrics and with a Union-themed verse, noting that it was performed five times at the inauguration ball for Confederate President Jefferson Davis.
A popular love song of the Civil War, “Lorena,” had its origins in Zanesville. However, the woman it was written for professed to hate it, Ball said. Another song, “Marching Through Georgia,” was hated by William Tecumseh Sherman.
The audience helped Ball by singing the chorus of “Goober Peas” and “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”
Ball also sang “Taps,” and explained that both armies adopted the bugle call.
He concluded the performance by singing a verse from another song of the Civil War, “Aura Lee,” whose melody is heard in Elvis Presley’s “Love Me Tender.”
The Delaware County Genealogical Society presented Ball’s performance.