Bonnie Blue Flag, The
DESCRIPTION: "We are a band of brothers, and native to the soil, Fighting for the property we gained by honest toil... Hurrah for the bonny blue flag that bears the single star." The states which joined the Confederacy are chronicled and praised
AUTHOR: Words: Harry McCarthy (1834-1888)
EARLIEST DATE: 1861 (sheet music published by A. E. Blackmar & Bro. of New Orleans)
KEYWORDS: Civilwar patriotic
FOUND IN: US(SE,So)
REFERENCES (14 citations):
Belden, pp. 357-359, "The Bonnie Blue Flag" (1 text)
Randolph 214, "The Bonnie Blue Flag" (1 text, 1 tune)
BrownIII 379, "The Bonnie Blue Flag" (1 text plus mention of 1 more probably from the same informant)
Warner-Eastern, pp. 71-72, "The Bonnie Blue Flag" (1 text)
Lawrence, p. 359, "The Bonnie Blue Flag" (1 text, a copy of a Wehman broadside)
RJackson-19CPop, pp. 34-38, "The Bonnie Blue Flag" (1 text, 1 tune)
Scott-BoA, p. 220, "The Bonny Blue Flag (Southern)" (1 partial text, tune referenced)
Silver-CivWarFull, pp. 65-67, "The Bonnie Blue Flag" (1 text, 1 tune); also "The Bonnie White Flag" in p. 69
Silber-CivWarAbbr, pp. 52-53, "The Bonnie Blue Flag" (1 text, 1 tune)
Hill-CivWar, p. 210, "The Bonnie Blue Flag" (1 text)
Krythe 8, pp. 133-141, "The Bonnie Blue Flag" (1 text, 1 tune)
Darling-NAS, pp. 349-350, "The Bonnie Blue Flag" (1 text)
WolfAmericanSongSheets, #C26, p. 187, "The Bonnie Blue Flag" (1 reference)
ST R214 (Full)
Mary C. Mann, "Bonnie Blue Flag" (AFS A-488, 1926)
Old South Quartette, "The Bonnie Blue Flag" (Cyl.: Edison Amberol 389, 2175, 1909)
cf. "The Irish Jaunting Car" (tune& meter)
cf. "The Homespun Dress" (tune & meter)
cf. "The Northern Bonnie Blue Flag" (tune & meter)
cf. "The Southern Girl's Reply (True to the Gray)" (tune & meter)
cf. "Counties of Arkansas" (tune & meter)
The Southern Girl's Reply (True to the Gray) (File: Wa156)
The Homespun Dress (File: R215)
The Northern Bonnie Blue Flag (File: SBoA218)
The Counties of Arkansas (File: R876)
Gathering Song (by Annie Chambers Ketchum) (War Songs and Poems of the Southern Confederacy, pp. 329-330)
The Bonnie White Flag (by Col. W. S. Hawkins) (Silber-CivWarFull, p. 69)
(Reply to) The Bonnie Blue Flag ("We are a band of patriots") (WolfAmericanSongSheets, p. 13)
White Irishmen Have Done ("Ye gallant sons of Erin Isle, come listen to my lay") (WolfAmericanSongSheets, p. 173)
College Days ("Four years ago the College stream Allured us to embark") (words by F. T. Glover, [class of 18]67) (Henry Randall Waite, _Carmina Collegensia: A Complete Collection of the Songs of the American Colleges_ first edition 1868, expanded edition, Oliver Ditson, 1876, p. 62)
NOTES [420 words]: This song, written by an immigrant Irishman very early in the Civil War (Belden has a note that Fitz-Grald credits the words to Annie Chambers Ketchum, with Harry McCarthy supplying the tune, but almost all sources credit the song to McCarthy), refers to the first Confederate flag, later succeeded by the "Stars and Bars."
The order the states are mentioned is roughly the order in which they left the Union. South Carolina was first, obviously, followed by the various states of the Deep South (Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Florida; Louisiana and Texas took slightly longer because of their remote location). It was not until after the attack on Fort Sumter that the border states of Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee, and (last of all) North Carolina seceded.
Jefferson Davis was, of course, the first and only President of the Confederacy, and Alexander Stephens its Vice President.
Krythe's notes on this song contain several errors. The captain of the Alabama was not "Admiral Symmes" but Captain (later Admiral) Raphael Semmes, and General Wickham's first name was not William but Williams (with an s).
Harry McCarthy was only 27 when he wrote this song, but managed to avoid Confederate service as a British citizen. What's more, he fled to the North once the outlook for the Confederacy turned bad enough. He never wrote anything else of note, either.
Interestingly, it appears that no copies of the original printing survive. See the notes in Harry Dichter and Elliott Shapiro, Early American Sheet Music: Its Lure and Its Lore, 1768-1889, R. R. Bowker, 1941, p. 119.
E. Lawrence Abel, Singing the New Nation: How Music Shaped the Confederacy, 1861-1865, Stackpole, 2000, has an extensive section (chapter 3, pp. 52-66) on this song. Apparently Harry McCarthy was in Jackson, Mississippi when that state seceded, and either saw or heard about the occasion when Mrs. Homer Smythe, the wife of one of the leading delegates to the secession convention, brought a blue flag with a white star onto the stage after secession was declared (p. 52). The publisher ended up paying McCarthy $500 and a piano for the piece, McCarthy made quite a show of performing the piece (along with acting using various accents and other gimmicks; pp. 53-57).
McCarthy continued to perform after the war, but with his "hit" no longer in demand, his audiences shrank (p. 62); he died in near-obscurity, so broke that a subscription fund had to be raised for his burial, and few newspapers published notices of his death (p. 63). - RBW
Last updated in version 4.2
Go to the Ballad Search form
Go to the Ballad Index Song List
Go to the Ballad Index Instructions
Go to the Ballad Index Bibliography or Discography
The Ballad Index Copyright 2018 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.