Catherine Bateson, "Irish American Civil War Songs: Identity, Loyalty, and Nationhood" (Louisiana UP, 2022)


Dr Catherine Bateson is Associate Lecturer of American History at the University of Kent. She researches and writes about the role of song in the American Civil War, the sentiments ballads reveal about conflict experiences (especially for Irish Americans) and the culture of transnational music in mid-nineteenth century America. She has also written about aspects of retreat, enemy encounters, and home-front identity as articulated in American Civil War songs, and the role of music and song in military history more broadly. Dr Bateson is the co-founder of the War Through Other Stuff Society, former Vice-Chair of the Scottish Association for the Study of America and is currently Associate Editor of the Irish in the American Civil War website project.

In this interview she discusses her new book, Irish American Civil War Songs: Identity, Loyalty, and Nationhood (Louisiana State University Press, 2022)

Irish-born and Irish-descended soldiers and sailors were involved in every major engagement of the American Civil War. Throughout the conflict, they shared their wartime experiences through songs and song lyrics, leaving behind a vast trove of ballads in songbooks, letters, newspaper publications, wartime diaries, and other accounts. Taken together, these songs and lyrics offer an underappreciated source of contemporary feelings and opinions about the war. Irish American Civil War Songs provides the first in-depth exploration of Irish Americans’ use of balladry to portray and comment on virtually every aspect of the war as witnessed by the Irish on the front line and home front. Bateson considers the lyrics, themes, and sentiments of wartime songs produced in America but often originating with those born across the Atlantic in Ireland and Britain. Her analysis gives new insight into views held by the Irish migrant diaspora about the conflict and the ways those of Irish descent identified with and fought to defend their adopted homeland. Bateson’s investigation of Irish American song lyrics within the context of broader wartime experiences enhances our understanding of the Irish contribution to the American Civil War. At the same time, it demonstrates how Irish songs shaped many American balladry traditions as they laid the foundation of the Civil War’s musical soundscape.

Aidan Beatty is a historian at the Frederick Honors College of the University of Pittsburgh

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Aidan Beatty

Aidan Beatty teaches in the history department at Carnegie Mellon University.

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