Skip to main content

Civil War Trust

Civil War Music: God Save the South

If the South can be said to have had a national anthem at all, it would have been "God Save the South." Written early in the war by George H. Miles (a Marylander writing under the pseudonym Earnest Halpin) and set to music by a composer with the marvelous name of Charles Wolfgang Amadeus Ellerbrock (the arranger of "Maryland, My Maryland"), it tempered the martial spirit of Julia Ward Howe's more famous "Battle Hymn of the Republic" with the unwavering conviction that God would come to the aid of the embattled South. The first song to be published in the Confederacy, it was published in no fewer than nine editions. The first Southern publication was by A.E. Blackmar in New Orleans, followed by printings in Charleston, South Carolina; Macon and Savannah, Georgia; another New Orleans printing by a different house; and two in Richmond, Virginia.

The song showcases the South's strong sense of identification with Virginian George Washington, who was seen as a rebel by the British Crown during the American colonies' revolt against England. It echoed the belief of many Southerners that the War Between the States was the Second American Revolution.

Rebels before, our fathers of yore. Rebel's the righteous name Washington bore. Why, then, be ours the same, The name that he snatched from shame, Making it first in fame, foremost in war.

Although many Southerners argue that Daniel Emmett's minstrel tune "Dixie's Land" deserves to be known as the Confederate national anthem, Richard B. Harwell points out in his 1950 publication Confederate Music that the song "can hardly be said to meet the requirements of a national anthem, [although] it has become a truly national tune, permanently enshrined in the hearts of Americans in both the North and the South." That honor rightly belongs to "God Save the South" not just by virtue of its status as the new nation's first published song but also because of its stirring poetry and its outstanding musical setting.

The lyrics are:

God save the South, God save the South,
Her altars and firesides, God save the South!
Now that the war is nigh, now that we arm to die,
Chanting our battle cry, "Freedom or death!"
Chanting our battle cry, "Freedom or death!"

God be our shield, at home or afield,
Stretch Thine arm over us, strengthen and save.
What tho' they're three to one, forward each sire and son,
Strike till the war is won, strike to the grave!
Strike till the war is won, strike to the grave!

God made the right stronger than might,
Millions would trample us down in their pride.
Lay Thou their legions low, roll back the ruthless foe,
Let the proud spoiler know God's on our side.
Let the proud spoiler know God's on our side.

Hark honor's call, summoning all.
Summoning all of us unto the strife.
Sons of the South, awake! Strike till the brand shall break,
Strike for dear Honor's sake, Freedom and Life!
Strike for dear Honor's sake, Freedom and Life!

Rebels before, our fathers of yore.
Rebel's the righteous name Washington bore.
Why, then, be ours the same, the name that he snatched from shame,
Making it first in fame, foremost in war.
Making it first in fame, foremost in war.

War to the hilt, theirs be the guilt,
Who fetter the free man to ransom the slave.
Up then, and undismay'd, sheathe not the battle blade,
Till the last foe is laid low in the grave!
Till the last foe is laid low in the grave!

God save the South, God save the South,
Dry the dim eyes that now follow our path.
Still let the light feet rove safe through the orange grove,
Still keep the land we love safe from Thy wrath.
Still keep the land we love safe from Thy wrath.

God save the South, God save the South,
Her altars and firesides, God save the South!
For the great war is nigh, and we will win or die,
Chanting our battle cry, "Freedom or death!"
Chanting our battle cry, "Freedom or death!"

Want the Latest? Follow us on Twitter and Facebook:

Our Sponsors

Powered by Convio
nonprofit software