George Frederick Root "The Battle Cry of Freedom" August 30, 1820 - August 6, 1895
Before the Civil War, George Frederick Root established his reputation as a leading music educator and composer. Born in Sheffield, Mass., Root studied music in Boston and taught in New York before continuing his musical education in Paris, France. In 1853, along with William Bradbury,, Root established the New York Normal Institute "to afford thorough musical instruction, and especially to qualify teachers of music." In 1859, he moved to Chicago, where he had already taken a financial interest in Root & Cady, a music store his younger brother, E.T. Root, had founded the year before.
G.F. Root is most well known as a composer of sacred and patriotic music. His earliest efforts, however, were less serious. In 1851, he wrote "The Flower Queen", with lyrics supplied by one of his pupils at the New York Institute for the Blind, Fanny Crosby. Under the pen name of "Wurzel", Root published "Hazel Dazel" and "Rosalie, the Prarie Flower". He was impressed and influenced by the songs of Stephen Foster.
"The Shining Shore" is the best known of Root's sacred songs. His first patriotic war song, "The First Gun Is Fired", written shortly after the firing on Fort Sumter in April 1861, enjoyed only a very modest success.
Root composed 28 Civil War songs, including "Tramp, Tramp, Tramp, the Boys Are Marching", "The Vacant Chair", and "Just Before the Battle, Mother". But his biggest hit was "The Battle Cry of Freedom", composed within a few hours after he had read President Lincoln's proclamation calling for troops, and released in August 1862. Its popularity spread rapidly among the troops and the civilian population. The New York Tribune reported on November 18, 1862, that sheet music sales for "The Battle Cry of Freedom" had reached 12,000 copies. Two years after the war, Root & Cady claimed sales of 350,000 copies of the song.
Fascinating Fact: "The Battle Cry of Freedom" was played at Fort Sumter on April 14, 1865, when Brig. Gen. Robert Anderson raised the Union flag over the recaptured fort. Confederate Gen. George E. Pickett claimed it was also popular among Southern troops.
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