Time and again, in any war story ever recorded emerges some of the most interesting anecdotes that formed bits and pieces of the history we have. When I say interesting, it could be as specific to the anthem sung during the American Civil War. And when one is engaged in a war, any opportunity to lower the enemy’s morale, no matter how childish the means is, nothing gets missed. A great example would be Dixie—a minstrel song with a seemingly innocent name until it was allegedly used as a mockery to the Confederacy or the Southern states by the Union troops from the Northern parts of the US. 

Getting To Know Dixie 

The song “Dixie” was originally a “hooray song” or walk-around in Jerry Bryant’s minstrel show, for which Emmett, a native Ohioan of Virginian parents, performed and wrote music. Ohio was part of the Union. 

In an article by Michael C. Hardy in HistoryNet, it said:

“One Saturday night after a performance, Jerie Bryant asked Emmett to compose a new “walk around,” a type of raucous song that would inspire the audience to “whoop and holler,” Emmett recalled. According to the most widely accepted story of the song’s creation, the following morning Emmett looked outside, where it was raining as if “Heaven and earth would come together.” Looking at the gloomy landscape, he sighed and muttered, “I wish I were in Dixie.” Dixie had become a commonly used nickname—of vague origins—for the South, and that expression was often used by showmen traveling in the North during the dreary winter months. He then began humming the phrase, accompanying himself on his violin. The following day he took his new song to rehearsal, where his fellow performers were “so pleased with it that they had the second rehearsal after dinner, so we could get it just right for the night performance.”

The song’s origins are murky, and its lyrics border on nonsensical. While it may be surprising that it was a favorite of Abraham Lincoln’s at that time, ‘it’s also been abhorred by some, who view it as a lingering tribute to slavery.’ Dixie Land since then has been thought to refer to the Southern states during the civil war. However, no official record confirms that Emmett had coined the term to refer to the states as much as the region. The lyrics of the song itself are not about southern nationalism or slavery, but about a weaver who marries a woman and breaks her heart.

There is some evidence that Southern troops sang the song on the march because it has a quick pace that would help them keep step.  Its popularity is also suggested by the fact that a Union version of the song with new lyrics was adopted for its soldiers to sing as well.

Well, the meaning of Dixie is still a subject of debate as there are several theories on why of all the girl names that Emmett could’ve used, he chose this one instead. Read on and find out a few more.