Sandburg's Hometown

July 28, 2014

Marching Through Georgia - Sheet Music

Marching Through Georgia

by Barbara Schock

When Carl Sandburg was growing up in Galesburg, there were a good many Civil War veterans living in the city. From 1861 to 1865 nearly eighteen percent of the male population of Knox County had volunteered to serve in the Union Army.

After the war many of the veterans of the Civil War joined the Grand Army of the Republic. Posts were organized in Galesburg as well as six other communities in the county. Biweekly meetings were held to carry on the business of the organization. A county-wide reunion was held annually. A woman's auxiliary, named the Woman's Relief Corps, was attached to some of the G.A.R. Posts. A state encampment was held every year. Galesburg hosted the convention three times.

The campfire held special significance with the veterans. During the war they spent many hours around a campfire to cook their meals and keep warm between battles. Campfires, without the actual fire, were held at local, county and state events. They were occasions for telling stories, sharing experiences and reminiscing about the Civil War. These meetings always ended with the singing of “Marching Through Georgia.”

The song was written by Henry Clay Work in 1865. He was born in Middletown, Connecticut, October 1, 1832. His father, Alanson Work, was a radical abolitionist. The family moved to Quincy, Illinois, in 1834, in order for the elder Work to assist Reverend David Nelson. Nelson established the Mission Institute east of the city to train missionaries to convert slave owners and slaves. He also conducted an underground railroad station for escaping slaves from Missouri.

It has been said that nearly 3,000 slaves were assisted through the Quincy station. Two students of the Institute and Alanson Work were caught in Missouri trying to help slaves escape across the Mississippi River. They were sentenced to twelve years in the state penitentiary. The men were pardoned more than three years later. As a condition of his pardon, Alanson Work was required to move back to Connecticut. He worked in the Colt and Sharpe gun factories until he was seventy-five years old. As a young man he had been trained as a carpenter and gunstock maker.

Henry C. Work was an abolitionist as well, but he directed his talents in another way. He became a printer and taught himself music. Ironically, he began to write songs for minstrel shows. He was good at fitting words to music. It took him two or three weeks to write a song.

His first published song appeared in 1853. It was titled “We Are Coming, Sister Mary.” He continued writing songs for minstrel shows. During the Civil War he wrote a number of songs which became very popular. In 1865 he wrote “Marching Through Georgia,” after General William Sherman and his troops had laid waste to several states in the South. The campaign resulted in the complete defeat of rebel forces. The song was a march and expressed the feelings of the public at the time. A million copies of the sheet music were sold.

In 1875 Work wrote “Grandfather's Clock,” another million-seller. It became so famous that even today we call a longcase clock by the name Work gave it in the song. He also patented a knitting machine, a walking doll and a rotary engine. Henry Clay Work died June 8, 1884, in Hartford, Connecticut.

It is fitting a bust of Henry Clay Work stands near his place of birth in Middletown. His Civil War songs expressed the thoughts and feelings of supporters of the North. They suited the time in which they were written. Even today, “Marching Through Georgia” evokes the emotions of that time.


Sandburg's Hometown
Date Title
July 28, 2014 Marching Through Georgia
July 21, 2014 The Knox County Fair
July 14, 2014 The Panic of 1893
July 7, 2014 The Rev. T. N. Hasselquist
June 30, 2014 The Knox County Courthouse
June 23, 2014 The Family Photograph Album
June 16, 2014 Parades
June 9, 2014 Lingonberries
June 2, 2014 Where We Live
May 26, 2014 Old Main
May 19, 2014 Rhythms of the Railroad
May 12, 2014 Spring Tonic
May 5, 2014 The Milkmen
April 28, 2014 Gray's "Elegy..."
April 21, 2014 Off to War
April 14, 2014 Swedish Easter
April 7, 2014 A Father's Face
March 31, 2014 Secret Societies
March 24, 2014 George A. Murdock, Merchant
March 10, 2014 Trade Cards
March 3, 2014 The Demorest Medal
February 24, 2014 Rip Van Winkle
February 17, 2014 Cabbage Soup
February 10, 2014 Lincoln's Birthday
February 3, 2014  The Colonel
January 27, 2014 The Lincoln Penny - A Little History
January 20, 2014 Walking to Work
January 13, 2014  A Small Abode
January 6, 2014 Birth of a Poet
December 30, 2013 Christmas 1880
December 23, 2013 Swedish Christmas
December 16, 2013 The Reporter Sees Santa
December 9, 2013 The Coming of Christmas
December 2, 2013 The Fire Boys Talk
November 25, 2013 Galesburg Will Feast on Turkeys and Cranberries - Thanksgiving 1893
November 18, 2013  Mary Sandburg Johnson
November 11, 2013 Carl Sandburg's Bicycle
November 4, 2013  Lace Curtains 
October 28, 2013 The Front Room
October 21, 2013 A Warm Breakfast
October 14, 2013 Marion D. Shutter
October 7, 2013 Cigars and Consumption
September 30, 2013 Forrest F. Cooke & August Sandburg
September 16, 2013 Forrest F. Cooke, Mayor
September 9, 2013 Dusty Streets
September 2, 2013 Typhoid Fever
August 26, 2013 Coffee and Water
August 19, 2013 A Horse! A Horse!
August 12, 2013 Gaddial Scott
August 5, 2013 The Racetrack
July 29, 2013 John Peter Algeld - Part II
July 22, 2013 John Peter Altgeld - Part I
July 15, 2013 Tramps, Tramps, Tramps
July 8, 2013 Lady Liberty
July 1, 2013 Galesburg's Fourth
June 24, 2013 John H. Finley
June 17, 2013 The World's Columbian Exhibition
June 10, 2013 Fruit Short-Cake
June 3, 2013 Horatio Alger, Author
May 27, 2013 Memorial Day, 1887
May 20, 2013 Professor Jon W. Grubb
May 13, 2013 Beginnings of Lombard University
May 6, 2013 Young Sandburg’s View of Lombard College
April 29, 2013 Thinking
April 22, 2013 Robert Colville, Master Mechanic
April 15, 2013 The Galesburg Opera House
April 8, 2013 Grocery Stores and Sample Rooms
April 1, 2013  A Hearty  Breakfast 
March 25, 2013  The Lost Wallpaper Legend 
March 18, 2013 Martin G. Sandburg
March 4, 2013 The Edison Talking Machine
February 25, 2013 Joe Elser, Civil War Veteran
February 18, 2013 Remember the Maine...
February 11, 2013 Lincoln's Birthday
February 4, 2013 Curiosity