National Museum of American History Showcases Civil War Sheet Music

Flag Day Celebration Features Performance by Bob Schieffer and Honky Tonk Confidential
June 14, 2012


The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History will present a special performance of music from the recently acquired BMI Archives Confederate Music Collection June 14 at 11 a.m. Featuring vocals by the Face the Nation moderator Bob Schieffer, Honky Tonk Confidential, a D.C.-based country and western band, will perform four songs selected from the larger body of sheet music in the collection. The performance follows a donation ceremony in front of the gallery that holds the Star-Spangled Banner during which the museum will formally accept the donation from Broadcast Music Inc.

The works in this collection will enrich the museum’s existing collection of Civil War-era music, which includes some 300 examples of Union music, but only 15 Confederate pieces. The donation consists of 83 pieces of sheet music published primarily in the South between 1861 and 1868.

“The collection enables the museum to document a crucial period in the nation’s history,” said Marc Pachter, the museum’s interim director. “Songs played an important role in creating a sense of nationalism in the Confederate states, and the lyrics and the illustrations of the sheet music provide insight into the experiences, emotions and concerns of the people living during the Civil War.”

Twenty pieces of the Confederate sheet music are on view outside of the museum’s Archives Center, located on the first floor, through July 13. They give visitors the opportunity to explore the role of music during the Civil War, particularly about how the goals and values of the Confederacy found expression in sheet music and how sheet music expressed themes common to both sides during the war. Music and songs in general reflect a nation’s cultural values, and the political ideology and economic concerns of its people.

“This donation represents another step in our long partnership with the Smithsonian, supporting the museum’s initiatives to tell the story of American music throughout our nation’s history,” said Del Bryant, BMI President and CEO. “We are pleased that these rare examples of music from the Civil War era are available in a special display and became part of the Smithsonian’s permanent collection.”

The museum preserves many objects relating to the Civil War, both from military and civilian perspectives and this display is part of a Smithsonian-wide commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. For more information, visit

Other Flag Day activities include flag folding activities that teach visitors to fold a full-size replica of the 30 foot by 42 foot Star Spangled Banner and a theater program in which viewers meet Mary Pickersgill, the seamstress who sewed the Star-Spangled Banner in 1813, and help her assemble the huge garrison flag.

The National Museum of American History collects, preserves and displays American heritage in the areas of social, political, cultural, scientific and military history. Documenting the American experience from Colonial times to the present, the museum looks at growth and change in the United States. The museum is closed for major renovations and will re-open in summer 2008. For more information about the museum, the public may visit or call Smithsonian information at (202) 633-1000 or (202) 633-5285 (TTY).