The song, “Here’s your mule,” written by C.D.Benson (mentioned in the ad above) and published in 1862, became one of the most popular songs of the Civil War. Originally sung by Confederate troops, it was later adopted by Union troops too, with soldiers of both sides adapting the lyrics to reflect specific events. Benson’s original words were based on a practical joke played on a sutler by soldiers at a camp in Tennessee. After hiding the sutler’s mule the soldiers dispersed around the camp and called out, “Here’s your mule!,” causing the poor sutler to wander frustratedly around the camp but providing much amusement for the troops.
Here are some lyrics printed in the Fayetteville Observer, 1863, with a chorus variation offered at the end.
Here’s a piece from the St Cloud Democrat, Minn.:
Sheet music for the song:
Want to hear how the tune went? Melodies varied from camp to camp, one version was reportedly sung to the tune of My Maryland (O Tannenbaum). Here’s a YouTube link to the “97th Regimental String Band” performing the song:
The phrase “Here’s Your Mule” became popular in everyday speech. A quick search on Chronicling America shows its popularity amongst newspaper editors. This piece from the San Francisco Call shows there was still interest in the phrase more than 20 years after the end of the war:
“The site now features 5 million pages from more than 800 newspapers from 25 states. The site averaged more than 2.5 million page views per month last year and is being used by students, researchers, congressional staff, journalists and others for all kinds of projects, from daily podcasts to history contests. The news, narratives and entertainment encapsulated in the papers transport readers in time.”
“This magnificent resource captures the warp and weft of life as it was lived in grassroots America,” said NEH Chairman Jim Leach. “Metropolitan newspapers were early targets for digitization, but Chronicling America allows the journalism of the smaller cities and the rural countryside to become accessible in all its variety—and sometimes, quirkiness.”
Read more about the 5 millionth page milestone–and more NDNP news–in an interview with Deb Thomas, NDNP Project Coordinator, published in The Signal (the Library of Congress’ digital preservation blog).