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"Walking with our Ancestors": Music and Constructions of Irish-American Identities at Civil War Re-enactments

Myers, Kaitlyn (2013) "Walking with our Ancestors": Music and Constructions of Irish-American Identities at Civil War Re-enactments. Master's Thesis, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Civil War re-enactors are individuals so inspired by the events of the American Civil War that they don period costume to act out battles or serve in an encampment in a civilian wartime role. Re-enactments allow participants to listen to or participate in the music associated with the war, both the ballad traditions sung around the campfire and the brass regimental band repertoire. These re-enactors “experience” war and its associated music, while simultaneously using music to share their knowledge of the war.

Since Ireland’s economic boom in the 1990s, identifying as Irish has become popular on an international scale, inspiring recent musical re-enactors to portray the Irish-American experience during the Civil War. Many of these musical re-enactors derive a sense of satisfaction at both experiencing and sharing a story of Irish-Americans at a critical point in United States history. Before 1861, the dominant Anglo-Protestant population regarded the Irish-American working class as a lesser ethnic group, characterized by stereotypical traits of laziness and alcoholism, but the years following 1865 saw positive changes for this image. Musical media presented the concept of a male Irish-American citizen loyal to the country that he fought to hold together, in the hope that he might eventually become a respected citizen. Music helped many Irish-Americans to become a part of the nation that had previously viewed the group as a threat, to become assimilated not only into a higher class but also into a white race.

Many re-enactors view music as particularly relevant to sharing an Irish-American experience, in part because of the longstanding concept of musicality as an identifier of Irishness and a belief in the significance of music to a Civil War experience. This study traces the ways in which the Civil War re-enactment community and the community of those who identify as Irish-American came to view music as an authenticating process, a means of conveying stylistic traits that help to define their communities. It then traces how these processes overlap in the production of an Irish-American Civil War heritage, constructing an interpretation of the past through musical performance.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Myers, Kaitlyn
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairRoot, Deane dlr@pitt.eduDLR
Committee MemberWeintraub, Andrew anwein@pitt.eduANWEIN
Committee MemberHelbig, ANH59
Date: 30 June 2013
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 16 April 2013
Approval Date: 30 June 2013
Submission Date: 18 April 2013
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 79
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Music
Degree: MA - Master of Arts
Thesis Type: Master's Thesis
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Irish-American, re-enactment, Civil War, music, broadside ballad, identities, heritage, history
Date Deposited: 30 Jun 2013 16:26
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 14:11


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