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The Bonnie Blue Flag

"The Bonnie Blue Flag", also known as "We Are a Band of Brothers", is an 1861 marching song associated with the Confederate States. The words were written by the entertainer Harry McCarthy, with the melody taken from the song "The Irish Jaunting Car". The song's title refers to the unofficial first flag of the Confederacy, the Bonnie Blue Flag. The left flag on the sheet-music to the reader's right is the Bonnie Blue Flag.

"The Bonnie Blue Flag"
The Bonnie Blue Flag - Project Gutenberg eText 21566.jpg
Song by Harry McCarthy
Released1861 (1861)

The song was premiered by lyricist Harry McCarthy during a concert in Jackson, Mississippi, in the spring of 1861 and performed again in September of that same year at the New Orleans Academy of Music for the First Texas Volunteer Infantry regiment mustering in celebration.[citation needed]

The New Orleans music publishing house of A.E. Blackmar issued six editions of "The Bonnie Blue Flag" between 1861 and 1864 along with three additional arrangements.

The "band of brothers" mentioned in the first line of the song recalls the well known St. Crispin's Day Speech in William Shakespeare's play Henry V (Act IV, scene ii).

Lyrical variationsEdit

The Bonnie Blue Flag, the namesake and subject of the song.

The first verse of the song goes:

We are a band of brothers, and native to the soil,
Fighting for our liberty with treasure, blood, and toil;
And when our rights were threatened, the cry rose near and far,
Hurrah! for the Bonnie Blue Flag, that bears a single star.

These lyrics appear in a version held by the Library of Congress.[1] It was published by A. E. Blackmar and Brother in New Orleans in 1861. The second line is sometimes given as "fighting for the property we gained by honest toil." University of San Diego professor Steve Schoenherr[2] and the library of Duke University[3] record the "property" version which also has a publication date of 1861. When Major General Benjamin Butler captured New Orleans, he allegedly arrested Blackmar,[4] fined Blackmar $500, destroyed all copies of the music, and ordered that anyone caught whistling or singing "The Bonnie Blue Flag" would be fined $25 (roughly $500 in the 1860s[5]). Eleven other editions of the song were published with different lyrics.[citation needed]

Annie Chambers Ketchum, a Confederate widow who risked her liberty to publish new verses to be sung, published a new version of the song under the title "The Gathering Song." The following verses were published in a eulogy by Gilberta S. Whittle in the 1904 Richmond Times Dispatch:

"Come, brothers, rally for the right!
The bravest of the brave
Sends forth his ringing battle-cray
Beside the Atlantic wave.
She leads the way in honor's path:
Come, brothers, near and far,
Come, rally round the Bonnie Blue Flag
That bears a single star!
Hurrah! hurrah! for Southern rights
Hurrah for the Bonnie Blue Flag
That bears a single star!

We've borne the Yankee trickery,
The Yankee gibe and sneer,
Till Northern insolence and pride
Know neither shame nor fear;
But ready now with shot and steel
Their brazen front to mar,
We holst aloft the Bonnie Blue Flag
That bears a single star.

Now Georgia marches to the front,
And close beside her come
Her sisters of the Mexique sea,
With pealing trump and drum;
Till answering back from hill and glen
The rallying cry afar,
A nation holsts the Bonnie Blue Flag
That bears a single star.

By every stone in Charleston Bay,
By each beleaguered town,
We swear to rest not night nor day,
But hunt the tyrants down;
Till bathed in valor's holy blood
The gazing world afar
Shall greet with shouts the Bonnie Blue Flag
That bears a single star."[6]

Complete lyricsEdit

We are a band of brothers and native to the soil
Fighting for our liberty with treasure, blood, and toil
And when our rights were threatened, the cry rose near and far
Hurrah for the Bonnie Blue Flag that bears a single star!

Hurrah! Hurrah!
For Southern rights, hurrah!
Hurrah for the Bonnie Blue Flag that bears a single star.

As long as the Union was faithful to her trust
Like friends and like brethren, kind were we, and just
But now, when Northern treachery attempts our rights to mar
We hoist on high the Bonnie Blue Flag that bears a single star.


First gallant South Carolina nobly made the stand
Then came Alabama and took her by the hand
Next, quickly Mississippi, Georgia, and Florida
All raised on high the Bonnie Blue Flag that bears a single star.


Ye men of valor gather round the banner of the right
Texas and fair Louisiana join us in the fight
Davis, our loved President, and Stephens statesmen rare
Now rally round the Bonnie Blue Flag that bears a single star.


Now here's to brave Virginia, the Old Dominion State,
With the young Confederacy at last has sealed her fate,
And spurred by her example, now other states prepare
To hoist high the Bonnie Blue Flag that bears a single star.

Now here's to brave Virginia, the Old Dominion State,
Who with the young Confederacy at length has linked her fate.
Impelled by her example, let other states prepare
To hoist high the Bonnie Blue Flag that bears a single star.)


Then cheer, boys, cheer, raise a joyous shout
For Arkansas and North Carolina now have both gone out,
And let another rousing cheer for Tennessee be given,
The single star of the Bonnie Blue Flag has grown to be eleven.


Then here's to our Confederacy, strong we are and brave,
Like patriots of old we'll fight, our heritage to save;
And rather than submit to shame, to die we would prefer,
So cheer for the Bonnie Blue Flag that bears a single star.

Chorus[8][dead link]

Historical inaccuraciesEdit

The third verse of the song misstates the order in which the states seceded from the Union. The dates on which the states seceded are as follows:

  1. South Carolina (December 20, 1860)
  2. Mississippi (January 9, 1861)
  3. Florida (January 10, 1861)
  4. Alabama (January 11, 1861)
  5. Georgia (January 19, 1861)
  6. Louisiana (January 26, 1861)
  7. Texas (February 1, 1861)
  8. Virginia (April 17, 1861)
  9. Arkansas (May 6, 1861)
  10. North Carolina (May 20, 1861)
  11. Tennessee (June 8, 1861)[9]

Thus, Alabama did not take South Carolina by the hand, but delayed its secession until the departure of Mississippi and Florida.

Union versionsEdit

As with many songs from the time of the American Civil War, this song had multiple versions for both the Union and Confederate sides. One Union version, written by J.L. Geddes, in 1863,[10][11] a British-born colonel who immigrated to the U.S., was called "The Bonnie Flag With the Stripes and Stars". Singing of Unionism and equality, it went:

We're fighting for our Union,
We're fighting for our trust,
We're fighting for that happy land
Where sleeps our father dust.
It cannot be dissevered,
Though it cost us bloody wars,
We never can give up the land
Where floats the stripes and stars.

Hurrah, Hurrah,
For equal rights hurrah,
Hurrah for the good old flag
That bears the stripes and stars.

We trusted you as brothers,
Until you drew the sword,
With impious hands at Sumter
You cut the silver cord.
So now you hear the bugles,
We come the sons of Mars,
To rally round the brave old flag
That bears the stripes and stars.


We do not want your cotton,
We do not want your slaves,
But rather than divide the land,
We'll fill your Southern graves.
With Lincoln for our chieftain,
We wear our country's stars,
And rally round the brave old flag
That bears the stripes and stars.


We deem our cause most holy,
We know we're in the right,
And twenty million freemen
Stand ready for the fight.
Our pride is fair Columbia,
No stain her beauty mars,
On her we'll raise the brave old flag
That bears the stripes and stars.


And when this war is over,
We'll each resume our home,
And treat you still as brothers,
Where ever you may roam.
We'll pledge the hand of friendship,
And think no more of war,
But dwell in peace beneath the flag
That bears the stripes and stars.


Another version went:

We are a band of Patriots who each leave home and friend,
Our noble Constitution and our Banner to defend,
Our Capitol was threatened, and the cry rose near and far,
To protect our Country's glorious Flag that glitters with many a star.

Hurrah, Hurrah, for the Union, boys Hurrah
Hurrah for our forefather's Flag,
that glitters with many a star.

Much patience and forbearance, the North has always shown,
Toward her Southern brethren, who had each way their own;
But when we made our President—a man whom we desired,
Their wrath was roused, they mounted guns, and on Fort Sumter fired.

They forced the war upon us, for peaceful men are we,
They steal our money, seize our forts, and then as cowards flee,
False to their vows, and to the Flag, that once protected them,
They sought the Union to dissolve, earth's noblest, brightest, gem.

We're in the right, and will prevail, the Stars and Stripes must fly!
The "Bonnie Blue Flag" will be hauled down and every traitor die,
Freedom and Peace enjoyed by all, as ne'er was known before,
Our spangled Banner wave on high, with stars just Thirty Four[13]

Additionally, the Song of the Irish Volunteers, an anthem of the famous 69th New York regiment known as the Irish Brigade, was sung to the same tune.[14]

In popular cultureEdit

  • In the 1939 movie Gone with the Wind, Rhett Butler names his child 'Bonnie Blue Butler' after Melanie Hamilton remarks that the child's eyes are as "blue as the Bonnie Blue flag".
  • In the 1956 movie The Searchers, the song playing as John Wayne approaches at the beginning of the film is a slow version of "The Bonnie Blue Flag".
  • In the 1959 movie The Horse Soldiers, the chorus of the Bonnie Blue Flag is sung by a marching company of Mississippi military school cadets, who face the Union cavalry in an effort to delay their progress. It is loosely based on the unrelated charge of the Virginia Military Institute cadets at the Battle of New Market, 15 May 1864.
  • In the 1966 movie The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, the chorus of the Bonnie Blue Flag is sung by a band of drunken revelers as they drop off Maria at her home in Santa Anna.
  • The 1972 television series Appointment with Destiny made the error of portraying Union soldiers singing "The Bonnie Blue Flag."[15]
  • In the 1989 movie Glory, a portion of the Bonnie Blue Flag tune is played in the background by several union soldiers as the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment are marching past.
  • In the 1999 television movie The Hunley about the H.L. Hunley submarine in South Carolina during the American Civil War, the Bonnie Blue Flag song is sung to raise civilians' spirits during a Union mortar attack on the city.
  • In a 2001 episode of SpongeBob SquarePants ("The Fry Cook Games"), the melody of the Bonnie Blue Flag is played during the opening montage of the Games.
  • In the 2003 movie Gods and Generals, the ode to the Bonnie Blue Flag is sung in front of the Confederate army.
  • In a 2012 episode of the show Hell on Wheels entitled "Viva la Mexico", the chorus of the song is sung by Confederate soldiers-turned-bandits.
  • In the 2013 video game BioShock Infinite, "The Bonnie Blue Flag" is played on a phonograph during the chapter "Hall of Heroes."


  1. ^
  2. ^ Schoenherr, Steve (October 1, 2003). "The Bonnie Blue Flag". Archived from the original on August 21, 2008.
  3. ^ Macarthy, Harry (1861). "The Bonnie Blue Flag". A.E. Blackmar & Bro. Retrieved November 27, 2013.
  4. ^ Harwell, Richard B., Confederate Music, p.59
  5. ^ "Measuring Worth – Measures of worth, inflation rates, saving calculator, relative value, worth of a dollar, worth of a pound, purchasing power, gold prices, GDP, history of wages, average wage". Retrieved 2012-03-27.
  6. ^ Whittle, Gilberta S. (31 January 1904). "The Bonnie Blue Flag: Death of Mrs. Ketchum Recalls Her Stirring Southern War Song". Richmond Times Dispatch (1904, No. 16462). Library of Virginia. Virginia Chronicle. Retrieved 20 November 2016.
  7. ^ "We are a band of brothers / Bonnie Blue Flag". Retrieved 2012-03-27.
  8. ^ Patriotic – the Bonnie Blue Flag
  9. ^ "American Civil War :: Hargrett Rare Book & Manuscript Library :: University of Georgia Libraries". Retrieved 2018-12-08.
  10. ^ "Browsing Levy Sheet Music Collection by Author "Col. J. L. Geddes (composer)"". JScholarship. Retrieved March 1, 2015.
  11. ^ "J. L. Geddes". Ancestry. Retrieved March 1, 2015. Born in Midlothian, Scotland on 23 Sep 1827 to Alexander Geddes and Elizabeth Carless. J. L. married Margaret Moore and had 7 children. J. L. married Elizabeth Evans. He died on 21 February 1887 in Ames, Iowa
  12. ^ "Reply to "The Bonnie Blue Flag"". Retrieved 2012-03-27.
  13. ^ "Reply to The Bonnie Blue Flag". Retrieved 2012-03-27.
  14. ^ Recording of song.
  15. ^ John S. Rosenberg, "The Perils of Analogy" (John S. Rosenberg on TV), The New Republic, May 13, 1972, p. 23.

External linksEdit