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The Cahaba Male Chorus

author: Capt. H. R. Hubbard
published by: Mendon Dispatch, circa 1904
synopses: Personal accounts of Andersonville Prison and Capt. Hubbard
personal subject: Capt. Hubbard and the Cahaba Andersonville Male Chorus

The days and nights were very long and dreary in Andersonville. Think of a city of 35,000 or 40,000 inhabitants with nothing whatever to do, with no places of business or amusement, whose inhabitants had been rigidly searched an thoroughly robbed of money, knives, rings, watches and everything else of value upon their entrance to the prison. Many had been stripped of everything when captured. But the official search and sizure [sic] at Andersonville was remarkably thorough.

Many persons from Butler's command were stripped of everything but undershirt and drawers, and no more clothing was furnished them.

Some of the prisoners became ill-humored and some would quarrel and fight. Others became discouraged or insane. Some men would stop talking entirely, while others would curse the rebels fluently. My pleasantest memories are of the glee club and the fine singing we had.

The Cahaba Andersonville Male Chorus was the finest musical aggregation I have ever had the pleasure of singing with. Four of us got together in Cahaba prison. Ed. Newman, 4th Mass. Cavalry, was leader. He was a member of the Handel-Hayden singing society, of Boston, Mass., a piano tuner by profession and sang tenor in one of the Boston churches at a salary of $1,500 a year. He had the sweetest, clearest tenor voice I ever heard, and had one of the whitest souls ever placed in mortal body; a refined, delicate, gentlemanly man, beloved and respected by all his acquaintances. Another Ed. Newman, 4th Mich. cavalry, sang second tennor [sic]. He was a larger, stronger man and a fine musician. The two Newmans were chums, and though not related, were like brothers. Freeman, of Iowa, sang the lower bass and I the upper. A lady living near the prison—Mrs. Amanda Hull—presented us with a copy of the "New York Glee and Chorus Book," which was highly appreciated. The same kind lady sent in for the use of the prisoners a large number of books, between one and two hundred, I think; the only instance of the kind I ever heard of in Confederate prisons. The passengers on steamboats running between Mobile and Montgomery used often to stop and hear the Yankees sing. They often treated to cigars or tobacco, which fell to Freeman, as he was the only one of us who used either.

We sang a great deal for our own amusement, frequently for Freeman's tobacco, and always for Mrs. Hull whenever she had company, which was nearly every afternoon, when the two ladies would call to see and hear the Yankees. Mrs. Hull's veranda [sic] was very near to and a little higher than the prison yard fence and made a very good gallery, while we performed in the pit.

In Andersonville—Waldo, a railroad man from Galesburg, Ill., joined us: also—Woodbury, 16th Conn.—a nephew of I.B. Woodbury, the musical composer director. He had a fine voice and took Freeman's place when he got too feeble to sing. Many others sang with use more or less regularly, whose names I have forgotten. We used to sing nearly every evening in May, when the sun got low, so that the shadow of the stockade would shelter us from the sun. Sometimes five or six thousand of the prisoners would gather around us, sitting down upon the ground and keeping as good order as though they were in church. We sang glees and choruses, patriotic and sentimental songs, and often closed with "Home Again" or "Home, Sweet Home,"which would set the whole audience to weeping. A favorite song of Newman's was the "Battle Hymn of the Republic."Tourgee in his "Talks of a Veteran,"speaks of a confederate friend of his would heard us sing this and became convinced that the Southern cause was hopeless; that men could never be conquered, who, when dying, could sing such songs.

And they were dying. So far as I know, I am the only survivor of that band of singers. All the others a buried there. I was removed from Andersonville August 18th, and never saw or heard of any one of the alive again. I did hear that the Newmans, Freeman and Waldo were dead, which discouraged me from farther effort to find any of them since the way.

About the H. R. Writings

harmon hubard photo 1

#1 photo of H. R. Hubbard (shown)

#2 photo of H. R. Hubbard