Our country and flag, a national song and chorus [detail of cover], by Richard Culver. Civil War Sheet Music Collection, Library of Congress, Performing Arts Reading Room.
At 4:30 a.m. on April 12, 1861, the Confederate Army began shelling the garrison of Union soldiers who had steadfastly refused to abandon Fort Sumter in South Carolina. Just over an hour later, Union guns responded. Little did the residents of nearby Charleston know that the gunfire that had awakened them was but a harbinger of the conflagration that would ravage the nation for the next four years.
When events like this are studied, one often overlooked historical resource is contemporary sheet music. The vivid cover of "Our Country and Flag," for example, depicts the northern perspective. At the heart of the illustration, Fort Sumter burns. In response, defenders wave the Stars and Stripes as they eagerly respond to protect the Nation's Capitol, seen in the distance.
More examples of music's historical narrative are available in the Civil War Sheet Music Collection online.