Tennessee Ernie Ford’s Civil War

Posted on April 11, 2013 by


While the recent Brad Paisley/L.L. Cool J song raises a fuss in several corridors, I feel it’s being blown out of proportion. I’ve already commented in posts by Kevin Levin and Richard Williams, regarding some of my thoughts. For some reason (probably because of Richard’s remark regarding Nashville), it also made me reflect on a song with which I’m familiar… Tennessee Ernie Ford‘s “Union version” of Dixie (from his Civil War Songs of the North album).

While I have my doubts about Paisley’s “rebel heritage”, as a son of East Tennessee, Ford had legitimate claims to at least one Southern Unionist. William Jesse Ladd was a private in Co. L, 9th Tennessee Cavalry. So, was Ford singing, reflective of his family ties to Ladd and other East Tennessee family members who favored the Union?

Before you answer, keep in mind… Ford also had an album of Civil War songs from the [Confederate] South.

Once again… yes, a relevant tie, as he also had an ancestor (at least one site suggests so… though I’m unable to find the exact unit in which Daniel Peter Ford served) who served in gray (I also verified the service of one of his cousins in the 1st Tennessee Cavalry, CSA). The same site also claims that Daniel Peter Ford was a slaveholder (no, I didn’t take time to verify), and, within the family, was referred to as “Uncle Black Daniel”. Again, the question… was he inspired to sing these songs based on familial connections?

Of course, the answer can be much more simple. Was Tennessee Ernie Ford (more known for his singing of Sixteen Tons) just a musician, in the time of the Civil War Centennial (the two albums, Civil War Songs of the South, and Civil War Songs of the North, were released in 1960), who, to a record label, seemed like the right person to sing these songs?