From the Richmond Dispatch, 5/11/1861, p. 1
National Anthems. – A friend writes to express his pleasure at the ingenuity displayed by a fair correspondent of the Dispatch, on a recent occasion, in endeavoring to prove that the song of "Dixie Land" of right should become the National refrain of the Southern Confederacy. He says she is error when she asserts that the melody is of Northern manufacture. It is purely Southern, and just as purely negro – being a stevadore's song, or chaunt, which for many years past has been bellowed on the wharves and levees of Southern cities, quite as common as the "unwritten music" of "Shinbone Alley," "Ho, boys, you 'most done," and "Down Below." It is one of those melodies whose parentage cannot be traced, and whose spontaneous birth defies the researches of the historian. Like many others of the same stamp, it has been caught up by the composers for the "burnt cork opera," and so burnished up and remodeled as to deceive the modern connoisseur, though older ones can detect its nativity. He adds: "I make no objections to the tune – it is bold and even pleasing; yet it smells too strongly of the 'nigger' to assume the dignified rank of National song. And the words, notwithstanding the prophetic virtue given them by your lady correspondent, what are they? Mere doggerel stuff, from the brain of some natural poet, away down in Dixie – 'that undiscovered country from whose bourne no traveler returns,' because no one as yet has ever reached it."
We have no really national airs. "Yankee Doodle" is an unmeaning melody of foreign origin. As our correspondent says, it was played in derision of the Americans, by the British fifers during the Revolutionary war. – Its true origin is from an unsuccessful oratorio, entitled "Ulysses," composed by William Smith. "Hail Columbia," originally the old "President's March," was composed by the German leader of the band at Trenton, after the battle. The "Star Spangled Banner is the old Irish tune of Bibo. The more modern song, so popular with the Unionists, "Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean," claims its origins from John Bull. Its transatlantic title was "Brittania, thou Gem of the Ocean." "Our Flag is There," another song tending towards nationality, is said to have been composed in South America.
Our National melodies should possess a distinct character of their own; but, if we are to depend on any people for their caste, let it not be the untutored son of Africa – the distorter of old Scotch and Irish tunes given to the world in the palmy days of the bards and harpers. If the Confederate States require a National anthem, let them adopt one of pure origin – one that will not be ashamed of its parentage.