Harry Macarthy was an English-born vaudeville entertainer who emigrated to the United States in 1849 and settled in Arkansas. He billed himself the "Arkansas Comedian" and traveled widely throughout the South in company with his wife, Lottie, putting on "personation concerts." These performances featured Macarthy singing in the dialect of other cultures, dancing to ethnic-sounding music, and dressing in flamboyant costumes. Stephen Currie, in Music in the Civil War, reports that one of Macarthy's traveling companions during the war years was a cockatoo who had been trained to squawk "Three cheers for Jeff Davis!" on stage.
Macarthy premiered "The Bonnie Blue Flag" during a concert in Jackson, Mississippi, in the spring of 1861. He performed it a second time in September of that same year at the New Orleans Academy of Music in front of an audience of soldiers headed for the Virginia front. Again, the response was enthusiastic, and Macarthy was suddenly in demand as he had never been before. He traveled throughout the South during the war years, performing to packed houses of appreciative listeners, and although he continued to compose patriotic songs (among them "Missouri and The Volunteer" or "It Is My Country's Call." "The Bonnie Blue Flag" was his greatest success.
Although some claim that Macarthy was more interested in attracting audiences and making money than he was in supporting the Southern cause, the song was an undeniable hit with Confederate soldiers and civilians alike and remains one of the classic Southern War songs.
The Bonnie Blue Flag || The Volunteer
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Last modified 16-April-2001