The Susquehanna Travellers are a modern Civil War-style band. In this photo, developed using a period-camera and techniques, are from left: Allen Brenner,
The Susquehanna Travellers are a modern Civil War-style band. In this photo, developed using a period-camera and techniques, are from left: Allen Brenner, Craig Hershock, Mark Ehrsam and Kevin Smith. (Submitted photo)

The melodies might have been the same, but the lyrics of some Civil War songs were different from those sung just across the Mason-Dixon Line.

Allen Brenner, the violinist with the York County-based Susquehanna Travellers, said a number of songs had northern lyrics that were totally different from those sung in the South.

"It's one of the ways to make a political statement," he said.

Susquehanna Travellers, a band that plays Civil War-era songs, has been performing for about 10 years.

"Dixie," which is synonymous with the South, also had Northern lyrics that refer to Southerners as traitors from a land of rattlesnakes and alligators, Brenner said.

The song was written by Northern-born Dan Emmett.

"It wasn't always the Confederate anthem as everyone believes," Brenner said.

Song of the South? "Dixie" isn't the only song with Union and Confederate lyrics.

The first unofficial Rebel anthem, "The Bonnie Blue Flag," the melody of which is taken from "The Irish Jaunting Car," also has pro-North lyrics.

The 69th New York regiment, known as the Irish Regiment, had its own version of the song called "Song

of the Irish Volunteers," said Craig Hershock, the band's recorder and pennywhistle player.

Even though the lyrics clearly divide whose on which side, the Susquehanna Travellers don't discriminate when it comes to requests.

"We'll play requests from the North and the South," Hershock said.


The four-piece band also features Kevin Smith on guitar and Mark Ehrsam plays the banjo and mandolin.

They have a number of gigs, including a ball in Virginia, lined up in the next two months.

Locally, the band, described by Brenner as a parlor band that would have played "on the home front" during the Civil War, will perform at the John Wright Restaurant during Flames Across the Susquehanna in Wrightsville at the end of the month.

The June 28 event will mark the 150th anniversary of the burning of the covered bridge over the river by local militia, preventing the Rebels from crossing from Wrightsville to Columbia.

True to form: Most of the songs the band plays are from the 19th century. Band members take strides to ensure the band plays songs written between the 1840s and the 1870s, Brenner said.

"We try very hard to track down the origins of the music," he said. "We do the best we can to be accurate to the period we play."

But there is one exception to the rule. "Ashokan Farewell," written by Jay Ungar in 1986, is a favorite among Civil War buffs after it was used in Ken Burns' documentary "The Civil War." The Susquehanna Travellers have been known to play that on request.

The band's accuracy goes down to the clothing the men wear.

All four members, wear "period-correct dress," reproductions of clothing worn during the Victorian era.

The band's repertoire also features songs typical to the Civil War era and includes a number of reels, as well as Irish, English and American folk tunes, Hershock said.

"It was a mix of music. There were some waltzes," he said. "Most of the things you would be dancing to would be reels."

For more information about the Susquehanna Travellers, go to

-- Reach Greg Gross at