Singing the Songs of Zion
Soldiers' Hymn Collections and Hymn Singing
in the American Civil War

Mark D. Rhoads

"Every night the holy songs of Zion go up on this balmy spring air, a sweet incense, I think,
to the throne of the Eternal.
" Rev. William Hauser, chaplain of the 48th Georgia

Home | Soldier's Hymn Collections
Reenactor's Hymn & Tune Book | About the Author

Amazing grace how sweet the sound C.M.
William Cowper, 1779


View my website on the variety of tunes used for "Amazing Grace."

This hymn, though wildly popular today, only appeared in three Southern hymn collections and none of the Northern collections. It seldom appears in lists of soldier's favorite hymns, in soldier's letters, or post-war reports. While "Amazing Grace" often appeared in campmeeting revival hymnals, in shape-note tune books, and in the popular church hymnal The Sabbath Hymn and Tune Book (1859), it didn't come up to the stature it holds today. It is also possible that "Amazing Grace" was sung more in the South than in the North.



A charge to keep I have
All hail the power of Jesus' name
Am I a soldier of the cross
Amazing grace how sweet the sound
Come thou fount of every blessing
Come we that love the Lord
Gently Lord O gently lead us
Guide me O thou great Jehovah
How firm a foundation
I would not live always
I'm a pilgrim and I'm a stranger
Jesus lover of my soul
Just as I am without one plea
Mid scenes of confusion
My days are gliding swiftly by
Nearer my God to thee
O happy day that fixed my choice
O sing to me of heaven
Rock of ages cleft for me
Say brothers will you meet us
There is a happy land
There is a fountain filled with blood
There is land of pure delight
When I can read my title clear
When I survey the wondrous cross
Why should we start and fear to die

Amazing grace how sweet the sound
that saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind but now I see.

'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear,
The hour I first believed

Through many dangers, toils, and snares
I have already come:
'Twas grace that brought me safe thus far
And grace will lead me home.

And when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess, within the vail,
A life of joy and peace.
“Stonewall” Jackson, who didn’t have an ear or voice for singing, began each Sunday service at the Presbyterian Sabbath School for Slaves that he oversaw with “Amazing Grace,” the only tune he could recognizably render. (from Durkein, Joseph T., ed.  John Dooley, Confederate Soldier: His War Journal. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1963, p. 54-55, 59)

We all kneeled down in prayer around his bed; fervently we commended the dying soldier to his Saviour, and arose feeling that, truly, God was in that place.  “Sing to me,” he said, “some of those good old  hymns I used to hear at home.”  We sang . . . “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound,” etc.  He seemed to appreciate the sentiment of the hymn, and tried, now and then, to join in the singing.  (From William W. Bennett, A narrative of the great revival which prevailed in the southern armies. . . ., Philadelphia: Claxton, Remsen & Haffelfinger 1877, p. 135)