(A big thank you to Sons of Confederate Veterans Private Samuel A, Hughey Camp 142 in Horn Lake, the Varina Howell Davis Chapter of United Daughters of the Confederacy, President Jefferson Davis Chapter 173 Military Order of Stars and Bars, and National Society Daughters of CSA Officer Corps. – DD)
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(DeSoto Times) – Jonathan Hearn has always been interested in Civil War history and family genealogy. But he had no idea that he had a famous Confederate ancestor who was the only chief musician to survive the Civil War on either side, and that he was one of the first to orchestrate “Dixie.”
Three years ago, Hearn, who lives in Byhalia, was given a box of family photos and memorabilia by his grandfather’s cousin, Barbara Hearn, who had been the keeper of the family’s genealogy legacy over the years. When he dug through the old photos, he came across an old battered leather journal which his fourth great-grandfather, Thomas J. Firth, kept during his time in the Army of the Confederate States of America.
“She was the big genealogist in our family, but she is getting older and kind of turned it over to me,” Hearn said. “She told me that I would be particularly interested in Firth’s story. So I started to read his letters and journals and memoirs and was amazed.”
Firth was born in 1843 in La Grange, Tennessee, in Fayette County, and enlisted as a bugler and military bandsman in the 13th Tennessee Infantry in 1861. The 13th Tennessee Infantry was made up of men from Dyer, Fayette, Shelby, Gibson, McNair and Chester Counties, and fought at the battles of Belmont, Shiloh, Richmond, Perryville, Murfreesboro, and from Chickamauga to Atlanta, as well as North Carolina.
“He was the youngest bugle bandmaster on either side of the war,” Hearn said. “And, he was also the only chief musician to survive the war on either side.”
During the Civil War, military bandsmen entertained the troops, helped position units on the battlefield, and helped boost morale and stir men on to victory. Firth was promoted to Chief Musician of Company F and according to Hearn, is credited with being among the first bandmasters to play “Dixie.” The song was written in 1859 by Daniel Emmett of…