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Daniel Decatur Emmett

By John T. Marck

The composer of many a famous song, Daniel Emmett was born in Mount Vernon, Ohio on October 29, 1815. Also a performer, he is probably best remembered for having written "Dixie," which became the unofficial anthem of the South. Before the Civil War began, Emmett served in the band with the 6th U.S. Infantry. It was during this time that he wrote Emmett's Standard Drummer, the army's first drum manual.

Following this army service, he performed in various circuses and variety shows and by 1840, he had his own minstrel show in New York City. After experiencing an unsuccessful tour of England, he disbanded his show and joined Bryant's Minstrel's in New York City. While working with them, he composed various songs for them, as well as numerous songs he wrote to make money for himself.

In addition to Dixie, he wrote many other Civil war songs, most of which are now obscure such as the one we wrote in honor of Union General George B. McClellan, titled: "Mac Will Win the Union Back."

Although Emmett was popular in both the North and South for his songs during the war, he did not travel in the South, and remained loyal to the North. He did experience considerable embarrassment as a result of the South adopting his song Dixie, when he was so devoted to the North.

After the war, Emmett continued in show business, performing in many areas, until finally retiring in Ohio in 1888. Seven years later in 1897, he came out of retirement to perform a final tour in the South.

Daniel D. Emmett died on his farm near Mount Vernon, Ohio on July 28, 1904.

Copyright 1993-2022 by John T. Marck. All Rights Reserved. This article and their accompanying pictures, photographs, and line art, may not be resold, reprinted, or redistributed for compensation of any kind without prior written permission from the author.