Jump to content

Henry Clay Work

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Work in his posthumously published 1884 collection of songs

Henry Clay Work (October 1, 1832, Middletown – June 8, 1884, Hartford) was an American songwriter and composer of the mid-19th century. He is best remembered for his musical contributions to the Union in the Civil War—songs documenting the afflictions of slavery, the hardships of army life and Northern triumphs in the conflict. His sentimental ballads, some of which promoted the growing temperance movement, have also left their mark on American music. Many of Work's compositions were performed at minstrel shows and Civil War veteran reunions. Although largely forgotten nowadays, he was one of the most successful musicians of his time, comparable to Stephen Foster and George F. Root in sales and sheer influence. In songwriting, he is renowned for his dexterity in African-American dialect, seriocomedy and melody.

Born to a Connecticutian family in 1832, Work's upbringing was humble and unconventional. His father, Alanson, was an abolitionist who tirelessly strove to free fugitive slaves, for which he was briefly imprisoned. While a youth he initiated a career in printing, one that lasted his entire life. Although lacking formal music training, his passion for song manifested itself early on as he wrote poems for newspapers. Work first published a complete musical piece in 1853, "We Are Coming, Sister Mary". Its moderate success drove him to pursue songwriting further.

His career came of age at the Civil War's outbreak; willing to contribute to the Union struggle, Work started writing patriotic tunes for Chicagoan publishing firm Root & Cady. Impressed by "Kingdom Coming" (1862), Root hired him for the war's duration, during which he drove the business to unprecedented prosperity and produced some of the most iconic wartime songs, most notably, "Marching Through Georgia" (1865).

After the war, Work started venturing in balladry, his first being "The Ship That Never Returned" (1865). Upon returning from a European maritime voyage, familial and financial woes demotivated him considerably, worsened by Root & Cady's closure in 1871. He quit songwriting altogether for a few years. After agreeing to collaborate with Chauncey M. Cady in 1876, his output briefly resurged, yielding one sole major hit, "Grandfather's Clock" (1876). Nonetheless, Work could not reproduce his wartime fame and fortune. He died virtually forgotten in 1884.

Early life


Henry Clay Work, named for distinguished statesman and former House speaker Henry Clay,[1] was born on October 1, 1832, in Middletown, Connecticut.[2] The Work family was of Scottish origin, their surname derived from Auld Wark, a significant stronghold during the Anglo-Scottish wars. To avert religious persecution, they migrated to the north of Ireland. Soon after, in 1720, Joseph Work emigrated to the United States, settling in Ashford, Connecticut.[3]

Routes of the Underground Railroad, through which Alanson Work helped manumit fugitive slaves.

Henry Work's background was modest, "pass[ing] his boyhood days almost in want"[4] without much formal education.[5] When aged just three, his father, Alanson, resettled the family near Quincy, Illinois, to better their fortunes.[6] He was "a noted and fearless anti-slavery advocate,"[7] organizing the family home into a station of the Underground Railroad, a network for fugitive slaves to escape to freedom.[8] For aiding thousands of slaves flee from bondage,[9] Alanson was sentenced to twelve years' hard labor in Missouri in 1841. He was conditionally pardoned four years later, forced to return to Connecticut and abandon the Railroad.[10] Having spent much time with the freed slaves, the efforts of Henry Work's father left a stirring impression on him.[11] In his 1884 biography of the composer, Bertram G. Work remarked:

"That Henry Clay Work drew much of the inspiration for his songs from his youthful experiences cannot be doubted. During his most impressionable years, he came in contact with many noted anti-slavery workers; perhaps even assisted his father in his humanitarian work."[12]

He became familiar with the African-American dialect and minstrelsy, and, above all, came to terms with slaves' routine agonies. Work grew to share his father's staunch abolitionism, manifesting itself in his later compositions, many of which were endowed with "a pronounced moralistic zeal."[13]

While in Illinois, he attended irregular Latin and Greek courses at Mission Institute.[14] These fostered a deep interest in philology; aged twelve, he noted his "considerable progress" in inventing two languages, "one in which English letters were used to form new words, and one that had an alphabet of its own."[15] In music, Work was largely self-taught, save for some lessons at a church singing school and exposure to camp meetings in his neighborhood.[16] He quickly grew acquainted with the principles of musical notation, devising original melodies while laboring at the family pasture.[17]

In 1845, obliged by the terms of Alanson's release from prison, the Work family migrated back to Middletown, except for Henry who stayed a year longer.[1] Then aged fourteen, he reluctantly commenced his apprenticeship as a tailor, but his father soon allowed him to pursue a career more "congenial to his tastes" in printing, specializing in typesetting music.[18] Work never permanently strayed from this trade,[19] that granted him further insight into the English language, indispensable for his songwriting ventures.[17] In his spare time, his "everyday thought" of writing and music took effect, penning numerous poems, adapting them to melodies and contributing them to various newspapers.[20]

Early career


Formative years


In 1853 Work composed his first song with original lyrics and melody, "We Are Coming, Sister Mary". Instead of sending it to a gazette's "poet's corner," he submitted it to Edwin P. Christy, founder of the renowned eponymous minstrel troupe based in New York City that had initiated Stephen Foster's career.[21] Christy was "well pleased" and later performed it at his shows, received with respectable praise and some popularity.[22] He later sold it to the local publishing firm Firth, Pond & Co. for the sufficient remuneration of $25[a] he bestowed to Work.[19] This encouraged him to pursue "more ambitious efforts as a composer,"[17] publishing a comic song, "Lilly-Wily Woken", for the New York firm William Hall & Son two years later.[23]

While his career had been moderately fruitful so far, Work started doubting his songwriting capabilities. He passed the rest of the decade without publishing any music, choosing to focus exclusively on printing.[24] For this reason he migrated to Chicago in 1855, aged twenty-three, and took up a new printing job.[25] Two years later, he married Massachusettsan Sarah Parker and bought a cottage at Hyde Park.[26][b] In March 1861, with his passion for songwriting revived, Work published a song commemorating the steamer Lady Elgin's shipwreck, "Lost on the Lady Elgin", meeting little success.[28]

Background to his Civil War career

George F. Root of Root & Cady in 1860, with whom Work collaborated throughout the Civil War.

The following month, the American Civil War broke out, laying out a new path for Work's aspirations. After the bombardment of Fort Sumter on April 12–13, President Abraham Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteers to suppress the Southern rebellion.[29] Music, which "aroused herself to meet the exigencies of the times,"[30] was instrumental to raising the Union's spirits, rallying civilians and troops, both White and Black, round their nation's cause.[31] Folk music enthusiast Irwin Silber notes:

"Throughout the war, soldiers and civilians of the Union states were inspired and propagandized by a host of patriotic songs. An endless stream of compositions poured forth from the dedicated pens of scores of professional song writers and hundreds of eager amateurs. [...] a few of these songs caught the tempo and the spirit across the country carried on the lips of millions of Americans."[32]

Being in such high demand, patriotic song submissions began pouring into local newspapers and music labels, most of which were rather trite.[33] It is estimated that approximately two thousand were published as sheet music in 1861 alone.[34]

No firm attained such success in publishing Unionist music as Chicago-based Root & Cady, "the largest of [...] the era"[35] and "most prolific producers of wartime music."[36] It was established in 1858 by Ebenezer T. Root and Chauncey M. Cady and, from 1860 onwards, principally operated by George F. Root.[37] Root was one of the most renowned composers of the Civil War era, with such tunes as "Battle Cry of Freedom" and "Tramp! Tramp! Tramp!" to his name.[38] By the war's opening weeks, his firm was receiving roughly sixty daily submissions; throughout the conflict, it published over a hundred songs.[39] In fact, it issued the very first Unionist composition, "The First Gun is Fired!", in response to the attack on Fort Sumter.[40] However, the Union still lacked much antislavery vigor.[11] Having just been remotivated to write music, Work, who had witnessed the hardships of slavery firsthand, was drawn to Root & Cady, conveniently situated in his hometown of Chicago. He engaged in a markedly successful partnership with the firm throughout the war and in subsequent years.[41]

Civil War career

Cover sheet of Our National War Songs, featuring many of Work's Unionist compositions.

Work's music "captured the spirit and struggle of the Civil War,"[42] composed with "a fiery partisanship."[43] From 1861 to 1865 he penned 27 patriotic pieces and published them for Root & Cady.[44] He is held as one of the Union's preeminent bards whose songs reflect the nation's progress and civilian struggles during the war.[45] His musical contributions to the Union are paralleled with military efforts on the battlefield itself.[46] An 1884 anthology of Northern compositions, Our National War Songs, lists more songs penned by Work than any other composer, illustrating their value in the struggle.[47] Chief among them are "Kingdom Coming" (1861), "Grafted into the Army" (1862), "Song of a Thousand Years" (1863), "Babylon is Fallen" (1863), "Wake Nicodemus" (1864) and "Marching Through Georgia" (1865).[48] They reaped nigh unrivalled success; Work's career, as well as Root & Cady's, crested during the war.[49]

Many of Work's songs present slaves' routine undertakings on the plantation and incorporate African-American dialect, thus falling in the minstrelsy genre.[50] In Florine Thayer McCray's words, they evoke "the very atmosphere of awakening plantation life" and echo "the cottonpicker's musing hum and the roustabout's refrain."[51] However, contrary to the minstrel tradition, Work exposes the actual struggles endured by African Americans rather than stereotyping or idealizing them as most antebellum musicians such as Stephen Foster and Thomas D. Rice had done. Having come face to face with their hardships while in the Underground Railroad, Work genuinely understood the plight of slaves.[52] He resorted to minstrelsy not merely for entertainment but to endorse emancipation and Black enlistment.[53]



"Brave Boys Are They", a grim overview of army life, kickstarted Work's wartime career but it was not until March that his music started leaving an impression.[54] That month, George F. Root bought out another of his Unionist compositions, "Our Captain's Last Words", amassing considerable sales.[55] Root met him in person a short while after as Work presented the manuscript for a new song; his autobiography gives an account of the encounter:

"One day early in the war a quiet and rather solemn-looking young man, poorly clad, was sent up to my room from the store with a song for me to examine. I looked at it and then at him in astonishment. It was "Kingdom Coming"—elegant in manuscript, full of bright, good sense and comical situations in its "darkey" dialect—the words fitting the melody almost as aptly and neatly as Gilbert fits Sullivan—the melody decidedly good and taking, and the whole exactly suited to the times. 'Did you write these words and music?' I asked. A gentle 'Yes' was the answer. 'What is your business, if I may inquire?' 'I am a printer.' 'Would you rather write music than set type?' 'Yes.' 'Well, if this is a specimen of what you can do, I think you may give up the printing business.'"[56]

He saw great potential in Work's "gift for composition"[57] and, in a time that "called for patriotic songs with a strong Union flavor,"[36] assigned him a songwriting post lasting until the Civil War's end.[41]

"Kingdom Coming"
First verse and chorus

Say, darkeys, hab you seen de massa,
Wid the muffstash[c] on his face,
Go long de road some time dis mornin',
Like he gwine to leab de place?
He seen a smoke, way up de ribber,
Whar de Linkum gumboats lay;
He took his hat, an' lef' berry sudden,
An' I spec[d] he's run away!

De massa run? ha! ha!
De darkey stay? ho! ho!
It mus' be now de kingdom comin',
An' de year ob Jubilo![58]

"Kingdom Coming" and minstrelsy

"Kingdom Coming" sung by Frank Cumit in 1927.

"Kingdom Coming" is deemed "the first of [Work's] important songs"[59] as well as his "unquestioned masterpiece," cementing itself as a wartime favorite of African-American troops.[60] A symbol of the war's progress, it portends the Emancipation Proclamation, the executive order effectively liberating all slaves in Confederate territory.[61] A "hypocritical and cowardly" slave owner, fearing being captured by incoming Union military forces, escapes his plantation, then taken over by his slaves who lock their overseer up as retribution for his cruelty.[62] The "year of Jubilo [Jubilee]" alludes to the biblical practice of freeing bondsmen every 50 years (delineated in Leviticus 25, OT), a lasting metaphor of liberation from oppression; to subordinated Blacks, it represents the end of their servitude.[63]

Minstrel performer Thomas D. Rice as Jim Crow, the personification of a stereotyped African-American dandy.

A staple of minstrelsy, "Kingdom Coming" reverses the antebellum tradition of denigrating the plight of slaves, instead sympathizing with them.[64] Ever since the 1830s lower-class Northern theater had been dominated by troupes of blackface performers. Dressed in extravagant costumes and armed with banjos, they acted as caricatured African Americans reminiscing about their days in the agrarian South. The Romantic portrayal of Southern plantation life, with slaves and their owners residing harmoniously, gave uninformed Northern audiences a false impression of African Americans' toil in an era when slavery was growing into a dangerously divisive political issue.[65] Stephen Foster idealized the South in his early compositions; "Massa's in the Cold, Cold Ground" (1852), featuring slaves lamenting their "kind" master's death, provides a clear example: "I cannot work before tomorrow, / Cause de teardrops flow, / I try to drive away my sorrow, / Picking on de old banjo."[66]

With African Americans stereotyped as blithe, docile servants, racism pervaded Northern society and shaped public attitudes.[67] "Kingdom Coming" strays from the mockery of blackface minstrelsy, portraying a realistic picture of plantation life and humanizing slaves. Instead of the oppressive master reigning supreme over his subjects as generally observed in minstrel songs, these roles are inverted; the slaves take over the plantation and overcome their overseer.[64] This role reversal is also observed in "Babylon is Fallen" (1863), in which the slaves exclaim: "We will be de Massa, / He will be de servant."[68]

Prior to the Civil War, slaves turned to simple, sometimes comic, songs to lighten their labor.[69] However, from 1861 onward African-American music took a new serious form, serving as a collective call for liberation. Negro spirituals such as "Go Down Moses", alluding to Israel's journey to freedom in the promised land in Exodus, consoled stifled African-American populations and rallied support for emancipation.[70] While not a spiritual but a seriocomedy, "Kingdom Coming", likewise centered around a biblical metaphor (the Jubilee in Leviticus), vastly appealed to African-American Union troops who sang it regularly as they marched to the South.[71] The song's allure was bolstered by its employment of African-American dialect.[50] Its "robust melody,"[59] blending in perfectly with the lyrics, reflects Work's harmonic finesse.[72]

First advertised by Edwin P. Christy in April 1862, "Kingdom Coming" quickly became a linchpin of minstrel show repertoires.[73] Convinced of its potential, the publisher George F. Root embarked on a widespread advertising campaign to promote the song.[74] Such was its success that Root could not keep up with orders, claiming it to be his firm's most profitable composition "for nearly a year and a half" and "the most successful patriotic song in the West."[75] Within a few years, it sold 75,000 copies of sheet music.[76] After the Emancipation Proclamation was issued, approximately 10,000 Chicagoans gathered at Clark Street to celebrate the occasion; "Kingdom Coming", symbolizing the proclamation's outcome, was one of the abolitionist songs chanted alongside "John Brown's Body".[77] While time has not been kind with the song, up until the 19th century's close, it was reportedly as popular as "Dixie".[78] Jerome Kern's 1921 Broadway musical Good Morning, Dearie and the 1944 film Meet Me in St. Louis prominently feature it.[79]



By 1862 the surge in patriotic songs witnessed the year prior had slowed down,[80] but Work's output did not decline. It includes "God Save the Nation",[81] "Uncle Joe's Hail Columbia"[82] and "Grafted into the Army".[83][84] The lattermost, the most well-known of the bunch, is "a delightful comedy tune"[59] narrated by a widowed mother whose son was drafted into the Union army under President Lincoln's Enrollment Act. The song particularly targets a provision in the law exempting those paying a $300 fee to the government or appointing a substitute, while the poor mother's son is obliged to fight.[85]


An 1863 poster for emancipated slaves to enlist in the Union Army.

At the Civil War's apex, with many Northerners "Copperheads" questioning Lincoln's running of the conflict, Root accelerated the production of Unionist compositions to hike morale up but struggled to recruit enough composers for his firm. Still, it managed to print 250,000 copies of sheet music.[86] That year, he began issuing a periodical, the Song Messenger, with Work as its editor. They agreed that Work would be "independent and untrammeled in the expression of his views on all subjects"[87] but this promptly sparked controversy. In a June article he admonished compilers of church music books for altering traditional tunes and corrupting their sanctity, followed up by another in July denouncing one of the adapted hymns as "hardly recognizable [and] mutilated."[88] Many compilers perceived these articles as defamation and demanded an apology. While the periodical survived the dispute, Work's editing post did not; he was laid off in August.[89] Nonetheless, this did not tarnish his collaboration with Root, for 1863 proved another fruitful year, indicated by the tunes "Sleeping for the Flag",[90] "Song of a Thousand Years"[91] and, most notably, "Babylon is Fallen".[92][84]

"Kingdom Coming" had been such a major success that numerous takes on the theme of slaves' emancipation sprung up such as Root's "De Day ob Liberty's Comin" (1862).[93] Work published a sequel of his hit in July 1863 titled "Babylon is Fallen", alluding to Revelation 14, NT: "Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great," which symbolizes the downfall of despotism. This suits the song's content, narrating the slaves' seizure of their master who had fled to fight for the Confederate army and returned disgraced.[94] Also written in vernacular, "Babylon is Fallen" aroused African Americans recruited for the Union army; their numbers had grown since the Emancipation Proclamation's passage. Also a favorite among abolitionists and soldiers, it sold more first-month copies than its prequel.[95]



1863 had been exceedingly fruitful for Root & Cady and other Chicagoan music firms, thriving in "a flourishing condition" according to the Song Messenger.[96] Their songs were played routinely at minstrel shows and local musical gatherings. By 1864 Root was held as "the most popular songwriter in America,"[97] in no doubt helped by Work's success. That year, he published the patriotic songs "Wake Nicodemus",[98] a minstrel show hit,[99] "Washington and Lincoln"[100] and "Corporal Schnapps".[101] The last of these is a tragic yet humorous lament distinguished for its employment of German dialect, said to enable "the difficult fear of laughing and crying at the same time":[102]

Ah! mine fraulein!
You ish so ferry unkind!
You coes mit Hans to Zhermany to live,
And leaves poor Schnapps pehind.[103]

"Come Home, Father" and temperance

Sheet music cover of the prominent temperance song "The Lips That Touch Liquor Shall Never Touch Mine", later a watchword for women to avoid mingling with drunkards.

Besides the Union struggle, Work devoted himself to the temperance movement, "[expressing] his passionate convictions about Prohibition" through music.[104] The movement gained much traction after the Civil War's close as many moralistic fraternities, eminently, the Women's Christian Temperance Union, called for public education on the perils of alcohol. Drunkards were framed as sinful and culpable for the degeneration of lives throughout the country.[105] "Reform literature" was the popular medium through which temperance was propagated, often taking the form of simple, sentimental and persuasive lyrics. Biographer George W. Ewing notes: "Many, if not most, of the hymnbooks of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries contain at least two or three temperance hymns."[106] It borrowed elements from contemporary literary realism, documenting the hardships of domestic life with emphasis on women's oppression at the hands of their husband's indulgent habits.[107]

In line with the ever-growing movement, Work composed several influential songs spotlighting the perils of alcohol consumption.[108] His most renowned is "Come Home, Father", a young girl's plea for her father, then trifling away his pay and time in a bar getting drunk, to return home while her brother is slowly dying.[109] Like many other temperance lyrics, it is overtly sentimental to persuade the audience of the vices of alcoholism but also realistic in tackling a pressing social issue.[110] Such was its puissance that Work received hundreds of appreciative letters from social reformers. One Louisianan woman even wrote to him requesting a song targeted at inducing her husband to quit his extramarital affair and figuratively "return home."[111]

In an 1898 New Haven Journal-Courier editorial, Florine Thayer McCray writes: "[...] who has not sat breathless listening to the rare combination of pathos and harmony with which the changing cadences of human voices plead 'Hear the Sweet Voice of the Child' [the chorus] and felt how much more persuasive and fetching than any temperance sermon was this song [...]"[51] A hallmark of temperance meetings, "Come Home, Father" was adopted as the Women's Christian Temperance Union's theme tune.[112] The song featured as an interlude in a production of Timothy Shay Arthur's acclaimed Prohibitionist play Ten Nights in a Barroom.[113]

Work wrote other temperance songs after the war, including "Lillie of the Snowstorm" (1866),[114] "King Bibler's Army" (1877), which was moderately successful,[115] and "Shadows on the Floor" (1877), an account of impoverished families' hardships,[116] although none faithfully captured the essence and fame of "Come Home, Father".[114][101]



Root & Cady's early weeks of 1865 were occupied with Root's latest 1864 hit, "Tramp! Tramp! Tramp!", stimulated by grim revelations on the atrocities within Confederate prison camps. It took the Union by storm and earned the firm over $10,000[e] in profit within a few months.[117] In February Work set P. G. T. Beauregard's recent evacuation of Charleston to music; the product, "Ring the Bell, Watchman", reflected the successive toppling of Confederate cities during the war's final weeks.[118] Robert E. Lee's surrender at Appomattox Court House on April 9 marked the Civil War's end; Chicagoans paraded the streets and packed the local Court House until well into the night.[119] Work celebrated the triumph with a final wartime composition, "'Tis Finished!, or Sing Hallelujah", published in June.[120] However, for him, 1865 remains best remembered for the meteoric popularity of "Marching Through Georgia".

"Marching Through Georgia"

"Marching Through Georgia"
First verse and chorus

Bring the good old bugle boys! we'll sing another song,
Sing it with a spirit that will start the world along;
Sing it as we used to sing it fifty thousand strong,
While we were marching through Georgia.

Hurrah! Hurrah! we bring the Jubilee!
Hurrah! Hurrah! the flag that makes you free!
So we sang the chorus from Atlanta to the sea,
While we were marching through Georgia.[121]

Of all Work's Civil War compositions, none were as acclaimed as "Marching Through Georgia", widely regarded as "the greatest of his war songs."[122] The end of 1864 saw the March to the Sea, in which Union forces crippled Confederate resources in Georgia and took over Atlanta and Savannah. Work capitalized on this to write another of his topical celebratory songs, "Marching Through Georgia".[123] Its "suggestive verse" and "swinging meter" capture the actual enthusiasm felt by Union troops during the campaign.[51] Published in January 1865, it was a runaway success, selling 500,000 copies in its first twelve years.[124] In his autobiography published 26 years after the song's drafting, Root explained its popularity:

"Marching Through Georgia" sung by Harlan & Stanley in 1904.

"It is more played and sung at the present time than any other song of the war. This is not only on account of the intrinsic merit of its words and music, but because it is retrospective. Other war songs, "The Battle Cry of Freedom" for example, were for exciting the patriotic feeling on going in to the war or the battle; "Marching Through Georgia" is a glorious remembrance on coming triumphantly out, and so has been more appropriate to soldiers' and other gatherings ever since."[125]

"Marching Through Georgia" quickly became a staple of Civil War reunions; Work even sang it at one of the Grand Army of the Republic's annual campfires—something he typically resisted.[126] Its ubiquity famously inflamed General William T. Sherman, whom it is dedicated to. He grew to despise it after repeatedly hearing it in every public gathering he attended; he once remarked of a reunion: "Scarcely had I gotten under way, however, when the strains of that infernal tune smote upon my ear."[127]

Later career and life




With the Civil War over, Work's motivation for songwriting and musical output declined considerably.[128] Turning away from patriotic songs now deemed outdated,[129] he settled into sentimental balladry.[130] His postbellum songs focus on somber themes owing to the personal tragedies engulfing his later life, as writer Dean Nelson notes in a 2008 Connecticut Explored article: "[...] in his lyrics, children die, soldiers die, ships sink, love goes unreturned, poor folks starve, and the lonely remain so."[131] Newly enriched by his war efforts, Work embarked on a tour around Europe from 1865 to 1866, during which he wrote the first of his few notable postbellum songs, "The Ship That Never Returned".[132] It narrates the departure of a ship from a harbor that never come back, with a mother and the captain's wife lamenting the loss of their loved ones on board.[133]

Sinking of the Evening Star in 1866, commemorated by Work in a sentimental ballad composed shortly after.

It swiftly entered the folk tradition and sparked the creation of numerous melodic imitations, especially on railway incidents, the most famous of which is the tragic ballad "The Wreck of the Old 97" (1903).[134][135] In 1866 Work composed another song concerning a maritime disaster, "When the 'Evening Star' Went Down", commemorating the eponymous steamer's sinking after sailing into a hurricane.[136][137]

Upon returning to the United States, Work and his brother invested most of their wealth in hundreds of acres of land in Vineland, New Jersey hoping to establishing a profitable fruit farm. Their expectations were promptly wiped out as the farm failed, bankrupting them both. This was the first of several personal tragedies to befall him.[138] "[F]orced to begin life over again," Work left Vineland and disappeared from public life.[139] In 1868 he moved to Philadelphia, living in seclusion since his wife had become insane for reasons unspecified; still, the family seemed to condemn him.[f] He was cut off from his children who were residing with Sarah in Greenwich Village, Manhattan.[141] Two years later, meanwhile having passed some time in California,[142] he resettled in Brooklyn, spending the next twelve years isolated in a boarding house.[143] A letter composed in the early 1870s to his correspondent Susie Mitchell paints a grim picture of the depression consuming his postbellum life, worsened by the loss of his son Waldo in 1871:[144]

"I think there must be a screw loose somewhere in my physical or mental organization—I am so particular about, and so much annoyed by, trifles, and lose so much time in perfecting unimportant details of plans, many of which are eventually abandoned [...] My nerves seem to be gradually gaining an ascendancy over me—the fastenings which connect the mind and body seem to be growing loose and getting detached. This is how I account for all the hallucinations previously referred to. I imagine that by-and-by my mind will be able in a clairvoyant state to leave the body temporarily—or else that I shall become insane."[145]

In the postwar years leading up to 1872, Work penned 17 songs,[g] fewer than the 27 authored during the Civil War;[44] the only profitable one was "The Ship That Never Returned". Others include "Andy Veto" (1866), a satire of then-President Andrew Johnson's vetoing of Reconstruction legislation,[147] and "Crossing the Grand Sierras" (1870), describing a train voyage across the nation set just after the Transcontinental Railroad's completion.[148] The latter was Work's last song published for Root & Cady—personal differences between him and Root as well as the business' abrupt closure brought their once fertile collaboration to an end.[149]



Root & Cady's closure

Destruction of Root & Cady's music store in the first floor of Crosby's Opera House during the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.

Contrary to Work's misfortune, the postbellum years were looking bright for Root & Cady. Publications and song anthologies, among them, the temperance song compilation titled The Musical Fountain,[150] were being churned out at a rate surpassing even their wartime production. The Chicagoan music scene was as lively as ever. George F. Root also distinguished himself as a prominent campaigner for Ulysses S. Grant in the 1868 presidential election.[151] However, their prospects came crashing down in the fall of 1871 when the firm burnt down in the Great Chicago Fire, incurring $315,000[h] in losses.[152] It raged on from October 8 to October 10, destroying all waterworks, banking houses and railway depots, and caused a minor depression in the national stock market. Every business in the city's south wing was obliterated; it was reported that over 20,000 buildings were demolished, wreaking over $200,000,000[i] in damages.[153] All of Work's original music plates fell victim to the conflagration.[154]

Root remarked in the Song Messenger: "All is gone, my musical library and the thousand useful things that I have gathered about me in so many busy years, swept in a moment."[155] Unable to continue the business in its former rendition, Root & Cady's music copyrights were all sold to Ohioan publishers S. Brainard Sons and John Church & Co. The firm filed for bankruptcy in 1872. Root continued his former teaching profession and Cady left Chicago for New York.[156] This dispirited a potential reinvigoration of Work's songwriting career; from 1872 to 1876 he published no music.[157]

Working for Cady


After Root & Cady shut down, Root pursued some more ventures in music firms, culminating in the Root & Sons Music Company which bore some success until dissolving in 1880.[158] His business partner Chauncey M. Cady also sought to reinitiate a profitable career as a music publisher. He established a business at 107 Duane Street, New York City, in 1875, lasting five years until shutting it down owing to fatigue from old age.[159] In 1876 Cady chanced to encounter Work while strolling in Broadway and, sensing a lucrative opportunity, offered him a post at his business. Eager to pick up songwriting once again, Work accepted; he published nine songs for Cady from 1876 to 1879, ending his four-year "retirement." Throughout this time, he also wrote for John Church & Co., William A. Pond & Co. and Root's firm.[160][157]

"Grandfather's Clock"

"Grandfather's Clock"
First verse and chorus

My grandfather's clock was too large for the shelf,
So it stood ninety years on the floor;
It was taller by half than the old man himself,
Though it weighed not a pennyweight more.
It was bought on the morn of the day that he was born,
And was always his treasure and pride;
But it stopped short never to go again
When the old man died.

Ninety years without slumbering (tick, tick, tick, tick)
His life seconds numbering (tick, tick, tick, tick)
It stopped short never to go again
When the old man died.[161]

Work's most profitable hit, also his last, was "Grandfather's Clock", issued by Cady in January 1876 and popularized by African-American entertainer Sam Lucas in New Haven.[162] Inspired by his sympathetic attitude toward disaffected individuals, he anthropomorphizes a clock to signify its owner; it had stood for ninety years throughout the old man's life and accompanied him. When he dies, the clock also stops functioning, a symbol of human mortality and irreplaceable companionship. The song remains most memorable for its onomatopoeic "ticking" chorus and effortlessly inventive rhymes: "Ninety years without slumbering [...] / His life seconds numbering."[163]

Although Work awaited nothing beyond a moderate hit,[142] Cady expected a widespread success.[164] His prophecy was proven correct: the song secured over 800,000 sheet music sales.[165] It also coined the phrase "grandfather clock" to describe a longcase clock.[166] After Work sold the copyright to "Grandfather's Clock", Cady paid him a royalty of $4,000,[j] helping to lift him out of poverty.[167][k] In total, this was the highest bestowed to any American composer at the time, only possibly surpassed by Stephen Foster's "Old Folks at Home".[142] An 1879 issue of the San Marcos Free Press highlights its ubiquity, claiming that not knowing the song "argues yourself unknown," being "nightly played in theater and concert halls to applauding auditors."[170] American music historian John T. Howard claims that "there is scarcely a school songbook" excluding "Grandfather's Clock".[43]

"Grandfather's Clock" performed by the Edison Quartet in 1905.

In 1878 Work composed a follow-up simply titled "Sequel to Grandfather's Clock", continuing the song's narrative after the grandfather's death. A relative of his returns to the old man's home to encounter his beloved clock being burnt for kindling wood; in its place now stands an unsightly wall ornament.[171]



None of Work's compositions post-"Grandfather's Clock" reproduced the same success.[172] His life became mangled by boredom and depression; in an 1875 letter, he wrote: "I am no longer a printer—am now a proof-reader. Nothing to do all day, but to read and criticize, find fault or mark errors [...]"[173] Only printing, the career he held since his youth, and attendance at local church services absorbed him.[174] An unhappy marriage and family life drove him further into despair as the "last years of his life were clouded with the illness of his wife"[51] who was in a mental asylum.[175] He tried his hand at a long-distance relationship with Pennsylvanian Susie Mitchell but eventually called it off after a decade of corresponding with her.[176]

Work's passion for songwriting also took another hit; following its revival in early 1876, he would only issue two compositions before another hiatus in 1879.[177] Some noteworthy ones of this period are the "California Bird Song" (1878),[l] included in popular singer Emma C. Thursby's repertoire,[178] and "Mac O' Macorkity" (1877).[179] The latter reflects Work's fascination with dialect and the comic genre, narrating the misadventures of a prototypical Irish family at dinner.[180]

A bust of Work near his birthplace in Middletown.

In 1882 Work left Brooklyn for the more serene Bath in upstate New York, longing for an abode where he "could find a still nook in this still noisy world [...] engage in literary and musical work, and at the same time find repose for over-strung nerves."[181] That year, he briefly picked up composition again, penning roughly ten songs until 1883, including "The Lost Letter" and "The Prayer on the Pier", but at this point he could only "[clutch] for straws of his former fame."[182]

He died abruptly of heart disease on June 8, 1884, while visiting his mother's residence at Chestnut Street, Hartford.[183] He was survived by one of his four children, Nellie.[184] Obituaries "brushed off"[185] his legacy, often spanning a few lines and merely recognizing him as a "noted song writer and composer," citing a few famous songs and nothing more.[186] He is buried in Spring Grove Cemetery, Hartford.[187] It was only until 25 years later that a monument in his honor was be erected, in the same cemetery.[188]

Personal life



Plymouth Church in Brooklyn which Work routinely attended while residing there.

One of Work's obituaries summarized his persona as an "invalid-like fellow with sadness in his voice and bearing poverty in his dress."[189] Reportedly "a man of fine appearance," he stood at about five feet ten inches, having brown hair, full whiskers and bluish-grey eyes.[190] He was "very reserved and unassuming," going as far as to refuse exposing plagiarism to his music.[191] He made few intimate friends.[154] Despite much of his life being beclouded by tragedy, Work had a sense of humor, exhibited on one occasion when someone sang "Come Home, Father" claiming he had written it; Work stood through the performance without once speaking up.[154] Practicing what his temperance songs preached, he was a committed teetotaler and Prohibitionist activist, even advocating the outlawing of tobacco.[192] Florine Thayer McCray writes: "He was of the people, in sympathy with them, and thought not of the small fame which comes from the critical sanction of a few self-instituted judges of literary and musical form."[51]

A Christian disciple and regular church-goer, while residing in Brooklyn, Work frequented services at Henry Ward Beecher's Plymouth Church; in 1871 he wrote: "One radical struck deep into the ground where Plymouth Church stands, and for months that was all that held me."[193] In fact, that year, he composed a brief oratorio dedicated to his congregation, Joy in Heaven!, or The Returning Wandering's Welcome.[194]

Family and relationship


In 1857 Work married Massachusettsan Sarah Parker.[26] He had four children with her: Waldo Franklin (1857–1871), Willie Lovejoy (1861–1862), Ellen Louisa (1863–1895) and Clara Etta (1878).[174] The Works spent a few years in Chicago and Hubbardston, Massachusetts before migrating permanently to Greenwich Village, Manhattan sometime before 1865.[195] After his wife spiraled into degeneracy, Work lived disconnected from his family.[196] They chided him, without sound grounds, for Sarah's mental instability as well as Waldo's abrupt death.[197] The only saving grace of such a tumultuous family life was his daughter Nellie, his only child to outlive him, whom he was exceedingly fond of and depended on for solace in his final years.[198] Having to endure a distressing marriage, and ruling out divorce as an option, Work hungered for a romantic relationship:[196] the subject of two extensive studies by Richard S. Hill named "The Mysterious Chord of Henry Clay Work".

In 1868, while searching for a home in Philadelphia, he came across one owned by the Mitchell family in the Ledger Residences. While greeting the family, he became enchanted by the 18-year-old Susie and soon fell in love with her.[199] Assuming she reciprocated his affection but also desperate for a gratifying relationship, Work established a correspondence with her, writing 40 lengthy letters from 1869 to 1883 "in a small almost perfect penmanship" which "concealed his feelings in the formal style of the day."[200] The vast majority were written in his early New York years, from 1870 to 1874.[201] While Susie invited him over several times during this period such as for Christmas, she did not share his enthusiasm.[202] In 1871 Work even dedicated a song to her, "No Letters From Home", a plea for more letters from the Mitchell family to remedy the loneliness eclipsing him.[203]

Being nearly double her age, he knew this relationship stood no chance at being fulfilled; in fact, she would get married in 1877.[204] Upon hearing of Susie's intentions to wed, Work thought it best to close off the correspondence and thereafter only wrote terse, stilted notes on occasion.[205] One of his final "long" letters, the only one in which he does not restrain his true emotions, states:[206]

"It is in the nature of things impossible that a mere transient interest or fancy springing up between persons situated as we were should go unweakened for 8 or 9 years, under adverse circumstances (absence & intermittent correspondence, to say nothing of the impossibility of consummation) without being entitled to another name. I know that you love me, and knew it (though not so well) before I went to California. But just how much I couldn't then and can't now say. [...] There is certainly a mysterious chord connecting us, and, having lasted so long, it will probably never be entirely severed. [...] Of all motives that serve as main-springs for human action, the love of a woman has ever been with me the strongest—by far the strongest. Under such influence, but rarely otherwise, I can do my best! Oh! how differently I might have been situated to-day, had such an influence, like a beacon light, shone strongly and steadily on all the years of my manhood!"[207]

Work later wrote a composition titled "Farewell, My Loved One!";[208] its closing verses reflect the misery and hopelessness consuming him:

May you never know a life so lonely,
Or a sky so dark above!
May you never, having one love only,
Lose that only love![209]


Work's cottage at Hyde Park.

Work migrated to Chicago in 1855 to further his trade as a printer.[25] In 1859, after Paul Cornell established a new community in the city's south wing, Hyde Park, Work purchased a plot of land from him for $175.[210][m] Roughly a year later, he oversaw the construction of his residence at 5317 Dorchester Avenue, a small, humble cottage "hardly [looking] big enough to house a piano."[211] He and his wife, Sarah, devoted themselves to the Chicagoan community, being among the first organizers of the First Presbyterian Church.[212] Work even served as township clerk from 1864 to 1866.[213] In 1867 he sold the cottage and land and took up a new residence in Philadelphia, later moving to New York City.[214][196]



Work indulged himself in mechanical studies and experiments, and during pauses in his musical career, he was devoted "almost exclusively"[190] to them. He invented and patented a knitting machine, a walking doll and a rotary engine.[215] In 1868 he wrote a once popular seriocomic poem, The Upshot Family, satirizing a prototypical American family; its title page catalogs most of the songs he had written by then, totaling 43.[216]

Songwriting style


George F. Root said of Work's style of composition: "Mr. Work was a slow, painstaking writer, being from one to three weeks upon a song; but when the work was done it was like a piece of fine mosaic, especially in the fitting of words to music."[217] He stressed Work's natural poetic talent and mastery of melody.[218] Another writer remarked:

"His melodies are simple and natural, but as unlike and varies as the emotions to which they give expression; but, whether grave or comic, they possess inspirational qualities that, as musical compositions, arouse the imagination and fasten themselves upon the memory of the hearer. In his songs, Mr. Work is distinguished by his use of plain Anglo-Saxon words. He discards frothy adjectives, all rant, all extravagance of language, and, like Dickens, relies upon the situation he creates. This is his source of power over the human heart."[219]

His unique method of composition involved devising the melody and lyrics simultaneously in his head and, after much deliberation, putting them to paper. Sometimes, he would deliberate for a short while—at other times, he would anxiously pass days on end failing to concoct a suitable idea. The finished manuscript would then be published without him once previously hearing what he had composed. In his youth, he habitually jotted down lyrics on small cards while going about his routine and then adapted them to sweet piano melodies.[220][46] Fixated on originality, Work crafted the tune for all his compositions and wrote the lyrics of all but four, actively refusing requests to put others' words to music.[221][n] He went as far as to design the title pages of his songs.[223] While a talented songwriter, he did not delight in singing, declaring: "The man who writes songs doesn't generally feel like singing them."[224]


Work on a modern cover of his 1866 song "Who Shall Rule This American Nation?", alluding to his later hit "Grandfather's Clock."

Work is held as the most celebrated American popular music songwriter of the Civil War and Reconstruction era.[225] A committed believer in moral societal causes,[226] his music brought them closer to the people and "touched the popular heart."[227] In fact, many of his songs were part and parcel of contemporary antislavery and Prohibitionist gatherings.[112] Such was his influence in promoting teetotalism that in the reformist song compilation The Musical Fountain, George F. Root declares him "the pioneer of the grand temperance awakening."[228] However, Work's legacy ultimately lies in the slew of patriotic compositions hallowing the Unionist struggle in the Civil War.[45] A Hartford monument dedicated to the composer by then-Connecticut governor Frank B. Weeks epitomizes his music's indispensability:

"Every war throughout the ages has had its bard to sing of its brave men and valorous deeds...! Work rendered a service that would entitle him to be called the chief singer of the Civil War... We have come together today to do belated honor to Henry Clay Work, one of Connecticut's noble sons, whose life work did so much to keep burning brightly the flame of patriotism during the four dark years when the fate of this nation trembled in the balance."[229]

He was additionally one of the developers of the refined verse-chorus structure of late-19th-century popular music.[230] In 1970 Work was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.[231]




  1. ^ Roughly equating to $1,020 in 2024.
  2. ^ The date of Henry and Sarah's marriage is unclear. Whilst Root's concise biography of the composer gives it at 1856, Hill concludes that it "certain[ly]" took place in 1857.[27]
  3. ^ In Standard English, translating to "mustache."
  4. ^ In Standard English, translating to "expect."
  5. ^ Roughly equating to $193,000 in 2024.
  6. ^ In an 1871 letter to his intimate correspondent Susie Mitchell, Work writes: "Whatever the ground of complaint may be, it has in some way grown out of Sarah's derangement; for it did not exist during the nine years succeeding our marriage [from 1857 to 1866], while she was sane. There appears to be a sort of general and indefinite blame cast on me, but exactly how it was incurred, and what ought to have been done, no one has frankness enough to say."[140]
  7. ^ "Traveling Homeward", composed in 1872, is cataloged by Hill but Work did not recognize it. If incorporated in his list of songs, this would tally the postbellum 1865–1872 compositions up to 18.[146]
  8. ^ Roughly equating to $8.1 million in 2024.
  9. ^ Roughly equating to $5.1 billion in 2024.
  10. ^ Roughly equating to $125,000 in 2024.
  11. ^ Cady paid Work $250 in monthly royalties for "Grandfather's Clock", amounting to $4,000 by 1879.[168] However, an 1884 issue of the Evening Capital claims that Work earned $300 a month, as opposed to $250.[169]
  12. ^ Also known as "Pity Me, Loo!"
  13. ^ Roughly equating to $6,620 in 2024.
  14. ^ According to Hill, the four songs with borrowed lyrics are "Little Hallie" (1861), written by J. L. Peters, "God Save the Nation" (1862), by Theodore Tilton, "Agnes by the River" (1868), by Mary J. McDermit, and "Traveling Homeward" (1872) by Cadet Otis. Additionally, the words to "Watching for Pa" (1863) and "The Picture on the Wall" (1864) were "adapted" by Work.[222]


  1. ^ a b Root et al. 1892, p. 6
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ quoted in Root et al. 1892, p. 6
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ quoted in Work 1884, p. 6
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^ a b
  12. ^ quoted in Work 1884, p. 6
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^ quoted in Birdseye 1879b, pp. 284–285
  16. ^
  17. ^ a b c Birdseye 1879b, p. 285
  18. ^
  19. ^ a b
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^ Hill 1953a, pp. 213, 216
  24. ^
  25. ^ a b
  26. ^ a b
  27. ^ Hill 1953a, p. 218
  28. ^
  29. ^ Carder 2008, p. 101
  30. ^ quoted in Saturday Evening Post 1862, p. 4
  31. ^
  32. ^ quoted in Silber 1995, p. 7
  33. ^
  34. ^ McWhirter 2012, p. 16
  35. ^
  36. ^ a b quoted in Tribble 1967, p. 425
  37. ^
  38. ^
  39. ^ McWhirter 2012, pp. 15, 17
  40. ^
  41. ^ a b
  42. ^ quoted in Song of America (b)
  43. ^ a b quoted in Howard & Bellows 1967, p. 135
  44. ^ a b
  45. ^ a b
  46. ^ a b
  47. ^
  48. ^
  49. ^
  50. ^ a b
  51. ^ a b c d e quoted in McCray 1898, p. 10
  52. ^
  53. ^
  54. ^
  55. ^
  56. ^
  57. ^ quoted in Carder 2008, p. 114
  58. ^
  59. ^ a b c quoted in Ewen 1962, p. 188
  60. ^ quoted in Bailey et al. 1991, p. 197
  61. ^
  62. ^
  63. ^
  64. ^ a b
  65. ^
  66. ^
  67. ^ Floyd 1995, p. 60
  68. ^ quoted in Silber 1995, p. 307
  69. ^ Floyd 1995, p. 52
  70. ^
  71. ^
  72. ^
  73. ^
  74. ^
  75. ^
  76. ^
  77. ^
  78. ^ Hursh & Goertzen 2009, p. 174
  79. ^
  80. ^ McWhirter 2012, p. 20
  81. ^ Work 1862a
  82. ^ Work 1862c
  83. ^ Work 1862b
  84. ^ a b Hill 1953a, p. 213
  85. ^
  86. ^
  87. ^ quoted in Carder 2008, p. 130
  88. ^ quoted in Carder 2008, p. 131
  89. ^
  90. ^ Work 1863b
  91. ^ Work 1863c
  92. ^ Work 1863a
  93. ^
  94. ^
  95. ^
  96. ^ quoted in Carder 2008, p. 137
  97. ^
  98. ^ Work 1864a
  99. ^
  100. ^ Work 1864b
  101. ^ a b Hill 1953a, pp. 213–214
  102. ^
  103. ^
  104. ^
  105. ^
  106. ^
  107. ^ Finson 1994, p. 52–55
  108. ^
  109. ^
  110. ^
  111. ^
  112. ^ a b
  113. ^
  114. ^ a b Finson 1994, p. 57
  115. ^
  116. ^
  117. ^
  118. ^
  119. ^ Carder 2008, p. 155
  120. ^
  121. ^
  122. ^
  123. ^
  124. ^
  125. ^ quoted in Root 1891, p. 138
  126. ^
  127. ^
  128. ^
  129. ^ Root 1891, p. 151
  130. ^ Ewen 1962, p. 189
  131. ^ quoted in Nelson 2008
  132. ^
  133. ^ Work 1884, pp. 92–93
  134. ^
  135. ^
  136. ^
  137. ^
  138. ^
  139. ^ quoted in Birdseye 1879b, p. 286
  140. ^ quoted in Hill 1953a, p. 222
  141. ^
  142. ^ a b c Birdseye 1879b, p. 286
  143. ^
  144. ^
  145. ^ quoted in Hill 1953a, p. 224
  146. ^ Hill 1953a, p. 214
  147. ^
  148. ^
  149. ^
  150. ^
  151. ^
  152. ^
  153. ^
  154. ^ a b c Work 1884, p. 7
  155. ^ quoted in Carder 2008, p. 179
  156. ^
  157. ^ a b
  158. ^
  159. ^
  160. ^
  161. ^
  162. ^
  163. ^
  164. ^ San Marcos Press 1879, p. 3
  165. ^
  166. ^
  167. ^
  168. ^
  169. ^ Evening Capital 1884, p. 2
  170. ^ quoted in San Marcos Press 1879, p. 3
  171. ^
  172. ^
  173. ^ quoted in Hill 1953b, p. 369
  174. ^ a b
  175. ^
  176. ^
  177. ^
  178. ^ Birdseye 1879b, p. 287
  179. ^
  180. ^
  181. ^
  182. ^
  183. ^
  184. ^
  185. ^ quoted in Hill 1953a, p. 211
  186. ^ see:
  187. ^
  188. ^
  189. ^ quoted in Tribble 1967, p. 428
  190. ^ a b quoted in Birdseye 1879b, p. 288
  191. ^
  192. ^
  193. ^
  194. ^
  195. ^
  196. ^ a b c Hill 1953a, pp. 223–224
  197. ^ Hill 1953a, p. 222
  198. ^
  199. ^
  200. ^
  201. ^
  202. ^
  203. ^
  204. ^
  205. ^ Hill 1953b, pp. 388–389
  206. ^
  207. ^ quoted in Hill 1953b, pp. 389–390
  208. ^
  209. ^
  210. ^ Drury 1975, p. 250
  211. ^ quoted in Drury 1975, p. 250
  212. ^
  213. ^
  214. ^ Drury 1975, p. 252
  215. ^
  216. ^
  217. ^ quoted in Root 1891, p. 138
  218. ^ Root 1891, p. 139
  219. ^ quoted in Birdseye 1879b, pp. 287–288
  220. ^ Evening Star 1881, p. 3
  221. ^
  222. ^ Hill 1953a, pp. 213–215
  223. ^
  224. ^ quoted in Willimantic Journal 1879, p. 7
  225. ^ see:
  226. ^ quoted in Finson 1994, p. 130
  227. ^ quoted in New Haven Journal 1884, p. 2
  228. ^ quoted in Carder 2008, p. 166
  229. ^ quoted in Nelson 2008
  230. ^ Sadie & Tyrrell 2001, p. 568
  231. ^ Songwriters Hall of Fame





Primary sources

  • Root, George F. (1891). The Story of a Musical Life: An Autobiography by Geo F. Root. Cincinnati, Ohio: The John Church Co.
  • Root, George F.; Sawyer, Charles C.; Work, Henry C., eds. (1892). Our National War Songs (2 ed.). Chicago, Illinois: The S. Brainard's Sons Co.
  • Work, Henry C. (1884). Work, Bertram G. (ed.). Songs of Henry Clay Work. New York City, New York: Little & Ives.

Secondary sources


Studies and journals


Newspaper articles




Song manuscripts

  • Work, Henry C. (1861). Brave Boys are They!. Chicago, Illinois: H. M. Higgins. Retrieved July 15, 2024 – via Library of Congress.
  • Work, Henry C. (1861). Our Captain's Last Words. Chicago, Illinois: Root & Cady. Retrieved July 15, 2024 – via Library of Congress.
  • Work, Henry C.; Tilton, Theodore (1862). God Save the Nation!. Chicago, Illinois: Root & Cady. Retrieved July 15, 2024 – via Library of Congress.
  • Work, Henry C. (1862). Grafted into the Army. Chicago, Illinois: Root & Cady. Retrieved July 15, 2024 – via Library of Congress.
  • Work, Henry C. (1862). Uncle Joe's Hail Columbia!. Chicago, Illinois: Root & Cady. Retrieved July 15, 2024 – via Library of Congress.
  • Work, Henry C. (1863). Babylon is Fallen!. Chicago, Illinois: Root & Cady. Retrieved July 15, 2024 – via Library of Congress.
  • Work, Henry C. (1863). Sleeping for the Flag. Chicago, Illinois: Root & Cady. Retrieved July 15, 2024 – via Library of Congress.
  • Work, Henry C. (1863). Song of a Thousand Years. Chicago, Illinois: Root & Cady. Retrieved July 15, 2024 – via Library of Congress.
  • Work, Henry C. (1864). Wake Nicodemus!. Chicago, Illinois: Root & Cady. Retrieved July 15, 2024 – via Library of Congress.
  • Work, Henry C. (1864). Washington and Lincoln. Chicago, Illinois: Root & Cady. Retrieved July 15, 2024 – via Library of Congress.
  • Work, Henry C. (1865). Ring the Bell, Watchman!. Chicago, Illinois: Root & Cady. Retrieved July 16, 2024 – via Library of Congress.
  • Work, Henry C. (1865). 'Tis Finished!, or Sing Hallelujah. Chicago, Illinois: Root & Cady. Retrieved July 16, 2024 – via Library of Congress.
  • Work, Henry C. (1866). Andy Veto. Chicago, Illinois: Root & Cady. Retrieved July 16, 2024 – via Library of Congress.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: ref duplicates default (link)
  • Work, Henry C. (1877). Farewell, My Loved One!. Cleveland, Ohio: John Church Co. Retrieved July 18, 2024 – via Library of Congress.
  • Work, Henry C. (1877). Mac O'Macorkity. New York City, New York: C. M. Cady. Retrieved July 17, 2024 – via Library of Congress.
  • Work, Henry C. (1878). Sequel to Grandfather's Clock. New York City, New York: C. M. Cady. Retrieved July 15, 2024 – via Library of Congress.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: ref duplicates default (link)



Recordings of Work's songs