Civil War Music Battle of Manassas by Thomas “Blind Tom” Wiggins

African-Americans in the Civil War

Thomas "Blind Tom" Wiggins (1849-1908) was a blind African American autistic savant and musical prodigy on the piano.  Born into slavery near Columbus, Georgia, by the age of four he could play tunes he had only just heard.  Though his own vocabulary barely exceeded 100 words, Wiggins composed dozens of original compositions throughout his life, and could play several thousand others from memory.  He was one of the best known American performers during the second half of the 19th century, yet the majority of his concert earnings benefited his one-time master and subsequent manager, James Bethune (and later Eliza Stutzbach).  In 1862, at the age of 12, while still a slave living in Columbus, Wiggins listened carefully to one of Bethune’s sons describe the recent “Battle of Manassas.”  He then composed this masterpiece, which he subsequently performed at concerts and during war effort fund-raisers across the Confederacy.

Battle of Manassas

Composed by Thomas Wiggins

As performed by John Davis

John Davis Plays Blind Tom

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