Civil War Wiki

"Kathleen Mavourneen" is a song, written in 1837, composed by Frederick Crouch with lyrics by Marion Crawford. It was popular during the American Civil War. "Mavourneen" is a term of endearment derived from the Irish Gaelic mo mhuirnín, meaning "my beloved."

The Irish soprano Catherine Hayes (1818-1861), the Hibernian prima donna, was the first Irish woman to sing at La Scala in Milan. She learned Kathleen Mavourneen while training in Dublin. It became her signature tune during concerts and in fact, Catherine Hayes sang it for Queen Victoria and over 500 royal guests during a concert performed at Buckingham Palace in June 1849.

During several very successful years in Italy, Catherine Hayes became the foremost Lucia di Lammermoor in the 1840's. She toured around the world between 1851 and 1856. She circumnagivated the globe, performing in operas and singing concerts. The trip began in New York in 1851 and over the next few years, she appeared in over 40 other cities on the east coast of the USA and Canada. From there she toured extensively across the US - Charleston SC, Savannah GA, New Orleans and Baton Rouge LA, Memphis and Nashville TN, San Francisco and Sacramento CA, (1851-53) Lima (Peru), Valparaiso and Santiago (Chili)(1853-54), Honolulu Hawaii (July 1854), Sydney, Melbourne, Geelong and Adelaide (Australia)(1854 and again in 1855), Bendigo, Hobart (Tasmania 1856), Calcutta, Singapore, Java (1855).

The song Kathleen Mavourneen gained popularity with American audiences as a direct result of the extensive touring of Catherine Hayes.

The song plays a prominent role in Michael Shaara's Civil War historical novel The Killer Angels and its film adaptation Gettysburg. It is recalled by Confederate Brigadier General Lewis A. Armistead that the song was sung at a dinner at the home of Armistead's best friend, now Union Major General Winfield Scott Hancock and his wife Almira, at the U.S. Army garrison in Los Angeles, California in 1861 (at which time Armistead was a major and Hancock was a captain). This was the night before Armistead and several other Southern officers were to depart for the Confederacy, having resigned their US Army commissions. Armistead and Confederate Brigadier General Richard B. Garnett, who was also present at the dinner, are killed and Hancock is severely wounded as Armistead's and Garnett's brigades assault the position defended by Hancock's II Corps on Cemetery Ridge in Gettysburg during Pickett's Charge. In the film, "Kathleen Mavourneen" is sung once by an Irish tenor at the Confederate camp[1], and thereafter is used frequently as a theme in the music score by Randy Edelman.

Several silent films were titled "Kathleen Mavourneen" with the first such drama being produced in 1906 starring Kitty O'Neil, Walter Griswoll and H.L. Bascomb. Other such silent film titles were produced in 1911, 1913, and 1919. This last one starred Theda Bara. Two other films with this title, but using sound, were produced in 1930 and 1937. Of the 1919 film, Irish and Catholic groups protested not only the depiction of Ireland, but of a Jewish actress in the leading role. Fox Film Corporation pulled the film after several movie-theater riots and bomb threats.


  1. The subtitles for the DVD mistakenly call the song "Captain Mavourneen".