From Ohio History Central
Musician and performer Daniel Decatur Emmett was born in Mount Vernon, Ohio, on October 29, 1815. As a child, Emmett had an interest in music. He taught himself how to play the fiddle and began composing his own songs. At the age of seventeen, Emmett enlisted in the United States Army and served as a fife player. When he left the army in 1835, Emmett joined a traveling circus. Later he became associated with minstrel shows and helped to define that genre. Minstrel shows traveled around the United States, presenting skits and musical performances. The minstrels commonly dressed in baggy, mismatched clothing and painted their faces black to make fun of African Americans. Minstrel shows became very popular in the United States during the years before the Civil War.
Emmett is best known for his musical compositions. He is most famous for writing "Dixie" in 1859. The song became the anthem of Confederate soldiers during the Civil War. In addition, Emmett also composed many other songs, including "Old Dan Tucker," "Turkey in the Straw," and "The Blue Tail Fly."
Emmett continued to travel the country in minstrel shows until he was eighty. He then retired to Mount Vernon, where he lived until his death on June 28, 1904.
- Galbreath, Charles Burleigh. Daniel Decatur Emmett: Author of "Dixie". Columbus, OH: Press of Fred. J. Heer, 1904.
- Nathan, Hans. Dan Emmett and the Rise of Early Negro Minstrelsy. Norman, University of Oklahoma Press, 1962.
- Roseboom, Eugene H. The Civil War Era: 1850-1873. Columbus: Ohio State Archaeological and Historical Society, 1944.