With the recent controversy involving O Canada in the NBA news, it might be of interest to our readers to note that the song is an echo of the Civil War.
The song itself dates from 1880, when it was commissioned for Ste. Jean Baptiste Day in Quebec. Its lyrics (in French) came from Sir Adolph-Basile Routhier, while the music was set by noted Quebec composer Calixa Lavallee. The English lyrics were formalized by Robert Stanley Weir in 1908, and since 1939 O Canada has been the Canadian national anthem, a status formally settled in 1980.
The Civil War echo is found in Lavallee, who lived in the United States for much of the 1860s after touring as a musician before 1861. He joined the 4th Rhode Island as a private and fought in all the regiment’s battles from 1862 until muster out in late 1864, having gained a commission as a lieutenant and developed a reputation working with the regimental band. On September 17, 1862, Lavallee was wounded at Antietam as the 4th fought against A.P. Hill’s attack late in the battle. He was one of approximately 50,000 Canadians to fight in the United States Army during the Civil War.
Few Americans or Canadians are aware of this connection between our countries, but nonetheless it makes O Canada an echo of the Civil War.