Southern Agrarianism and the culture of the Old South

Bright Sunny South

When people think of what music best represents The South, Dixie is almost always the song that comes to mind. They get no argument from me – it is almost the “Southern National Anthem”. With that said, it is Bright Sunny South that best represents The South that I know and love. It is a song that deserves to be better known, so that’s what this post is about.

Bright Sunny South is a hauntingly beautiful ballad of The South. While believed to have its roots in Celtic culture, its origins are uncertain, with some attributing it to a folk song from Nova Scotia. There are several versions of the lyrics, but those shown below are the most widely known. The video features a rendition performed by Bittersweet and Briers.

On a personal note, the first image in the video shows a man on a horse next to a cannon. That man is Lt. Colonel John Pelham – my cousin. He was killed in battle at the age of 24. He was first cousin to my great grandfather, William Pelham McGehee.

(YouTube video by SouthernSympathiser)

From the bright sunny South to the war, I was sent,
E’er the days of my boyhood, I scarcely had spent.
From it’s cool shady forests and deep flowing streams,
Ever fond in my mem’ry, ever sweet in my dreams.

Oh, my dear little sister, I still see her tears.
When I had to leave home in our tender years.
And my sweet gentle mother, so dear to my heart,
It grieved me sincerely when we had to part.

Said my kind-hearted father as he took my hand:
“As you go in defense of our dear native Land,
“Son, be brave but show mercy whenever you can.
“Our hearts will be with you, ’til you return again.”

In my bag there’s a Bible to show me the way,
Through my trials here on earth and to Heaven some day.
I will shoulder my musket and brandish my sword,
In defense of this Land and the word of the Lord.

John Pelham

William Pelham McGehee



  1. Ron Cook

    Thanks, Stephen, for the brighter day you brought this way by posting those lyrics.

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      That song has been going through my mind for about the last week or so. Unlike other songs that seem to get stuck in my head and I can’t get rid of them, I welcome this one.

      • Robert W Andrews

        Beautiful song thanks for sharing.. I am an 11th generation Virginian and proud to be a descendant of a Confederate Soldier of the 61st Virginia.

        • Stephen Clay McGehee

          Thanks for stopping by, Robert. We have a great heritage – one to be proud of, and one to be preserved.

  2. Fugitive Agrarian

    That is a fine piece. We’ll have to add that to our repertoire. Thank you for the introduction.

  3. Judy Leroux

    My relatives like Benjamin Rush came before the civil war. Have not looked to see who was involved. With relatives In Alabama I am sure there are roots there.
    Great writing. Thank you

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      Thank you, ma’am.

  4. Alice Scott

    Thank you so much! I am almost ashamed to admit this but I had never heard this song before now. It reaches the depths of my Southern soul.

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      It doesn’t get anywhere near the recognition and appreciation that it deserves. It was only a few years ago when I first heard it also.

  5. William Cook

    My Great Grandfather lost 5 brothers in that War. This song represents them to me.

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