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James Lord Pierpont
Oct 04, '21

James Lord Pierpont

James Lord Pierpont (April 25, 1822 – August 5, 1893) was a New England-born songwriter, arranger, organist, Confederate States soldier, and composer, best known for writing and composing "Jingle Bells" in 1857, originally titled "The One Horse Open Sleigh". He was born in Boston, Massachusetts, and died in Winter Haven, Florida. His composition "Jingle Bells" has become synonymous with the Christmas holiday and is one of the most performed and most recognizable songs in the world.

Is Jingle Bells a Confederate Carol?

Now the ground is white

Go it while you're young,

Take the girls to night

And sing this sleighing song;

Just get a bob tailed bay

Two forty as his speed.

Hitch him to an open sleigh

And crack, you'll take the lead.

James Lord Pierpont once belonged to that elite, fighting equestrian unit known as The Fifth Georgia Cavalry. He served in Company H, well known to Northern adversaries as "The Lamar Rangers." Since his compiled service records list him as "a company clerk," it is doubtful that he experienced a substantial amount of combat. But, Private Pierpont was not "your prototypical Confederate Horse Soldier;" being a native of New England (Massachusetts), he was the son of a radical abolitionist, who was also a poet and a Unitarian Minister. During "That War Of The Rebellion," Pastor John Pierpont served as Chaplain of The 22nd Massachusetts Regiment. At the time, he was 76 years of age.

Born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1822, James Pierpont moved to Savannah Georgia circa 1853. His older brother, John Pierpont, Jr., had accepted a pastoral post with The Savannah, Georgia Unitarian Congregation. Young James accompanied his brother as the organist / music director for The Church.

Following the death of his first wife (in the mid 1850's from that malady known as tuberculosis), James married a local girl, who just happened to be the daughter of Savannah Mayor Thomas Purse. Hence, his roots were now deeply embedded in Savannah's Southern soil!

By the time the decade of the 1860's rolled around, The Unitarian Church of Savannah, Georgia had ceased to exist. Of course, this was directly related to its radical abolitionist leanings and inclinations -- which weren't incredibly popular down South in Savannah, Georgia during those final Ante-Bellum years. As one might readily expect, Reverend John Pierpont, Jr. packed his bags and headed "Due North." His younger brother, James, remained in Savannah. In April of 1862, James joined an outfit known as "The Isle of Hope Volunteers." Subsequently, as alluded to earlier, this unit would be designated as "Company H of The Fifth Georgia Cavalry."

In 1857, James wrote a jingle called ONE HORSE OPEN SLEIGH. A couple of years later, he changed the name of the composition to JINGLE BELLS. Initially, in 1859, it wasn't a Christmas Carol. For decades, it remained little more than an obscure sleighing song.

By the time James L. Pierpont passed away in 1893, JINGLE BELLS had generated precious few royalties. It did not become a popular Christmas Carol until the days of radio broadcasts and phonograph records.

Although James died in Winter Haven, Florida, he is interred in Laurel Grove Cemetery in Savannah. He lies in a state of eternal rest beside his brother-in-law, Thomas Purse, who was killed in action at First Manassas.

James Pierpont also wrote and composed numerous other tunes; during the four years of hostilities between North and South, he further exhibited his Southern Patriotism by composing music for His Beloved Confederacy. Such pseudo-anthems as OUR BATTLE FLAG, STRIKE FOR THE SOUTH, AND WE CONQUER OR DIE are musical creations penned by Private Pierpont. It has been written that James Pierpont embraced and supported The Southern Confederacy because he viewed the anti-slavery stance held by many Northerners (New Englanders, in particular) to be a prime example of HYPOCRISY! It was certainly no secret that many had become quite opulent as a result of "That Peculiar Institution." Having said this, it is quite simple to ascertain why many New Englanders (who were familiar with The Pierpont Family) considered James Pierpont to be a rebellious musician with a bad reputation! One Massachusetts Mayor even referred to him as "a bit of a rogue!"

In closing, "is JINGLE BELLS a Rebel Tune?" You bet it is!

10 Unusual Facts About James Lord Pierpont, The Man Behind Jingle Bells

You’ve heard James Lord Pierpont. Everyone has. And in three weeks’ time, you’ll hope you never have to hear his music again.

Sleigh racing in Medford, Mass. inspired James Lord Pierpont to write Jingle Bells.


In 1832, James Lord Pierpont left his Boston, Mass., home for a boarding school in New Hampshire at the age of 10. The son of a strict Unitarian minister, John Pierpont, he wrote to his mother about how much he enjoyed his sleigh ride through the beautiful countryside. That vision and his enjoyment of the sleigh racing in Medford, Mass., where he lived as a young man, are credited as the inspiration for Jingle Bells.

The song, one of the most popular ever, was the first song broadcast from space during a Gemini mission in 1965.


Behind this ubiquitous Christmas carol was an unusual man with a taste for adventure, risky business and lovely ladies. A few things you may not know about James Lord Pierpont:

1. He had a wild childhood. Pierpont probably went to boarding school because he had a wild streak in him. It manifested itself at 14 when he ran off to join the crew of a whaling ship in the Pacific. From that experience, he moved on to serve in the U.S. Navy until he reached 21. Not the most successful venture, he returned to land a few years later and lived with his parents.

Portrait of James Lord Pierpont

2. Gold fever got him. Before he settled into a career as church organist, music teacher and song writer, James Lord Pierpont tried his hand at panning for gold. Like many New Englanders, his fling with the California gold rush turned out badly. He left his wife and children behind in Massachusetts with his parents in 1849 and set up shop as a daguerreotype artist in San Francisco. Daguerreotypes appealed to people who wanted a picture of themselves to commemorate their California adventures. Unfortunately, Pierpont lost everything in a fire in May of 1851. He would later set his story to music in the song, The Returned Californian. The lyrics talk about a young man being duped into believing he’ll find riches in the California gold mines only to wind up disappointed and broke. One stanza reads:

There’s my tailor vowing vengeance and he swears he’ll give me Fitts,

And Sheriff’s running after me with pockets full of writs;

And which ever way I turn, I am sure to meet a dun,

So I guess the best thing I can do, is just to cut and run.

And run home he did.


3. He supported the South during the Civil War. Pierpont’s brother John was a Unitarian minister, like their father. Both ministers actively supported the abolitionist cause, and in the 1850s the younger John went to Savannah, Ga., to preach at a Unitarian Church. James Lord Pierpont soon followed him and took the post of musical director for the church. John’s anti-slavery views were not popular. As enmity toward his church heated up, he left Georgia to return to the North. James, however, stayed on. His first wife had died and James married the mayor’s daughter. So when war broke out he sided with the South (while his aged father fought for the North). James served as  a company clerk in a volunteer unit, and he wrote several songs popular among Confederate soldiers, including Strike for the South and We Conquer or Die.

Original Sheet Music to Jingle Bells, written by James Lord Pierpont.

4. Pierpont originally released Jingle Bells under a different name: One Horse Open Sleigh. He wrote it for music producer John Ordway, a native of Salem, Mass. Ordway had a varied career as a physician, politician and music store owner in addition to running a minstrel show. Pierpont wrote The Returned Californian for Ordway’s troupe, as well as One Horse Open Sleigh. Two years later it was reissued as Jingle Bells.


5. The song is naughtier than you might think. A relatively tame carol today, in its day Pierpont’s tune was the equivalent of a Beach Boy’s song about fast cars, pretty girls and sneaking off to be together in private. It might even be a drinking song, as Medford had a flourishing rum-making industry. Pierpont was also known to imbibe. Not to mention that a sleigh was one of the few places where a boy and girl could be alone and unsupervised. The second verse is more risqué than the first, describing a boy and girl sleighing together behind the fastest horse they could find, with the lyric:

Now the ground is white

Go it while you’re young,

Take the girls to night

And sing this sleighing song;

6. The song is undoubtedly inspired by the sleighing scene in Medford, where young people used to race sleighs. But it’s less clear where James Lord Pierpont wrote it. Massachusetts students of the song argue he wrote it in Medford, with some even claiming to know where. Georgians, however, point out that the song was released in 1857, long after Pierpont had moved south. It had to be written there, they say. Could both be right? Was part written in Medford and part in Georgia? The answer was probably forever buried with Pierpont when he died in 1893. (Another historical tidbit about Medford-related holiday songs: The Paul Curtis House in Medford was grandfather’s house in the song Over the River and Through the Wood.)


7. While it may not be clear where Pierpont wrote Jingle Bells, it’s well established that he didn’t intend it as a Christmas song. The song makes no mention of Christmas and, if written for any specific holiday, it was more likely Thanksgiving. Ordway performed it in the fall for audiences in Boston, and some say Pierpont performed it at a Thanksgiving concert for his church. However, as it caught on popularly, people began singing it during the Christmas season. They’ve identified it as a Christmas song ever since.

J.P. Morgan beats a photographer

8. Pierpont almost lost his connection to the song. Jingle Bells wasn’t inordinately popular upon its release. After James Lord Pierpont died, his son had to renew the copyright. Only a disciplined fight prevented the song from attribution as ‘traditional.’

9. James Lord Pierpont was J.P. Morgan’s uncle. We can’t imagine a less-Christmas-like character than a Wall Street banker. Nevertheless, they were family.

10. He got a tip of the cap from Bob Dylan. Pierpont contributed to the song Gentle Nettie Moore, about a man pining for a girl sold into slavery. Dylan revived the name in his 2006 song, Nettie Moore.

This story about James Lord Pierpont was updated in 2020. You may also want to read about another song that describes sleighing in Medford, Mass., here.

Frequency and Resonance


I first met J ten years ago in Avebury Stone Circle, Wiltshire, England. We hit it off straight way! He was Dutch and I speak Dutch, we were drawn there by the quest to investigate Crop circles. After talking we had drink in The Red Lion. J told me about his life as Lewis Brian Hopkin Joined was an English musician and composer, best known as the founder and original leader of the Rolling Stones. How he was drawn toward the house where he was drown in the swimming pool under suspicious circumstances.

Yet there was something more to it. I somehow knew J from the past? We had been brother in arms. Brian Jones dress in a Stars and Stripes shirt gave the vital clue. The rifle was the icing on the cake! I thought back to Rebel Spirit and a particular letter:

The Letter

Dr Norman C Delaney to Dr Ian C Baillie

Ian, here's a little gem from a letter to Blanche from Hetty, dated Rushlands, July 12, 1862. Most of it concerns war and family news, but this piece will interest you.

"Baillie brought over four of his companions in arms night before last, and gave us a treat in the way of music, they sang charmingly (underlined) together, and one plays finely on the piano, they staid (sic) until half past eleven singing and playing and then rode back eight miles to camp--it was amusing to see them how they demolished their supper. Baillie gave us notice the day before so we were prepared for them."

Wow! This fitted like a glove; I had spent all my youth doing the same things; a good meal, good company and a good singsong. Yes, this was me all right, no doubt about it.

James Lord Pierpont had been one of fellow compatriots in H Company, 5th Georgia Volunteer Cavalry Regiment, CSA.

The Dutch Connection

J has memories of being Philip de Montmorency, Count of Horn

Philip de Montmorency (ca. 1524 – 5 June 1568 in Brussels), also known as Count of Horn or Hoorne or Hoorn, was a victim of the Inquisition in the Spanish Netherlands.


De Montmorency was born as the eldest of four children of Josef van Montmorency, Count of Nevele and Anna van Egmont the Elder, who had married shortly after August 26, 1523, and lived at Ooidonk Castle. His father died early in 1530 in Bologna, Italy, where he was for the coronation of Charles V as Holy Roman Emperor. His mother remarried Johan II, Count of Horn, one of the wealthiest nobles of the Netherlands, who, in 1540, left the County of Horne to his wife's children on condition they assume his name. A page and later chamberlain at the court of Charles V, de Montmorency married Walburgis van Nieuwenaer in 1546. He became stadtholder of Guelders in 1555, an Admiral of Flanders, and a knight of the Golden Fleece in 1556.

In 1559 he commanded the stately fleet which conveyed Philip II from the Netherlands to Spain, and he remained at the Spanish court until 1563. On his return he placed himself with the Prince of Orange and Count of Egmont at the head of the party which opposed the imposition of the inquisition by Cardinal Granvelle and ultimately forced his resignation. When Granvelle retired, the three nobles continued to resist the introduction of the Spanish Inquisition and of Spanish rule in the Netherlands. In April 1566, the Council of State sent Philip's younger brother, Floris of Montmorency, to Spain in a last attempt to avoid war. However, Floris was arrested, kept in house arrest, then secretly executed.

Although Philip II of Spain appeared to give way, he had made up his mind to punish the opponents of his policy. He replaced the regent, Margaret, duchess of Parma, with the duke of Alva, who entered the Netherlands at the head of a veteran army.

Orange fled from the country, but Egmont and Horn, despite his warning, decided to remain and face the storm. They were both seized, tried at the Council of Troubles and condemned as traitors. Ceaseless but vain efforts were made to obtain a fair trial for Horn, and appeals for clemency on his behalf were made by potentates in all parts of the continent. Egmont and Horn were executed by decapitation on 5 June 1568 at the Grand Place before the town hall in Brussels.[4] Two years later, Philip II had his still-detained brother Floris strangled in secret and spread the rumor that he had died of disease.


Nowadays, a statue erected on the Petit Sablon Square in Brussels commemorates the Counts of Egmont and Horn (Hoorn, Hoorne), in historical overview usually mentioned together as Egmond en Hoorne and hailed as the first leaders of the Dutch revolt, as the predecessors of William of Orange, who grew to importance and obtained the leadership after their execution, and who was assassinated in 1584 in Delft, having succeeded in liberating parts of The Netherlands in the early years of the Eighty Years' War (1568–1648).

Van Egmont ("Egmond") and De Montmorency ("Horn" or "Hoorn"), both remained faithful Roman Catholics and are commemorated in Belgium, with its traditional Catholic majority. William of Orange, brought up as a Lutheran, was a proponent of freedom of religion.,_Count_of_Horn?fbclid=IwAR26cSuZqrXNMpeCdi3afqH84ObuVAvR4eSKw5mjpoe5xWSgmDh4RSGXzko

Petit Sablon Square in Brussels


Oct 04, '21
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