Monday, February 18, 2008

"Abraham Lincoln in Song"

Chris Vallillo

A big thank you to Emily and Itchy over on the Discussion Board for bringing the following story to my attention:

Chris Vallillo, a Central Illinois musician who has performed at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, has released a record called “Abraham Lincoln in Song.”

Inspired by the period music in such films as Ken Burns’ Civil War and O Brother, Where Art Thou? (a particular favorite of mine), Valillo has recorded such classics as “Battle Cry of Freedom,” “Hard Times Come Again No More,” “Aura Lee,” and “Dixie.”

The record is intended for “lovers of acoustic music, history buffs, and especially the educational audience.”

I will give Vallillo’s record a listen. I am always looking for new period music to use in my classes. Not only is it a fun way to begin a lecture, but it allows students to experience a small piece of life in the nineteenth century. I will often project the song lyrics onto the screen as the music plays. When the song finishes, I ask students to interpret what they've heard. What does the song mean? More importantly, what does the song tell us about the society from which it came?

This semester I am assisting in a Reconstruction course in which students read an abridged version of Eric Foner’s Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution and viewed various scenes from the classic D. W. Griffith film The Birth of a Nation. At several points during the semester, I’ve been reminded of an old "unreconstructed" Confederate tune. I’m not sure if you’ve come across this one, but it is a great song to use in a Reconstruction course. Give the lyrics a read and then ask yourself, “What does this tell us about life in the former Confederate States of America during Reconstruction?”

“Good Ol’ Rebel Soldier”
By Major Innes Randolph, CSA

Oh, I'm a good old Rebel soldier, now that's just what I am;
For this "Fair Land of Freedom" I do not give a damn!
I'm glad I fit against it, I only wish we'd won,
And I don't want no pardon for anything I done.

I hates the Constitution, this "Great Republic," too!
I hates the Freedman's Bureau and uniforms of blue!
I hates the nasty eagle with all its brags and fuss,
And the lying, thieving Yankees, I hates 'em wuss and wuss!

I hates the Yankee nation and everything they do,
I hates the Declaration of Independence, too!
I hates the "Glorious Union" -- 'tis dripping with our blood,
And I hates their striped banner, and I fit it all I could.

I followed old Marse Robert for four years, near about,
Got wounded in three places, and starved at Point Lookout.
I cotched the "roomatism" a'campin' in the snow,
But I killed a chance o' Yankees, and I'd like to kill some mo'!

Three hundred thousand Yankees is stiff in Southern dust!
We got three hundred thousand before they conquered us.
They died of Southern fever and Southern steel and shot,
But I wish we'd got three million instead of what we got!

I can't take up my musket and fight 'em now no more,
But I ain't a'gonna love 'em, now that's for sartain sure!
I do not want no pardon for what I was and am,
And I won't be reconstructed, and I do not care a damn!

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