Posted in 20th Century/Modern Classical, History, Holidays, music, writing

The Grass Where He Stood

Since I have the great luxury this year of having President’s Day off (I can’t remember the last time I had it off, maybe not since school?)  I thought I’d post a small tribute to Honest Abe, although that’s a little disingenuous. Mostly I’m obsessed with the piece of music that plays over the images, and you guys know how I get when I latch onto something. I was hearing it in my sleep all night. There are a lot of YouTube videos featuring photos from the Civil War that use this piece, although the piece was written in 1982. It’s called Ashokan Farewell and was written by Jay Ungar as a closing piece for the Annual Ashokan Fiddle and Dance Camp in 1982. Ken Burns also used it as the theme for his series The Civil War. It made it’s way onto the compilation album, “Songs of the Civil War” despite being written well over one hundred years after the end of that war. Still, it is much in the spirit of the times. It’s been compared to Niel Gow’s Lament for the death of his second wife, and you can hear the influence in it. I’ll have to do a post on Niel at some point for all you Scotsmen.

So here it is as the background for a tribute to Abraham Lincoln. You can thank me for the earworm later.

The credit at the end is a little confusing, makes it sound like the music was inspired by Burns’ 1990 documentary, impossible unless Mr. Ungar has a TARDIS we don’t know about…

I have an ulterior motive for the presidential tribute (his birthday is actually the 12th, same day as Charles Darwin. Both were born February 12, 1809. What an alignment of the stars there must have been). Looking at these pictures gave me an idea for a story, and not even Civil War-oriented. But I love all these images of the Pres. Was ever a man more human? I don’t mean to shortchange George Washington in all this, I truly believe he should still have his own day, rather than rolling the two into one. I’ll get around to a post on him one of these days.

I have to admit I get a little choked up looking at these images of our 16th President, and the men who fought in that terrible war. It must have felt like the world was ending. Personally, I think I have it bad when my car breaks down and I get a cold. If there’s such a thing as reincarnation and I lived during that time, I must have died young. I don’t think I’m strong enough to survive what those people went through. I’ve visited Gettysburg on a class trip in high school and I wished I could have spent more time there, with fewer people around, although as emotional as I can be I would likely have been reduced to a blubbering mass. I took a “mini-course” on the Civil War in high school, and we even made our own reenactment film with a group of Civil War reenactors. I was filmed as a dead soldier lying on the ground with faux blood dripping out of my mouth. It was pronounced awesome. I’m good at playing dead.

Hope you enjoy the tune.


Writer of vampire stories and science fiction. First novel, "Revenants Abroad", available now at Amazon. If you like a vampire you can go out drinking with and still respect yourself in the morning, I think you'd like Andrej.

6 thoughts on “The Grass Where He Stood

  1. “I was filmed as a dead soldier lying on the ground with faux blood dripping out of my mouth. It was pronounced awesome. I’m good at playing dead.” 🙂

    Thanks for the laugh on a monday morning DD. Nice piece.

    I feel the same way as you do about, “The War of the Rebellion.” Did you know in government documents that’s the way it appears. Very rarely, if ever, as “The Civil War”

    I have 5 books that I got at an antique show. They are a collection of correspondence between Union Commanders during the war. Most of them are just supply lists, requisitions from on unit to another for men and supplies. But some of them are really cool to read, letters between commanders about opinions on battles and opinions on the war in general.

    I’ve been to a couple of Civil War sites. There is definitely a power feeling there. Never been to Gettysburg. Though it is on the “to-do” list. Such a massive loss of life, there.

    I’m fortunate to live here in NoLA though because of the WWII museum. I’ve been at least a dozen times. The best of which was to visit with my Grandfather who was at Normandy. (That’s also back when it was called the D-Day Museum) It’s a powerful place with a very clear message that is hard to miss.

    Tom Hank’s is very involved in it’s sponsorship. He’s made a 4-D movie (3d images, lights, sounds and smell) called, “Against all Odds” That was very moving when I saw it, I shed a few tears the first time I saw that.

    have a good Week!



    1. Those books must be awesome, I think, just to read the names of those people who went through it. I’ve seen a few letters from the soldiers written to their loved ones, and the thing that struck me was how eloquent and beautifully written they were (another testament to today’s falling educational standards. Most people alive now could not pen the letters I saw). I’ve always had this thing that it’s important to remember the human aspect of war, that they were people like us. I wonder how many of them understood the enormity of the conflict at that time, and how it would affect the future that many would not live to see. It is almost overwhelming to visit the battle sites, isn’t it? I can imagine that film was incredibly moving, I’ve never heard of a 4D movie before.


    1. Hahaha, no, I was not up early. 🙂 I am a proponent of robo-posting. I had the post written yesterday and then scheduled it to go live at a certain time today. It’s a handy little feature. I’ll check out the Copland tribute to Lincoln, thanks.


  2. Oh Dame, this is a slam dunk. I love Ashokan Farewell. Ken Burns wove it in Civil War which is the reason I bought the soundtrack. As far as Abe goes, he is one of my favorite men in history. The more you read about him, the more you want to know. His humility, his strength…an uncanny ability to cultivate his enemies.
    Every war is heartbreaking, The Civil War more than any other…brother against brother…that was why Lincoln wanted no retaliation. He just wanted the south to come home. When he was killed Good Friday, 1865 it’s been said that Jefferson Davis, the president of The Confederacy, said, God help the south now. Andrew Johnson was the antithesis of Mr. Lincoln. He had no heart where Abe’s was HUGE. Lovely, lovely piece…so moved.

    PS He pardoned a man by the name of Patrick Murphy the day he died.


    1. Thank you, Susannah! I know what an historian you are. What I wouldn’t give for the chance to spend 5 minutes talking with him. I ran across a vid on YouTube yesterday of a man who appeared on a tv game show in 1956, at the age of 96, the last living witness of Lincoln’s assassination! Granted he was only 5 at the time it happened and all he really remembers is seeing John Wilkes Booth leap out of the balcony, but still. If you want to see it’s here

      Pretty astounding.


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