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Contributing Musicians

Clark Hansbarger
Mike Jewell
Allen Kitselman
Gary McGraw

Dream of a Good Death / June 28, 1863

Lyrics and Story:

 

Had I a picture of your face,
To hold while I walk here today,
I’d be less afraid of what’s ahead.

But your letters were lost
Somewhere near Fredericksburg,
Now I fear dying a thousand miles from home.

I dreamt last night of a hilltop
Where I will face God,
And though I’ve read the good book,
This too have I lost.

We head north through the Valley.
My heart is thick with the thought
Of what I’ve seen and what I’ve done
a thousand miles from home.

If I close my eyes, I can see my Emma dear.
I see a growing boy and all the missing years.
I see a golden cornfield; I see a dozen cows.
I see eternity rising a day or so from now. 

I fought my way through it in Sharpsburg.
I found my way back to the South.
But this time, I see a shadow
Coming from the clouds.

Two long years now since I left you
And a baby I’ve never known.
And now I fear dying a thousand miles from home.
And now I fear dying a thousand miles from home.

 

Dream of a Good Death : Mortality and the March to Gettysburg

We… deplore that he should die…in an enemy’s land far from home and friends.
–from The Republic of Suffering

Gettysburg - Civil War Songs - Dream of a Good DeathIn her book, The Republic of Suffering, Dr. Drew Gilpin Faust explores how the Civil War affected American attitudes about death. Mortality was, of course, a part of daily life before the war, but the time-honored rituals accompanying death and dying during peacetime were disrupted and transformed by the vast carnage of this modern conflict. Young men raised in a culture that sought “a Good Death” feared now an anonymous and terrible end far from home and kin, facing even the possibility of disappearing completely in the chaos and destruction of battle.

In the song “Dream of a Good Death,” the narrator is overcome with dread, regret and thoughts of his mortality and of dying so far from his loved ones. Aveteran of Hood’s Texas Brigade, he is “a thousand miles from home” and heading north through the Shenandoah Valley to Pennsylvania with Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. He has taken this journey before, having fought in Antietam and a dozen other major engagements.

But now, exhausted and dispirited, he has lost his wife’s letters, her photograph and even his Bible. He attempts to ease his fears by contemplating the home he has not seen in two years, but is haunted by a dream of his death on a hilltop — possibly Devil’s Den or Little Round Top. Now, his only comfort is a cloudy fantasy of what he hopes will remain after the war, whether he returns or not.

Links

Death and The Civil War

A Worthy Death: How Civil War Families Made Sense of Suffering (from The Atlantic)

Death and Dying ( by Drew Gilpin Faust for National Parks System site)

Then & Now: Caring for War’s Dead and Wounded (from PBS American Experience)

Death and Civil War America: Interview with Drew Gilpin Faust

Dealing with Death :Women Nurses in the Civil War

Road to Gettysburg

Map of Gettysburg Campaign

Overview of Gettysburg Campaign

Lee’s Movement to Gettysburg

The Battle of Gettysburg and the Texas Brigade

The Texas Brigade

The Devil’s Den (Battle Summary with links)

James Longstreet’s Account of the Campaign and Battle at Gettysburg

Texans at Antietam

Map of Gettysburg Campaign

Overview of Gettysburg Campaign

Lee’s Movement to Gettysburg

The Battle of Gettysburg and the Texas Brigade

The Texas Brigade

The Devil’s Den (Battle Summary with links)

James Longstreet’s Account of the Campaign and Battle at Gettysburg

Texans at Antietam

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