Music and our history

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“I’m wounded And I mean no harm
I just need to rest a spell
I have fled the battlefield
I’ve seen the face of hell”

–verse from Three Days in July, written by Jon Weisberger and Mark Simos

When we were in Washington, D.C. to see The Infamous Stringdusters in late March, we got to town a little early to catch a museum or something. Since many of our vacations involve chasing music, we also try to take advantage of the areas we visit. This time, we ended up at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. We didn’t have much time but they were open up late so we popped in before dinner.

The featured exhibit was Civil War artwork (Smithsonian slide show is at this link.) It included many paintings by Winslow Homer and other famous artists. One painting, a preacher holding services on a battlefield, had hung in the White House for many years. It made me think about presidents and their staff members looking at this painting as they contemplate more modern wars and national problems.

The exhibit also included several pieces of Civil War photography. The small photographs were amazingly crisp, especially considering the equipment used back then and the prints held up well after all this time. Most of the photos were scenes of the carnage after a battle. Dead soldiers—so young and now lost to history. Hard to see but this is the result of war and it is important we remember this cost.

Most amazing was a photo of President Abraham Lincoln visiting troops on the battlefield. It was taken from a distance but what a privilege to see this image, taken by a photographer there to witness history we can only imagine in the movies today.

Then, that night at the show, the Stringdusters broke out an oldie Three Days in July. I hadn’t heard it in years but it’s an amazing song written by Jon Weisberger and Mark Simos about a young boy surrounded by the Civil War. As Jeremy sang “I learned things I never knew,”   I could still see that image of President Lincoln on the battlefield. It was the perfect blending of music and art.

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