Along with books and miniatures, one of my favorite items of military history to collect is music. Not the contemporary music of past wars, though I\'m sure that is an interesting pursuit, but modern songs that tell the tales of battles long ago. I have songs about Napoleon, Custer, and the trenches of the Great War, but the topic that seems to most interest songwriters appears to be the American Civil War. I have quite a library of songs covering this conflict, but my favorite by far is Jack Hary\'s 111th Pennsylvane from his album Civil Wars.
“Our guns were stacked when Stonewall Jackson took us by surprise, by being where Stonewall Jackson could not be.”
At nearly nine minutes in length, the song is a haunting epic that tells the story of the title regiment from its founding to the end of the war through the recollections of a broken young man.
Jack Hardy\'s strained, “everyman” voice, combined with a mournful banjo, lend a sense of doom to his lyrics that vary from uncomfortable directness to harsh metaphor. In one verse he describes the violence of battle with “chests and limbs and unsung hymns and God Almighty\'s ire.”
There is no glory in this song, only condemnation, and yet it strangely beautiful. It is not any easy song to find these days, but if you manage it, I doubt you\'ll be disappointed.