(Stephen Foster, 1853)

Cathy Barton—guitar and vocal; Dave Para—guitar and vocal; Judy Domeny—vocal; Bob Dyer—vocal; Lee Worman—whistles

The border states of Kentucky and Missouri understood the meaning of the term “civil war” in its truest sense, for the population in both states was severely divided in sentiment. Neighbors fought neighbors, and it was not unusual for brothers to take opposite sides in the conflict. Though Missouri did not secede, she sent 40,000 troops to the Confederacy and 110,000 to the Union Army.

Even amongst families of southern descent, the war frequently divided families. One notable example was the Marmaduke family of Saline County in central Missouri. The patriarch of the family, Meredith Miles Marmaduke was a staunch Union supporter, while his son John Sappington Marmaduke became a noted Confederate general (see “Marmaduke's Hornpipe”). Famous Missouri writer Mark Twain rallied briefly to the southern cause, while brother Orion strongly supported Lincoln.

Brothers occasionally found themselves fighting each other in the same battle, as was the case with two brothers from Palmyra, Missouri, who fought against each other during the struggle for Vicksburg, Mississippi. Capt. Joel W. Strong, Co. I, 10th Missouri, USA, was also in this battle and described the meeting of these two brothers in his diary:

In the afternoon, the division to which I belonged marched in and took formal possession [of Vicksburg]. In our regiment was a boy who had a brother in the Rebel Army in Vicksburg. As we came to their works, the brother was there to meet the boy in our regiment. Our boy fell out of ranks, and they walked together, arms around each other's waists. It was a sight most impressive and one to remain vivid a life time—the one in blue with uniform fresh, buttons shining, gun and bayonet bright; the other in gray, ragged uniform, barefoot and grimy. It was enough to make one feel sad that such things had to be.

On the Vicksburg Battlefield, Missouri is the only state with memorials erected for both Union soldiers and Confederates.

“Knot of Blue and Gray,” is a somber but conciliatory traditional song we learned from folksong collector Loman Cansler of Kansas City. He collected the song from Charlie Scott of Dallas County, Missouri, one of a remarkable family of traditional singers and songwriters. Charlie's father, William Henry Scott, was a songwriter of considerable renown throughout Dallas County and the surrounding region. The author of the words to “Knot of Blue and Gray” is unknown, but the melody is “The Wearing of the Green,” a common Irish tune used as a musical setting for numerous songs composed during and after the Civil War. In the end, the narrator reminds us, “each fought for what he thought was right” and now the “same sun shines on both their graves.”

You ask me why upon my breast
Unchanged from day to day.
Linked side by side in this broad band
I wear the Blue and Gray.

I had two brothers long ago,
Two brothers blithe and gay.
One wore the suit of Northern blue
And one of Southern gray.

One heard the roll call of the South
And linked his faith with Lee.
The other bore the stars and stripes
With Sherman to the sea.

Each fought for what he thought was
right And fell with sword in hand.
One sleeps amid Virginia's hills,
And one in Georgia's sands.

But the same sun shines on both their graves,
O'er valley and o'er hill,
And in the darkest of the hours
My brothers they lie still.

That is why upon my breast
unchanged from day to day,
Linked side by side in this broad band
I wear the Blue and Gray.

We thought it fitting to conclude the album with an instrumental rendition of a Stephen Foster composition, "Hard Times Come Again No More." Written by Foster in 1855, this piece was quite popular during the Civil War. Soldiers made a parody of it called "Hard Crackers Come Again No More," a light-hearted complaint about the monotonous diet they were forced to endure, but Foster's own poignant lyrics, particularly the chorus, seemed achingly relevant amongst soldiers and civilians alike on both sides of the Mason-Dixon line:

"Tis a song, the sigh of the weary,
Hard times, hard times, come again no more;
Many days you have lingered around my cabin door,
Oh, hard times come again no more."

© Big Canoe Records, 1993