Jennie Avila | The Special 150th Anniversary Edition of Civil War Stories In Song

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The Special 150th Anniversary Edition of Civil War Stories In Song

by Jennie Avila

Songs inspired by unusual and true stories of the Civil War in the Antietam Battlefield area. Guitar accompaniment on all, some with violin, mandolin, banjo or ubang. Researched with Doug Bast of the Boonsboro Museum of History, MD.
Genre: Folk: Modern Folk
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  Song Share Time Download
1. Breakfast at the Heck's
3:07 $0.99
2. The Carpenter (John Brown's Scaffold)
3:33 $0.99
3. A Bullet Lives On
4:16 $0.99
4. To Clara Barton
4:34 $0.99
5. Warrior Spirit and the Keeper of the Bones
7:04 $0.99
6. Hey Little Heiskell
3:24 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
Civil War Songs by Jennie Avila

“Warrior Spirit and The Keeper of The Bones” was inspired by Jennie’s first visit to the annual Antietam Battle Field Fourth of July celebration. Accompanied by her fiancé, Steve Wright, they, and thousands like them, carried their picnic dinners through the scenic fields that had once been the grounds of a nightmarish bloodbath. After the event, 35,000 people hiked out of the battlefield in the dark. Car headlights sifted eerily through firework and cannon smoke. Occasionally a re-enactor wandered by, dressed in Confederate or Union uniform. The thousands of celebrants carrying picnic gear reminded Jennie of the soldiers who had marched down that road in the 1860’s, and she said so, out loud. A Confederate private appeared to her left, in the mist, walking next to a family dressed in shorts and t-shirts. Jennie turned away to tell Steve about the Confederate apparition. Steve replied, “There is a Union soldier also”. When Jennie looked back, they had both vanished. Thus began the composition of a Civil War ghost story.

A year later, Steve invited Jennie to visit the Boonsborough Museum of History. He had recently asked the museum’s owner, Doug Bast, to assess a carved cane that had been in the family since the Civil War. Family legend traced the cane to General Hooker and Steve’s great grandfather. Jennie brought a home recording of her first Civil War composition. Although she had researched extensively, Jennie wanted to be sure that the tone of the song presented an accurate portrayal of the era. Doug promised to listen to the song as soon as possible. Later that evening he called Jennie to congratulate her. The song was true to the era, and there were exhibits at the museum that might inspire more music. Doug told Jennie about a baby’s curl, tied with a pink ribbon, that was given to a Union soldier by a dying Confederate soldier who pleaded, “Take good care of this!” “That sounds like a song!” Jennie exclaimed. “I was hoping you would say that!” Doug responded. And so a creative research partnership was formed. (The song, “Mary Vance’s Scrapbook”, will be featured on Jennie’s second Civil War CD, scheduled to be released in spring 2010.)

Jennie Avila has written a collection of Civil War songs. Most are inspired by events in Washington County, Maryland. Her mission is to keep true stories alive by retelling the tales in an intimate narrative, often writing and singing in the first person voice of a historical figure. The Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau sponsored Jennie’s new CD release:

1. Doug Bast, owner/director of the Boonsboro Museum of History, told Jennie about the Heck brothers of Boonsboro, MD. The two brothers were soldiers. John was in the Union army and Jake was a Confederate. They both converged at their mother’s house for breakfast after the Battle of South Mountain. Their sister, Sally, retold the story; and so, Jennie sings the tale, “Breakfast at the Heck’s”, from Sally’s perspective.

2. A back room tour of the Boonsboro Museum of History revealed a desk that is built from the scaffolding that hung John Brown! It’s all about “The Carpenter” and his desk.

3. “A Bullet Lives On” is a song based on hundreds of carved bullets displayed at the Boonsboro Museum of History. Jennie chose nine bullet carvings, (a cross, a bottle stopper, a pencil, dice, etc.), and imagined why they were carved. Each verse is dedicated to an exhibited bullet, and the soldier who carved it.

4. Foraging with Doug Bast in the archives of the Boonsborough Museum of History, Jennie came across letters addressed to Colonel Tufts of the Soldiers Relief Commission, Worcester, MA. Jennie was struck by the contrast between the humble items donated “To Clara Barton”, and the enormity of the task to which they were directed. Further reading in books and newspapers (loaned by Mr. Bast) enhanced Jennie’s admiration for the young woman who found her way to the front lines of many battles and provided help with whatever supplies were available. Clara Barton truly earned the title, “Angel of the Battlefield”.

An article titled, “Clara Barton Brought Kindness to the Battlefield”, found in The Washington Star, April 20, 1952, inspired the first lines of Jennie’s song. “She (Clara) told it in her own words: Five days and nights with three hours sleep – a narrow escape from capture – and some days of getting the wounded into hospitals ...And if you chance to feel that the positions I occupied were rough and unseemly for a woman, I can only reply that they were rough and unseemly for men.”

5. “Warrior Spirit and The Keeper of The Bones” was inspired by Jennie’s first visit to the annual Antietam Battle Field Fourth of July celebration. (See top of page.)

6. In July of 1863 a Confederate sharp shooter used a well-known Hagerstown weathervane for target practice. The weathervane, shaped in the silhouette of a Hessian soldier, bears the affectionate title, “Little Heiskell”. One year later, Hagerstown was ransomed by the Confederacy for twenty thousand dollars. Most other towns, caught between Union and Confederate sympathies, had to pay two hundred thousand dollars to avoid being ransacked and burned! Why was Hagerstown charged so much less than the other towns? Jennie has created her own whimsical hypothesis in the song “Hey Little Heiskell”.



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A different look at the Civil War
From my review on my blog, Oliver di Place:

Jennie Avila sings in a soprano voice that exudes sunlight and optimism. This is a voice that would be well suited to making music for kids. In fact, Avila has done that, and it really worked. I will be doing a set of kid’s music soon, and you will get to hear that. You would not expect the owner of such a voice to be doing a set of songs about the Civil War, but here it is. The Civil War was probably the most anguished war in American history. Brother sometimes fought against brother, and the whole thing took place within our borders. My readers from other countries should bear in mind that this almost never happens in the United States. So, Avila could easily have focused on the harrowing aspects of the war. Some great music has come from that, and Avila doesn’t downplay the serious nature of her subject. But she also finds a way to tell some stories that don’t usually get told...

Read the rest of the review here: