Richmond, Virginia in April 1865
On a self-titled album in 1969, the rock group The Band released “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” a song depicting the final days of the Confederacy in 1865. A long-time favorite of many, the song has been covered by numerous artists, including Joan Baez (who altered some key lyrics), Johnny Cash, and Jerry Garcia. As the Civil War Sesquicentennial comes to a close, it seems fitting to examine the song and its historical imagery.
The song, so powerfully associated with the South and the Confederacy, was ironically written by a Canadian. Robbie Robertson, guitarist for The Band, conceived the tune after traveling through the southern United States and listening to older residents speak of “the South rising again.” Needing help with the historical content, Robertson enlisted the help of The Band’s drummer, Levon Helm. An Arkansas native, Helm recalled in his 1993 autobiography This Wheel’s On Fire: Levon Helm and the Story of The Band that “Robbie and I worked on ‘The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down’ up in Woodstock. I remember taking him to the library so he could research the history and geography of the era and make General Robert E. Lee come out with all due respect.” For his part, Robertson stated he wanted to write “the song right at Levon,” who would be the lead vocalist for the tune.
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Abraham Lincoln’s physical appearance changed dramatically during his tenure as President of the United States. The magnitude of his apparent aging is often demonstrated by showing a photograph from the start of his first term compared to one taken a few months before his death. But a simple comparison of two extreme photographs does not show the evolution of the change nor the stressful events that likely induced the striking transformation. The following photographic series with accompanying timeline of notable events from 1860-1865 may be more illustrative of the aging process experienced by Lincoln. In particular, note the significant change in the brief interval from November 1863 to February 1864, a part of which may have resulted from his smallpox infection during that period.
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One hundred and fifty years ago today, a letter was written to a Mrs. Lydia Bixby of Massachusetts consoling her for the loss of five sons during their service in the Union army. The letter, signed by Abraham Lincoln, and featured in the 1998 movie, Saving Private Ryan, is widely regarded as a literary work of art. Next to the Gettysburg Address and his Second Inaugural Address, the letter is often considered one of Lincoln’s three greatest compositions.
The original letter remains lost to history, but its contents were first published in the Boston Transcript on November 25, 1864:
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