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Guitarist plays, tells stories from Civil War-era

May 24, 1998|By TERRY TALBERT

About two dozen people gathered on the stiff-backed wooden benches in the Dunker Church at the Antietam National Battlefield on Saturday to take in some music.

Guitarist Jim Morgan, of Lovettsville, Va., mesmerized the group of men, women and children with Civil War-era songs and stories. A former part-time U.S. Park Service ranger, Morgan has studied the era extensively and taken his show to Civil War battle sites for 18 years.

A tin cup of water at his side, Morgan sang Union and Confederate songs, and some political tunes from the 1860s. He urged his listeners to "put on your 19th-century ears."

Morgan peppered his performance with tidbits of history. Among his revelations:

- In a Confederate song set to the tune of "Yankee Doodle," Southern Democrats took a shot at Lincoln for allegedly "o'erhauling records" at his party's convention.

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Morgan said Lincoln supporters had the people who printed tickets for first-come, first-serve public seating at the convention to print a second set. The second batch of tickets was handed out to Lincoln supporters, who showed up early and took all available seats. Lincoln was nominated.

- "Maryland, My Maryland" was originally written by a pro-secessionist native of Maryland who was living in Louisiana at the time. He wrote the song as a poem meant to encourage Marylanders to follow the lead of Virginia and secede.

- Another variation of "Maryland, My Maryland" supposedly had lyrics written by Gen. Jeb Stuart. The story was about Stuart's horse, whose name was ... Maryland.

- There were three versions of the song "John Brown's Body." The original had nothing to do with the abolitionist. It was about a man of the same name who died while a member of the Massachusetts 12th Regiment of the Union Army.

- "Dixie" was a plantation song written two years before the onset of the Civil War. It was popular with both camps early in the war. It was only at the end of 1862 that it became associated with the Confederacy.

Two unexpected guests at the Dunker Church performance were Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln.

Darlene and Eugene Lincoln, that is.

"She's from Georgia," Eugene Lincoln said. "She's a Rebel."

"I'm from Indiana," he added.

Eugene Lincoln said he's done a little research and, as far as he can tell, he's a fourth cousin to Abe.

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