Words and music by Dennis Livingston


Demo singers: Gregory Bouchard and Jon Blackstone
Demo pianist: Doug Hammer



Length of song: 5:37

Song style/genre: A mixed bag, with folk, jazz, boogie-woogie, cakewalk and modern elements

Key(s): C major/F major

Note range (Low/High): middle C to D an octave above middle C

About the song: This epic piece relates the story of an incident in the US Civil War that most likely changed the course of history and that is used here to illustrate the proposition that chance plays a greater role in human affairs than we like to admit.

The background is this: In the summer of 1862, the North had pushed to within a few miles of the rebel capitol at Richmond, Virginia. Then, Southern forces threw the Union Army back from Richmond, culminating in a Northern defeat at Second Bull Run. Sensing that the time was right for taking the war to the North, Gen. Robert E. Lee sent a battle plan known as Special Orders No. 191 to his officers, directing them to move into Maryland. One more decisive defeat of the North would have brought panic to Washington, prevented Lincoln from issuing the Emancipation Proclamation and strongly influenced England and France to recognize the Confederacy. That, in turn, would have probably compelled Lincoln to end the war on the basis of a divided country, ensuring the continuation of slavery and bitter strife for untold years to come. But it didn't happen that way because a copy of Lee's plan was lost, then found by Union troops, resulting in the battle of Antietam, Lee's retreat and Lincoln's consequent decision to release the Emancipation Proclamation.

Gender point of view: Audiences might expect a war story to be performed by a man, but I have no objection to a woman with a commanding voice taking this on.

While one singer can perform the piece, it makes even more dramatic sense as a duet between performers who, once past the introduction, represent North and South as the story moves back and forth between the two sides. The sheet music indicates how the song may be enacted according to this scheme. In addition, a separate narrator may be used for spoken lines, if this part is not assigned to one of the singers or the pianist.

For more information on the history reflected in this song:

Battle of Antietam

Special Orders No. 191


  CONTACT DENNIS  to request sheet music and/or a CD or MP3 for this song. The message should include your name, address, phone (optional), e-mail and your website, if any.



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