For today’s ‘Madeira Mondays’, I wanted to share with you one of my favorite pieces of art about the Revolutionary War. It’s a quiet little song by New Mexico-based folk musician Eliza Gilkyson. It’s called ‘Jedidiah 1777’ and it comes from her 2005 album Paradise Hotel.
It’s a song about a young American soldier called Jedidiah and it’s actually based on letters written by Gilkyson’s own ancestor, Brig. Gen. Jedidiah Huntington, who fought in the Revolutionary War!
I love the vivid, sensory details in the song: ‘wet boots and his wool coat coming apart at the seams’ ‘rations of hard-baked dough’ ‘I wake to the drum and the trembling note of the fifer’.
Another thing that I love about it is that it evokes an 18th century way of speaking (with lyrics perhaps influenced by – or taken directly from – Gilkyson’s ancestor): ‘I rejoice that the cause we’re engaged in / is in the hands of an Almighty Sovereign’ ‘May it please God in his great mercy / to restore the joys of domesticity’.
I think it’s a quietly haunting little song. I feel like folk songs often have stories in them and I love that this is both a personal, family story as well as a story that feels universal too (perhaps because of that specificity) and speaks to the isolation of the young man at war missing his family.
I invite you to listen to it and let me know what you think! If you like ‘Jedidiah 1777’, I’d also suggest her song ‘Is it Like Today’, off the same album, which I absolutely adore. It’s about mankind’s quest for knowledge and how we investigate the mysteries of the universe (you know – just casual stuff!)
Thanks so much for reading and let me know what you’ve been reading (or listening to!) recently. I have come to realize in the last few years that folk music is one of my favorite genres (maybe my favorite one). Anyone who has read my novella – All the Orphans in the Galaxy – knows that folk music is an important topic in that book and one of my main characters is a traveling folk singer. So I’d be very grateful to receive any recommendations in that musical genre especially!
‘Madeira Mondays’ is a series of blog posts exploring 18th century history and historical fiction. Follow the blog for a new post every first Monday of the month and thanks for reading!
Recommended further reading/listening:
- Eliza Gilkyson: Songs that touch history, article on NPR
- Paradise Hotel (album), Eliza Gilkyson
- The Best Songs from ‘1776′
- My new historical short story, ‘Feminine Absurdities’, about strange happenings at a girls finishing school during the Revolutionary War
Today’s Featured Image is a painting by Ross Moffett from 1937 of a skirmish between colonists and British troops during the Revolutionary War, accessed via Wikimedia
If you enjoy this blog and would like to support it, please consider buying me a coffee on Ko-fi! Thank you!
ALSO, for the writers out there: I wanted to share that I’ll be leading an online creative writing course in late May-June! The course will be focused on playing and experimenting with different styles of poetry and it’s geared towards new writers and more experienced ones who want to expand their practice! It’s called ‘Playing with Poetry’.
All the info. is here on Eventbrite (please feel free to share with anyone you think might be interested in coming along!): https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/playing-with-poetry-5-week-online-creative-writing-course-registration-622374227067
And for the history lovers: My friend Roula at the fantastic new London Arts-Based Research Centre wanted me to share the Call for Papers for their upcoming ‘Histories and Mysteries’ conference held at Court House in Somerset (a historic mansion built by Henry VII’s mother). The conference is all about the relationship between history and mystery writing (psychological thrillers, cozy murder mysteries, trends in detective fiction and historical fiction are all fair game, and they welcome both traditional academic papers and creative work). I’m considering sending in a proposal and thought some of you might be intrigued as well. Here’s more info: https://labrc.co.uk/2023/03/04/mysteries-and-histories/
Have a wonderful week! x Carly
4 thoughts on “Madeira Mondays: A folk song about a Revolutionary War soldier”
What a fascinating story about the Revolutionary War and soldier the folk song that was inspired by his bravery. It’s incredible to think that such a small act of courage, like refusing to eat a piece of bread, could have such a significant impact on the course of history.
The way it has woven the history of the Revolutionary War into the song is excellent. It’s easy to see how the struggles of the time and the heroism of the soldiers inspired the lyrics and melody of the song. The attention to detail is impressive, and the descriptions of the music and the people who created it make the story come alive.
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Thank you so much for your comment! Yes indeed, the attention to detail is so impressive and I completely agree that the song really makes the story come to life. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
One of my favorite story songs too. It really is so beautifully evocative of a specific time and place.
Another favorite album full of stories is Emmy Lou Harris’s Red Dirt Girl. Not really historical so much as personally moving and interior. The titular song will just break your heart.
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Thanks Nancy! I can’t wait to listen to this. Appreciate the recommendation. Hope y’all have a good weekend! x