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The American Civil War in Legend & Song
By Bill Schustik

Bill on stage Bill in the classroom
Photo: © Nancy Safford

The American Civil War is forever etched into our national consciousness. To see the truth of this statement one has to look only to the popularity of several recent television presentations and book releases.

Yet, nothing captures the essence of that troubled time quite so well as the music of that era. The songs are both haunting and inspiring. They linger in our collective memory. They were sung for courage and comfort on the long marches, during the bloody battles, and around the lonely flames of the sentries' bivouac fires.

As a young man, Bill fell in love with these songs. Soon he began lacing them together with stories and legends that he picked up from his audiences around the country. Eventually, almost by accident, he created a one-man musical reconstruction of that war. This presentation was so successful that it was expanded into a six-person review and finally a full scale musical production called On Shiloh Hill. Its opening was hosted by the White House and was played to packed houses at Ford's Theatre in Washington, D.C. The show was critically acclaimed and was held over for several months beyond its intended run. Still, Bill's most ardent fans claim that his original one-man presentation is his best. So at their urging, he has decided to return to his original format as an offering for the comununity audiences.

Bill resurrects our ancestral spirits using his guitar, banjo, dulcimer, drum, and even jew's harp. The concert begins with an evocation and the birth of Lincoln. Then we journey musically through the mysteries of The Drinking Gourd, the surprising origins of the Battle Hymn of the Republic and the irreverent complaints of the common soldier.

For you see, this is not a history of great battles and generals. Rather, Bill focuses on the folk who endured this war—their fears and triumphs, dreams and aspirations as reflected in songs like Tenting Tonight, All Quiet Along the Potomac, Goober Peas and The Vacant Chair. Some of these songs are romantic heirlooms: Lorena of the South and Aura Lee of the North. All are permeated with the laughter and tears and the omnipresent spirit of a truly great national treasure: Abraham Lincoln.

"To build again that blue American roof over a half forgotten battle tune and to call unsurely from haunted ground armies of shadow and the shadow sound..."
—Stephen Vincent Benet

(Songs in the program include in whole or in part)
Banjo Americana Theme
Fiddlers Greene/Columbia, The Gem of the Ocean
Legend of Lincoln's Birth
Wayfaring Stranger
Follow the Drinking Gourd
Legend of the War Comet
Old Abe Lincoln
Bonnie Blue Flag
Battle Cry of Freedom
We Are Coming Father Abraham
John Brown's Body/Battle Hymn of the Republic
Cumberland Gap/Shiloh
The Vacant Chair
Oh, Freedom
Tenting Tonight/All Quiet on the Potomac Tonight
Army Bean
Brass Mounted Army/Upidee
Aura Lee
Kingdom Corning
Many Thousand Gone
Goober Peas
Harmonica Campground Medley
American Trilogy
Star Spangled Banner

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