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"The Faded Coat of Blue" (1860s)

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This recording is about a Union soldier’s death from disease and hunger, and it describes his final resting place in an unmarked grave. The Civil War left a lasting cultural legacy through soldiers, their families, politicians, and artists, who all tried to find meaning and solace in the terrible cost of the war.

The ideal of freedom became a critical concept and gave meaning to the struggle for both the North and the South.

As the toll of the war grew, the need for such idealistic and noble justifications grew proportionally.

"The Good Old Rebel" (1860)

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In this song, an unrepentant Confederate veteran took stock of the war. He noted the terrible devastation that the North brought to southern farms and cities, and he consoled himself by noting that he and his fellow rebels had killed 300,000 Yankees. As you listen to this song, consider how former Confederate soldiers might have felt after their defeat, faced with the bitter task of reconciling themselves with a triumphant federal government and a transformed social structure at home.

From Abraham Lincoln, Address at Sanitary Fair, Baltimore (April 18, 1864)

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The world has never had a good definition of the word liberty, and the American people, just now, are much in want of one. We all declare for liberty; but in using the same word we do not all mean the same thing. With some the word liberty may mean for each man to do as he pleases with himself, and the product of his labor; while with others the same word may mean for some men to do as they please with other men, and the product of other men's labor. Here are two, not only different, but incompatible things, called by the same name–liberty. And it follows that each of the things is, by the respective parties, called by two different and incompatible names–liberty and tyranny. The shepherd drives the wolf from the sheep's throat, for which the sheep thanks the shepherd as a liberator, while the wolf denounces him for the same act as the destroyer of liberty, especially as the sheep was a black one. Plainly the sheep and the wolf are not agreed upon a definition of the word liberty; and precisely the same difference prevails today among us human creatures, even in the North, and all professing to love liberty. Hence we behold the process by which thousands are daily passing from under the yoke of bondage, hailed by some as the advance of liberty, and bewailed by others as the destruction of all liberty. Recently, as it seems, the people of Maryland have been doing something to define liberty [abolishing slavery in the state]; and thanks to them that, in what they have done, the wolf's dictionary, has been repudiated.