Sugarloaf Mountain Records
"Rising Tide"
by Rhododendron Road

13. The Civil War Was Over (6:27)

The Civil War was over, boys,
The smoke lay on the ground.
General Lee stood in the door
And said, “Lay your rifles down.”
I started on my long way home,
Walking through the mountains
On the rhododendron road.

The Civil War was over, boys.
The dead lay in the earth.
Someday someone looking back
May know what it was worth.
From Georgia, Texas, Old Virginia, too;
They said we fought for slavery,
But that was never true.
We fought to protect our homeland.
There was really nothing else that we could do.

The South will rise again
So sing it loud.
The South will rise again
So stand up proud.
As for me, I am unbroken
And unbowed.
The South will rise again
So sing it loud.
The Civil War was over and
The North had finally won.
But the blood that turned the streams to red
Was all American.
If we just keep walking we'll get home.
Someone there still waits for me alone.

When I look into the future,
This is what I see:
The South will fight the Nation's wars
Against every enemy;
The South will elect the President
And take your industry;
We'll write the greatest fiction,
Filled with song and poetry;
And we'll create new kinds of music
That will set the people free.

The South will rise again
So sing it loud.
The South will rise again
So stand up proud.
As for me, I stand unbroken
And unbowed.
The South will rise again
So sing it loud.

La la la la
La la la la
La la la la
La la la la

The Civil War was over, boys,
The smoke lay on the ground.

Words and music by Jim Choukas-Bradley.
Jim Choukas-Bradley: vocals, piano;
Jesse Daumit: vocals, lead guitar;
Amanda Olsavsky: vocals;
Jesse Choukas-Bradley: vocals, rhythm guitar;
Jeff Reed:  bass;
Mike Kuhl: drums.

Recorded at Levon Helm Studios, Woodstock, NY.
Engineered and mixed by Justin Guip.

I have spent a good part of my working life in the South, with people who live and were brought up in the States
of the old Confederacy. I love the South and have made many good friends there. But I am a Northerner, and I
am both glad the North won the Civil War and certain it is a good thing for all of us that the North did. I feel compelled to write a few words about this last song on the CD, which is written from the point of view of a Confederate soldier at the end of the Civil War, because the song is one of my favorites, because I sang it in the studio with utter conviction (though until it happened I did not know if I could), and because the line in the song “walking through the mountains on the rhododendron road” was the inspiration for our group’s name.

I was inspired to write the song after talking with several of the people who work for and with Levon Helm, the great singer and drummer who lives in Woodstock, NY, about why he did not sing “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” during his concert at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville in July 2007. My wife Melanie and I had flown down to Nashville from Maryland for the concert, and it was one of the high points of my life to be in the audience that night. The crowd in that beautiful old hall was most appreciative, and well versed.They knew Levon, and they knew The Band, and they knew the music he had been playing in the years since The Band broke up so long ago, too. Through recording sessions at the Levon Helm Studios in Woodstock, I had gotten to know some of the people who work with Levon. And by happenstance Melanie and I were staying in the same hotel near the Ryman as Levon and his entourage. The morning after the concert we ran into some of them outside the hotel and got to talking, and in the course of the conversation we asked if they knew why Levon had not sung the song, despite the fact the audience had been calling for it all night.

They mentioned several reasons, and one of them was, they said, that Levon, a Southerner from Arkansas, does not particularly like the sentiment expressed in the song – that the South was beaten down and those who fought on that side were not only physically devastated but also emotionally defeated by the War and the Yankees. From what they said, while the song may have been written for Levon, while Levon’s stories may have inspired it, and while Levon’s singing may have made the song great, it remained Robbie Robertson’s song, not Levon’s.

Hearing that was a revelation to me. I thought about it a lot afterward. I realized that indeed one of the things I
always most loved about the song is its poignant image of the noble but defeated Southerner, Virgil Cain, his life torn apart inside as well as outside by the fact that the North not only beat the South but also took away the essence of Southern identity, culminating in Levon’s bitter lament in the final verse.I realized the song had always satisfied something in me, a Northern boy from Hartford, Connecticut, that it struck a chord with my internalized mythology of the War and the South. I could be sympathetic because complete defeat was acknowledged. I wanted it to be true. But when confronted with this new idea, I could see right away that a Southern man, like Levon, might not feel that way about it, and might not be happy still playing along with Northern sentimentality about it forty years after recording the song.

I let this revelation from Levon’s friends seep in and percolate through me for a while. It so happened that I
had been reading about the Civil War at that time, and I had a lot of images in my head, especially from the final days of the confrontationsbetween the Army of the Potomac and the Army of Northern Virginia. One evening as I sat at the piano, out came the beginning of a melody and a mood about the ending of the Civil War and the people who were there. Soon came the first line of the new song – “The Civil War was over, boys, the smoke lay on the ground.” Like mist, but not sweet and ephemeral mist, but rather the smoke of the bloody, killing, maiming battles, one after another, a heavy shroud that would not soon lift or dissipate, a lingering reminder of the horror of what had occurred, but that would, with time, depart. And just like that I knew that this song could try to articulate the feeling of the Confederate soldier that while the South had lost the War, the people who fought it did not lose themselves.

This one came slowly, in pieces, over the course of a few weeks. I only finished it on the eve of our rehearsal
before going back up to Woodstock to record. I felt this song had to recorded there, in the Levon Helm Studios, so we had to have it finished. Our drummer, Mike Kuhl, upon hearing it for the first time in rehearsal,
immediately was inspired to take the song home with a military drum roll from bygone days, as though the
War was walking away down a dusty road. Not only was it a brilliant way of ending the song, but we all agreed it was a fitting way to end our first album.

Sugarloaf Mountain Records, Inc. wishes to thank Susan A. Roth for the use of her photographs,
and Tina Thieme Brown for the use of her paintings on this website.

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