Heavy Metal Gettysburg and the Allure of Emotive History

By Kevin Lavery ’16


In July 1863
A Nation Torn In Tragedy
A Trick Of Fate, Two Great Armies Merge
Gods Of War At Gettysburg
Devastation Lies Ahead
50,000 Bodies Litter The Land
Hell Rages Three Full Days
The Reaper Sows, There’s The Devil To Pay.

Thus begins the first song in Iced Earth’s three-part ballad inspired by the Battle of Gettysburg. The heavy metal epic is intense, dramatic, brutal, tragic, and romantic. Released in 2004 on their album The Glorious Burden – which, incidentally, also features songs inspired by Attila the Hun, the Red Baron, Waterloo, and Valley Forge – Iced Earth’s “Gettysburg (1863)” trilogy offers listeners a vivid musical interpretation of the memory of Gettysburg popularized by Michael Shaara’s The Killer Angels. Beginning with the “The Devil to Pay” and continuing in “Hold at All Costs” and “High Water Mark,” each song in the trilogy is devoted to the events of a single day of the battle. Encapsulating some of Gettysburg’s best-known moments, the songs each convey a sense of the battle’s epic scale and its powerful legacy. In consequence, however, the ballad reinforces an exclusively emotional interpretation of the Civil War that can obscure a more meaningful understanding of the battle and its larger implications. Continue reading “Heavy Metal Gettysburg and the Allure of Emotive History”

“”So here’s to the stars and stripes, me boys, And to Ireland’s lovely shore”

By Sarah Johnson ’15

“Irish Brigade Monument at Gettysburg,” Wikimedia Commons.

The Dropkick Murphys is a popular American Celtic Punk band known for their combinations of punk rock and bagpipes. Their songs are filled with Irish pride and often have something to do with hard partying and whiskey. However, in their 1999 album The Gang’s All Here, the Murphys took on the topic of Irish soldiers in the American Civil War. The song “The Fighting 69th” was first sung by the Irish band The Wolfe Tones on their 1993 album Across the Broad Atlantic. The album features several songs dedicated to Irish immigrants to America and holds a certain fascination for the Irish American. The Wolfe Tones version of the song is a more traditional-sounding Celtic song detailing the journey of Irish immigrants as “they sailed away/and they made a sight so glorious/as they marched along Broadway…and from there they went to Washington/and straight into the war.” When the Murphys released their version of the song in 1999, they added their signature punk anthem sound to make their version a hard rocking ballad dedicated to the men of the Irish Brigade.

“Dropkick Murphys live in the Reading Festival 2008,” Wikimedia Commons.

Continue reading ““”So here’s to the stars and stripes, me boys, And to Ireland’s lovely shore””

History is Good Drama: BBC’s “Copper”

By Val Merlina ‘14

BBC America’s programming covers a wide range of genres, presenting characters, and settings that appeal to viewers around the world. In 2012, BBC began airing Copper, a period drama set in the ethnically diverse, crime and disease-ridden Five Points neighborhood in New York City in the late-Civil War years. The title, taken from the slang term for a police officer, centers on police detective work in the rapidly growing urban center. The characterizations, as well as the situations presented are not far off from historical fact. For various reasons, many of the characters have returned to the Five Points, and their experiences in war have ended, though the war itself rages on. As a result, their attitudes take on an historical tone of post-Civil War society, though the show takes place in the late-war years of 1863 and 1864. This is not an anachronistic flaw in the show, but rather depicts the characters’ own struggles to carry on in American society through the late-war years now that they have returned from war, and that their combat experiences have come to an end. Therefore, the following questions arise: what post-Civil War themes does “Copper” depict for television audiences, and how does the show contribute to the surge of both print and mass media in relation to the American Civil War? In this segment, we will consider the themes found in the show in terms of the post-war sentiments expressed by characters.

Copper 1

Continue reading “History is Good Drama: BBC’s “Copper””