In my post last month that paid tribute to Meg Groeling, I made mention of a song called “Lexington” by Alpha Rev. The song comes from the band’s 2013 album Bloom and was inspired by a Civil War connection.
“Originally, I got the idea for this song when I found a letter from a Civil War soldier to this family, and he was saying how he didn’t think he was gonna live through this next battle that he was going to have the next day,” explained songwriter Casey McPherson. “And so he was telling them goodbye and saying ‘I’m proud of you’ and just listing a bunch of things about how hard it’s been, and how much he loves them.”
McPherson doesn’t offer details on the letter, but it’s reminiscent of the letter Maj. Sullivan Ballou wrote home to his wife, Sarah, made famous by Ken Burns’ The Civil War. Meg had actually written about the episode in her book The Aftermath of Battle.
“It really struck me,” McPherson continued, “how he knew that his days were about to be over. And thought about, What if I knew that? What if I knew that my time was about to come, and what would I say to the people I love?”
As I read the lyrics to “Lexington,” the song didn’t evoke a particular Civil War battle for me. Lexington, Missouri? Lexington, Kentucky? Lexington, Virginia? If anything, the Revolutionary War fight on Lexington Green on April 19, 1775, might fit the bill the closest, but of course, that’s the wrong war. Did McPherson mix up his wars as he read the letter that served as his inspiration?
In any case, the battle is not the point of the song, and to get distracted by it is to dilute the song’s impact.
Here’s the acoustic version:
The album version is fuller and more sweeping, yet still mournful: