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Under the Willow

Composed for the


Conducted by Colonel Jim R. Keene


This recording is the premier at The Midwest Clinic December 2015

by the US Army Field Band, Colonel Jim R. Keene conducting



The Civil War began when the Confederates bombarded Union soldiers at Fort Sumter, South Carolina on April 12, 1861. The war ended in Spring, 1865. Robert E. Lee surrendered the last major Confederate army to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Courthouse on April 9, 1865. It was to date, the deadliest war Americans have ever fought in. The war divided America and battles were fought state against state, neighbor against neighbor and brother against brother. Losses are estimated between 650,000 and 850,000. In most cases soldiers were buried where they fell on the battlefield. Others were buried near the hospitals where they died. At most battlefields the dead were exhumed and moved to National or Confederate cemeteries, but because there were so many bodies, and because of the time and e2ort it took to disinter them, there are undoubtedly thousands if not tens of thousands of Civil War soldiers in unknown battlefield graves. There were 51,000 casualties at Gettysburg alone. Skirmishes scattered all over the U.S. also left graves  here and there, some marked, others not, Americans buried alike, blue next to gray. To this day, graves and markers are still being discovered and the destruction the war left behind is also, still evident.


When given the opportunity to compose a work commemorating the Civil War I won't lie, I was excited. I have worked on many Civil War television events including "North & South" the mini series, it's sequel "Love & War" and "The Blue and the Gray." Among the many finds during my research for those projects was a the poem "The Blue and the Gray" written by Francis Miles Finch. His inspiration for the poem came from an article he had read published in the New York Tribune during the Civil War which spoke of women praying and placing flowers on graves with no prejudice as to which side the deceased may have fought upon. That poem has stuck with me and has come to symbolize for me the tragedy of all war. That poem is also the inspiration for the title of this work. I wanted to harness the flavors of both the north and the south, a simpler time with particular attention given to African American nuances which later went on to become the blues and present it with contemporary feel in my own musical language.

This work was written to commemorate all souls lost to the Civil War;

Young and Old, Black and White, Blue and the Gray.




Frances Miles Finch, “The Blue and the Gray” Source: The Atlantic Monthly, vol. 20, no. 119 (September 1867), pp. 369–370. The Atlantic Monthly version is accompanied by the following text, attributed to the New York Tribune: “The women of Columbus, Mississippi, animated by nobler sentiments than are many of their sisters, have shown themselves impartial in their offerings made to the memory of the dead. They strewed flowers alike on the graves of the Confederate and of the National soldiers.”


After reading this New York Tribune article, Frances Miles Finch wrote the poem “The Blue and the Gray”.

The title of this work is a reference to this poem. Below are this first two stanzas of Finch's poem.



“The Blue and the Gray”

by Frances Miles Finch (1827-1907)


By the flow of the inland river,

Whence the fleets of iron have fled,

Where the blades of the grave-grass quiver,

Asleep on the ranks of the dead; —

Under the sod and the dew,

Waiting the judgment day; —

Under the one, the Blue;

Under the other, the Gray.


These in the robings of glory,

Those in the gloom of defeat,

All with the battle-blood gory,

In the dusk of eternity meet; —

Under the sod and the dew,

Waiting the judgment day; —

Under the laurel, the Blue;

Under the willow, the Gray.

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