Does his spirit still live on?

As I’ve heard many preachers say, “I’m talking to myself as well as you.”

Listen while I tell ya
‘Bout a rebel brave and bold
His name is not important
But his story must be told

He left his home in Caroline
His wife and children three
Left them all behind him
To follow General Lee

Almost fifty years ago now since these words were written, sung and recorded. I would know nothing of this song were it not for the 7-inch single purchased by my mother four years before I was born. Written by a musician named John Stewart, who was part of a folk group called The Cumberland Three.

Although his flag was stars and bars
And his uniform was grey
In his heart the cause was just
As he left that summer’s day

The year was 1960. Eisenhower was president. The fight for civil rights was in full swing. To Kill a Mockingbird was published. The Flintstones debuted.

And a folk trio that provided some serious competition to the famous Kingston Trio had a minor hit with a song called Johnny Reb. A story of a Confederate soldier who fought because in his heart the cause was just.

They stopped to rest in Gettysburg
At a hill that lay nearby
Johnny Reb said to his friends
“Here’s where I shall die”

The cannon shots rang out
His comrades by him fell
When Johnny heard the bugle call
He gave a rebel yell

Somewhere in the chaos, discontent and outright racial discrimination of the early 60s, this song was recorded. It sold well. It told a story that many, it seems, would now prefer to forget–prefer to cover over with the whitewash of revised history lest someone think that there are causes actually worth dying for. Especially a cause that they don’t agree with.

He saw the ridge before him
The enemy in blue
He held his gun before him
As he charged through

Almost fifty years on now, and how likely would it be that such a song could be publicly performed without causing outcries of racism? Accusations based on nothing but blind political correctness and a blatant denial of history and truth.

We buried Johnny
‘Neath the willow tree
But, his spirit still lives on
In this land of liberty

His spirit certainly did live on, at least for several decades. But does it still? In this land ruled by political correctness, where one can be called a racist because of a Confederate flag air freshener hung from a rear-view mirror? (Personal experience). Where any given “individual” is more likely to cry for help from “the authorities” rather than fight for individual rights? A land where it’s much more preferred to take away the rights of others to ensure that all are equal?

For he is the symbol
Of those who bore the gun
And died for what they thought was right in 1861

The symbol of those who died for what they thought was right.

Does his spirit still live on?

2 Responses to “Does his spirit still live on?”

  1. Jay Ghetty Says:

    I bought the single in that time period of the early 60s. Any idea where I might here the song again; I can not find it on youtube? Thanks for posting the lyrics.

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