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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Songs of the Assassination of James Garfield

This week I will be sharing some posts with you about the 20th president, James Garfield.  He was someone that I knew almost nothing about, but after I finished reading Destiny of the Republic by Candice Millard he is someone I deeply admire.  So stay tuned all week for some different facts about Mr. Garfield.

Today I wanted to share a 2 video clips and song lyrics that I found about the assassination of James Garfield.  I love finding folk songs about historical events.  It is interesting that a president who was only in office for just shy of 6 months has 2 popular (at their own time) songs about him.  I guess it goes to show how the emotional legacy persevered.

First up - Mr. Garfield - this was first recorded by Bascom Lamar Lunsford in March of 1949.  This is an epic narrative of the events and emotions surrounding the assassination of James Garfield.  While it was somewhat popular in this version, Johnny Cash made it even more so on his album of songs of the Old West (which James Garfield was not a part of but anyway).  Below I have a clip of Cash performing the song as well as the lyrics (be prepared, I said it was an epic!).


Me and my brother was down close to the depot
When I heard the report of a pistol
I hollered, "I wonder what was that!"

He run out and come back and he said
"That was a report of a pistol"

And I thought I was gonna faint when he said it
"Mr. Garfield's been shot down, shot down, shot down
Mr. Garfield's been shot down low"

Lord, I knew the President was supposed to be down the depot that day
But I just wouldn't let myself believe that he'd been shot

Me and my bother run out there and everybody was all confused
And hollering' and running' round
And I stepped up to this one lady and I said that

"Ma'am what was it really that happened Ma'am?", and she said that
"Mr. Garfield's been shot down, shot down, shot down
Mr. Garfield's been shot down low"

Well, it looked like everybody felt just about as bad as I did
Everybody started drift off to home
Me and my brother did too

Then a few weeks later, I heard that the President was still alive
So I told my brother, I said, "Hey let's get on a train
And go to that Big House up there and see how the President is"

"Let's go up there to where he's laid up hurt and sick we'd see him"
So we went on up there and that big White House
And there was a soldier boy standin' round upside, outside

And, I sidled up to him and I said to that soldier boy
I said "Who was it that did it?
Who was it that shot the President?"
And he said that, "It was Charlie Guiteau that shot Mr. Garfield"

And I said, "Charlie Guiteau done shot down a good man, good man
Charlie Guiteau done shot down a good man low
Charlie Guiteau done shot down a good man, good man"

That soldier boy said that
Miss Lucretia Garfield was always at his bedside
In the heat of the day fannin' him when he was hot

And he said just that mornin' that he had been at the window
And he'd overheard Miss Lucretia and Mr. Garfield talkin'
And Mr Garfield said, "Crete, honey", he called her Crete

He said, "Crete, honey, if somethin' worse would happens to me"
He said, "You get yourself a good man"
And she said, "Now James", she called him James

She said, "James, I won't hear to that now
'Cause I love you too much"

And he said that "You'll make some good man a good wife, good wife
You'll make some man a good wife gal
Don't pull in single harness all your life, good gal
Don't pull in single harness all your life"

That's what he said, "Don't pull in single harness all your life"

Well a little while later, we come back around there
And things have changed
The flag was hangin' halfway up the flagpole

And everybody was cryin' and standin' 'round sad
And I walked back up to this soldier boy and I said
"Soldier boy, is he, is Mr Garfield?" and he said, "Yeah, he's gone"

Gonna lay him by that cold lonesome branch down low
Mr. Garfield's been shot down low
Oh, Mr. Garfield's been shot down, shot down, shot down
Mr. Garfield's been shot down low

Have you heard the news?
Mr. Garfield's been shot down, shot down, shot down
Mr. Garfield's been shot down low, Lord


The second song that I have for you is called Charles Guiteau - this was first recorded in 1927 by Kelly Harrell and has been more popularly recorded by the Phipps Family.  This song is about the assassin.  Apparently this song has been used for other assassins as well and the details are just changed to fit each one.  I have a video of someone performing the song below as well as the lyrics.



Come all you tender Christians
Wherever you may be
And likewise pay attention
To these few lines from me.
On the thirtieth day of June 
I am condemned to die

For the murder of James A. Garfield
Upon the scaffold high.

My name is Charles Guiteau,
My name I'll never deny,
To leave my aged parents
To sorrow and to die.
But little did I think
While in my youthful bloom
I'd be carried to the scaffold
To meet my fatal doom.

I tried to play off insane
But found it would not do;
The people all against me,
It proved to make no show.
Judge Cox he passed the sentence,
The clerk he wrote it down,
On the thirtieth day of June
To die I was condemned.

My name is Charles Guiteau,
My name I'll never deny,
To leave my aged parents
To sorrow and to die.
But little did I think
While in my youthful bloom
I'd be carried to the scaffold
To meet my fatal doom.

And now I mount the scaffold
To bid you all adieu,
The hangman now is waiting,
It's a quarter after two.
The black cap is o'er my face,
No longer can I see,
But when I'm dead and buried,
Dear Lord, remember me.

My name is Charles Guiteau,
My name I'll never deny,
To leave my aged parents
To sorrow and to die.
But little did I think
While in my youthful bloom
I'd be carried to the scaffold
To meet my fatal doom.






Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court

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