It was Palm Sunday, April 3,1865:--- "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" --- Robert E. Lee sent this message to Jefferson Davis:--- "My lines are broken in three places. Richmond must be evacuated tonight."  --- And with that, the guards at Libby Prison walked on into history...and John Whitehead and all the rest were free --- free at last --- free on  this day--- a day in which so many had already given their lives so that others might live for this very day--- this Palm Sunday of April 3, 1865.             

   


 
 
Joan Baez in a song she made famous back in 1971:
 

 

The lyrics tell of the last days of the American Civil War and its aftermath. Confederate soldier Virgil Caine "rode on the Danville train," the main supply line into the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia. General Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia is holding the line at the Siege of Petersburg. As part of the offensive campaign, Union Army General George Stoneman's forces "tore up the track again". The siege lasted from June 1864 to April 1865, when both Petersburg and Richmond fell, and Lee's troops were starving at the end ("We were hungry / Just barely alive"). Virgil relates and mourns the loss of his brother: "He was just eighteen, proud and brave / But a Yankee laid him in his grave."

Ralph J. Gleason (in the review in Rolling Stone (US edition only) of October 1969) explains why this song has such an impact on listeners: "Nothing I have read ... has brought home the overwhelming human sense of history that this song does. The only thing I can relate it to at all is 'The Red Badge of Courage'. It's a remarkable song, the rhythmic structure, the voice of Levon and the bass line with the drum accents and then the heavy close harmony of Levon, Richard and Rick in the theme, make it seem impossible that this isn't some traditional material handed down from father to son straight from that winter of 1865 to today. It has that ring of truth and the whole aura of authenticity."

Robertson claimed that he had the music to the song in his head but had no idea what it was to be about. "At some point [the concept] blurted out to me. Then I went and I did some research and I wrote the lyrics to the song." Robertson continued, "When I first went down South, I remember that a quite common expression would be, 'Well don't worry, the South's gonna rise again.' At one point when I heard it I thought it was kind of a funny statement and then I heard it another time and I was really touched by it. I thought, 'God, because I keep hearing this, there's pain here, there is a sadness here.' In Americana land, it's a kind of a beautiful sadness."

Virgil Caine is my name and I drove on the Danville train
Til Stoneman's cavalry came and tore up the tracks again
In the winter of '65, we were hungry, just barely alive
I took the train to Richmond that fell
It was a time I remember, oh, so well

(CHORUS)
The night they drove old Dixie down
And all the bells were ringin
The night they drove old Dixie down
And all the people were singin'
They went, na na na na na, na na na na
 

Back with my wife in Tenessee
And one day she said to me,
Virgil, quick come see
There goes the Robert E. Lee
Now I don't mind chopping wood
And I don't care if the money's no good
Just take what you need and leave the rest
But they should never have taken the very best

(CHORUS)
 

Like my father before me, I'm a working man
And like my brother before me, I took a rebel stand
Oh, he was just 18, proud and brave
But a yankee laid him in his grave
I swear by the blood below my feet
You can't raise a Caine back up when he's in defeat

(CHORUS)  

 

 --- for it was to be the Number 3 song in that year:---"The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" ...na na na na na, na na na na...


 

 

 

 

And this  is the Libby Prison that John and

 and all the rest once knew back in the 1860's

  along the James River:---

 

A Union POW Survivor on "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down"  ...And all the people were singin' ...They went ...na na na na na, na na na na ..."