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In the Shadow of the Gun

lone gun Reb crew

One day a few years back while returning from a Civil War reenactment Capt. Ken commented to Miss Holly that it had been hot enough to roast peanuts in the sun that day and that the only place he could find to rest while on the field was in the shadow of the gun. Quick as a wink Miss Holly up and says, "That would be a great title for a song: In the Shadow of the Gun." We wrote the phrase down in a notebook and for a couple of more years that was all that came of it. In 2006 the Captain was rummaging through that same old notebook and suddenly saw the phrase. He turned it over and over in his mind for the next few days and was then moved to compose this song.

In military parlance a "gun" is a cannon, and an "unlimbered gun" is standing disconnected from the limber used to pull it—as are both the guns pictured above. Though this tune was composed with the War Between the States in mind, the emotions here expressed are universal to all who have gone to war, or have been left behind—emotions known too well by far too many of us.

7. In the Shadow of the Gun

 

Music & Lyrics: Ken Janson

As I sit here leanin' 'gainst the wheel
The gun unlimbered stands.
I wipe the dust from tired eyes
With two dust laden hands.
I take my rest then while I may
Though shade trees be there none,
And try to see what peace there be
In the Shadow of the gun.

'Twas summer back in '61,
Lord, seems so long ago.
I left the farm and friends and folk,
The dear one I loved so..
I left my life of honest work
'neath Alabama's sun
To join the men there gatherin' in
The shadow of the gun.

Long years have come and gone since then,
Since I was young and green.
Some things I done right sicken me.
The elephant I seen.
I killed some Yanks, and chased some more;
Sometimes was me that run.
There's death and pain and glory's shame
In the shadow of the gun.


He said that he'd be back right soon,
He said to marry me.
He went away with shining eyes
The big thing for to see.
I live with fear. My longing heart
Would bear for him a son.
Pray God that he return to me
From the shadow of the gun.

[Alt. verse for solo performance]
I said that I'd be back right soon,
A nd married we would be.
I went away with shining eyes
The big thing for to see.
I live in fear. My longing heart
Would raise with her a son.
Pray God that I may live, not die
In the shadow of the gun.


5) I yearn for hearth and home once more;
I long for dreamless nights.
I'd wish it all away from me,
This hell, this hurt, these sights.
I'd wish me back in Alabam,
I'd wish it all was done.
I'd wish us free, no more to be
In the shadow of the gun.

 

© Ken Janson 2006