Monday, May 31, 2010

Caroline's Spine: Sullivan

It is Memorial Day in the United States - a day that started as a day of remembrance of the Civil War dead in 1868 by the Grand Army of the Republic. Originally called Decoration Day, following World War I the holiday came to honor all war dead for our country. I was in a quandary of what song to play for today, thinking that a Civil War related song would be fitting, but had difficulty in determining which would be appropriate and which could be considered a cover.

One of my Civil War Ancestors: John C. Brakeall 
who served in the 3rd Maryland Potomac Home Brigade.
Antioch Christian Church Cemetery in Fulton County, PA.

Secondly, it needed to be a song the dealt with the loss experienced by families and the country in general regarding the sacrificial aspect of war itself. Third, it needed to be something that wasn’t of a novelty nature. Finally, a song that met most of these categories was Caroline’s Spine’s song “Sullivan” about the loss of the five Sullivan brothers during World War II. It fit most if not all the qualifications I was seeking. The only problem was that most of the covers were poorly done, so I utilized a cover of the song by the original artist. Caroline’s Spine recorded an acoustic version of “Sullivan” as part of a radio broadcast.

Original Version by Caroline’s Spine

There are a couple of points of contention about this song that are not historically correct. The Sullivan brothers served aboard a light cruiser the USS Juneau and not a battleship. The family was not informed by telegraph, but was visited personally by a commissioned officer, a non-commissioned officer, and a physician.

Although Thomas Sullivan suffered with the loss of his sons until his 1965 death, Mrs. Sullivan didn’t “crack up”; but rather, she and her husband worked through their grief by throwing themselves into the war effort by visiting shipyards and raising war bonds. Mrs. Sullivan christened the first ship named the USS Sullivans in 1943. A second destroyer bearing the brothers’ name was christened in 1995 by the granddaughter of Al Sullivan, one of the five original brothers.

Photo I took at the Vietnam Wall Memorial - July 2004.

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