Civil War Ballads: Hold At All Costs

“Hold At All Costs” is part two in a three-part, 32-minute epic appearing on heavy metal band Iced Earth’s album The Glorious Burden (2004). The three-song serial commemorates the Battle of Gettysburg, July 1-3, 1861. Former Judas Priest frontman Tim “Ripper” Owens provided vocals on the album. The songs appear to be based on either the novel The Killer Angels (1987) by Michael Shaara or the movie Gettysburg (1993), which was also based on the novel.

[Armistead:]
“Just a mile or so away
Lies my dearest friend in this world.
He wears the Blue and I the Gray
And God it hurts me so
The last time we were together
I grabbed his hand and I pledged
If I ever draw my sword on you
May the good lord strike me dead.”

The Union flank’s in trouble
To the Round Top on the double
A bad decision, insubordination
Exposed our line in a dangerous way

The burden lies upon us
Surrender is not an option
We are the flank and if we break
The Union crumbles, We could lose the war!

Down below the carnage
The rebels charging onward
Push the slaughter toward the Peach Orchard.
Through the Wheatfield and Devil’s Den

The valor of the Texans
And Alabama’s best men
They’re unrelenting and devastating
The last full measure of devotion’s clear.

We know what we’re made of.
When up against all odds we hold our line
For the cause that we so love
We must hold at all cost
We know what we’re made of
when our nation needs us we’ll stay the course
for the Union we so love
We must hold at all costs!

Painting by Mort Künstler depicts Colonel Joshua Chamberlain’s charge down Little Round Top.

Wave after wave they’re coming
Their power must be waning!
We’re out of ammo, we can’t fall back, no!
One desperate measure, a means to end

On their next wave we charge them
There is no other option
Disconcert them, force submission
On my command, fix bayonets!

We know what we’re made of.
When up against all odds we hold our line
For the cause that we so love
We must hold at all cost
We know what we’re made of
when our nation needs us we’ll stay the course
for the Union we so love
We must hold at all costs!

We know what we’re made of.
When up against all odds we hold our line
For the cause that we so love
We must hold at all cost
We know what we’re made of
when our nation needs us we’ll stay the course
for the Union we so love
We must hold at all costs!

This song loosely describes the events of July 2, 1863, the second day of the battle, and its title refers to the 20th Maine’s stubborn defense of Little Round Top. The first stanza quotes lines from a scene in the movie Gettysburg (1993), in which Confederate Brigadier General Lewis Armistead, a brigade commander in Major General George Pickett’s division, reminisces about his prewar friendship with Union II Corps commander Major General Winfield Scott Hancock. Both men would be wounded on July 3, a few dozen yards away from each other.

Colonel (later brigadier general) Joshua L. Chamberlain

A bad decision, insubordination
Exposed our line in a dangerous way

On the morning of July 2, Major General George G. Meade, commander of the Army of the Potomac, ordered Major General Daniel E. Sickles’ III Corps to occupy a position south of the II Corps along Cemetery Ridge. Instead, he moved his corps forward onto slightly higher ground, but in doing so he created a dangerous salient and extended his lines to cover more ground than he could effectively defend. When two divisions of Confederate Lt. General James Longstreet’s corps smashed into Sickles’ men, they fought stubbornly but were forced to retreat. A cannonball shattered Sickles’ leg, and he puffed on a cigar as he was carried off the field.

Recognizing the danger, Colonel Strong Vincent of the Union army’s V Corps rushed his brigade to Little Round Top, a hill that commanded the terrain on the Union left flank. They arrived only 10 minutes before the Confederates. At the extreme end of this line was Colonel Joshua L. Chamberlain and his 20th Maine Regiment. His defense of Little Round Top forms the basis for the majority of this song. After withstanding several attacks, and running out of ammunition, Chamberlain ordered a bayonet charge that broke the Confederate offensive and eventually won him the Medal of Honor.

Advertisements

About Michael Kleen

Michael Kleen is an author, raconteur, and freelance columnist. He has a M.A. in History and M.S. in Education. He lives in Rockford, Illinois, where he was the 2013 Republican candidate for mayor.

Posted on July 6, 2017, in History, Music and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: