I was looking up the history of my favorite fiddle tune, Bonaparte’s Retreat (I play it in drop D), and came across this little Southern gem. To wit, three men
were taken prisoner by the Guard-no one knows why, but the area had been ravaged by scalawags and bushwackers, and the populace had suffered numerous raids of family farms by Union troops hunting provisions. The village of Waynesville had been burned two months earlier, and the citizenry was beleaguered and anxious. Cantrell writes: “The group traveled toward Cataloochee Valley and Henry Grooms, clutching his fiddle and bow, was asked by his captors to play a tune. Realizing he was performing for his own firing squad Grooms struck up Bonaparte’s Retreat.” When he finished the three men were lined up against an oak tree and shot, the bodies left where they feel. Henry’s wife gathered the bodies and buried them in a single grove in Sutton Cemetery No. 1 in the Mount Sterling community, the plain headstone reading only “Murdered.”
Now I just need to write the song.