Act 2 of Reunion opens in the autumn weeks following McClellan’s bloody and narrow victory at Antietam and President Lincoln’s issuing of the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation in its aftermath. The exuberance after the Union victory has turned to frustration as Lincoln pressures McClellan to pursue Lee’s army, an opportunity he feels could end the war.
In Washington, it’s back to business as usual, as war profiteers make fortunes selling the government everything from blankets to mules and spend them on the good life as if the battlefields don’t exist. The act begins with a trio of music hall comedians performing one of the popular novelty songs that helped the public forget the war and its horrors. But its setting in a butcher shop is an uncomfortable reminder of what soldiers on both sides are enduring.
As the act progresses, the music grows darker, soldiers and public alike confronting the costs of war. The final cruel blow will come at the height of the relief and jubilation over Lee’s surrender and the war’s end, as we live through President Lincoln’s assassination at Ford’s Theatre. In the last scene we see the characters as they move on to their lives after the war, finally coming together in Stephen Foster’s heartfelt plea, “Hard Times Come Again No More.”
Der Deitcher's Dog
Though not about the Civil War, this silly music hall novelty became very popular during the war, underlining the fact that in spite of the carnage of war, life goes on as usual for most civilians.
John Brown's Body
This was the Union soldier’s favorite song, they say—it was mostly civilians who favored “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” Julia Ward Howe’s mystical, quasi-religious poem set to the same melody.
Though written by southerners Marie Ravenal de la Coste and John Hill Hewitt in the heart of the Confederacy, this sentimental song about a mother’s loss was extremely popular on both sides.
Grafted into the Army
This music hall song’s broad humor cloaks the anger felt by the Northern poor, who took up the cry, “The rich man’s war, the poor man’s fight!” as they saw wealthier men buy their way out of the draft.
Weeping Sad and Lonely
This was probably the single best-selling song of the war, accounting for over a million copies of sheet music sold in the north.
Tenting on the Old Camp-Ground
Though it seems maudlin on the surface, the final verses reveal the dark strain of anger felt by soldiers trapped in an endless war of attrition with Lee’s army and no hope in sight of a return to home and the lives they had known before.
Marching Through Georgia
This jaunty march celebrating Sherman’s devastating March to the Sea is still played throughout the world and still reviled in the south.
This famous, lovely, other-worldly ballad by Stephen Foster accompanies a young soldier’s morphine-dulled description of his battlefield amputation and his fevered vision of the angel of mercy who nurses him.
This simple, majestic spiritual, which had been used as a code by fugitives on the Underground Railroad, is sung by a black soldier and a northern freedwoman in the wake of Lincoln’s assassination.
Hard Times, Come Again No More
This heartbreaking Stephen Foster masterpiece of 1855 is sung by the entire company as the show’s finale.