Cry, Little Artillery Man: A Song by Rickey E. Pittman

Some years ago, I learned the story of Jane Perkins, an Irish girl who moved to America from ireland during the Potato Famine. Here’s the short version. She and her brother eventually settled in Danville, VA. She became a school teacher, and when the War Between the States erupted, she joined the Danville Artillery unit with her brother. She fought with the ferociousness of her Celtic ancestors, was captured and sent to Point Lookout Prison in Maryland. They discovered she was a woman when she gave birth to a little boy that her fellow soldiers named, Little Artillery Man.  The Federals took the baby  from her, and she was taken to the Old Capitol Prison in Washington where she was tortured and abused. Finally released, she walked back to Virginia and rejoined her artillery unit. She vanishes from history and our records after the battle of Petersburg, where it’s assumed she died. A sad story, but one I felt needed to be told, so I wrote this song performed in

Cry, Little Artillery Man from SquarePlanIT, LLC on Vimeo.

You can read her complete story in a fine book, Lady Rebel:The Story of Private Jane Perkins, by George and Patti Beil.

Here are the lyrics of the song that I do in the key of D.

Cry, Little Artillery Man

VERSE 1
Lincoln built a prison
He called it Point Lookout
To the barren sand of Maryland,
He sent soldiers of the South.
They fenced us in with water,
And unmarked deadlines,
50,000 came here,
14,000 died.

There’s a thousand ways to break a man,
And the Yankees know them all,
They kept us cold and hungry,
And tried to make us crawl.
They shot us out of meanness,
And starved us out of spite,
We buried our dead in the sand,
And prayed for them at night.

CHORUS
I’m here at Point Lookout
With all these men in gray,
In frostbit feet and ragged clothes,
With the South so far away.
Abandon hope, ye who enter here,
This place that God has cursed,
In this cold hell at Chesapeake Bay
Lincoln’s devils drive the hearse.

VERSE 2
On a hot July morning,
I heard a baby cry,
A crowd of soldiers stood and cheered,
A few men wiped their eyes.
We called him Little Artillery Man
Though there were no cannon there,
We named him for his mama,
Like us, imprisoned there.

Her name was Jane Perkins,
A proud Irish girl
She taught school in Virginia
Till Rebel flags unfurled,
When war came in 61,
Her world changed overnight
She cut her hair, dressed like a man
And signed up for the fight.

CHORUS
So cry, Little Artillery Man,
Wake the men in blue,
Let the Yankees hear your voice,
Make them hear the truth,
Cry, Little Artillery Man,
They’ve taken your mama from you,
Here at Point Lookout,
Babies are prisoners too.

VERSE 3
She fought with Lee for three long years,
With the Danville Artillery,
Till the Yankees took her prisoner,
And sent her here with me.
When you were born, they took her away,
And shackled her in chains.
In Washington, tortured, abused,
She learned there’s many kinds of pain.

When the Yankees were through with her,
Your mama was set free,
She walked back to Virginia,
To the Danville Artillery.
They say she died at Petersburg
Before the war was done.
She fought for the South, and she fought for you,
For you, her only son.

CHORUS
So cry, Little Artillery Man,
Wake the men in blue,
Let the Yankees hear your voice,
Make them hear the truth,
Cry, Little Artillery Man,
They’ve taken your mama from you,
And here at Point Lookout,
Babies are prisoners too.

(End slowly)
Lincoln built a prison
He called it Point Lookout