published Friday, April 20th, 2012

Courter: Battlefield's 'lady in white' featured in new song

Sometime in either September or October, the Nashville-based group Granville Automatic, led by songwriters Elizabeth Elkins and Vanessa Olivarez, will travel to the Chickamauga Battlefield to record a song they wrote that will be used as part of the Civil War Trust project.

The song is based on the legend of the "lady in white," a female ghost that purportedly wanders around Snodgrass Hill, also called Horseshoe Ridge, searching for her dead soldier husband. The pair also started, but has not completed, a song about "green eyes," another famous ghost that haunts the battlefield.

"'Lanterns at Horseshoe Ridge' is written from her perspective," Elkins said. "There are stories of families, some of them in white and supposedly even one woman in her wedding dress, walking around the battlefield after the battle with lanterns looking for loved ones."

The song is a ballad and contains some dialogue between the lady and her husband, Elkins said.

The recordings are the continuation of a project started when the duo earned a one-month residency at Seaside in Florida that is part of that community's Escape To Create program.

The pair is working with the Civil War Trust's project to bring attention to and to help save and preserve battlefields around the country. The songs will appear on the group's album "An Army Without Music: Civil War Stories From Hallowed Ground."

Elkins was born in Virginia into a military family. Both of her parents were born in the South, and she had nine ancestors fight in the Civil War.

Over the years, she has visited Chickamauga Battlefield and has always been interested in ghosts, she said.

"I never saw green eyes, but I remember my first visit there was at dusk, and I remember feeling uneasy. It's always interested me."

Granville Automatic plans to research and write about Utoy Creek, Ga.; Franklin, Tenn.; Salem Church, Va.; Glorieta Pass, N.M.; Perryville, Ky.; Fort Pike, La.; Bentonville, N.C.; Corinth, Miss.; and Manassas, Va.

The group performs old-timey or alt-country music. Elkins said they plan to record with analog equipment at Chickamauga and will be playing acoustic instruments, possibly period pieces if they can find them.

Los Angeles-based videographer Abby Linne is set to film the recordings for a documentary about the project, and the Civil War Trust is planning to release five to eight songs on an EP.

Granville Automatic's name is from a 19th-century typewriter, and the women write primarily about history, war and horses, according to their website. Their first album, "Live From Sun Studio," contained a Civil War-based song called "The Groundskeeper." It's about a ghost seen at Carnton Plantation in Franklin.

Their debut self-titled studio album is due out May 1.

about Barry Courter...

Barry Courter is staff reporter and columnist for the Times Free Press. He started his journalism career at the Chattanooga News-Free Press in 1987. He covers primarily entertainment and events for ChattanoogaNow, as well as feature stories for the Life section. Born in Lafayette, Ind., Barry has lived in Chattanooga since 1968. He graduated from Notre Dame High School and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a degree in broadcast journalism. He previously was ...

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