Songs and Family Letters Offer Personal Perspective on Civil War

A packet of loving letters exchanged by her great-great-grandparents brings a uniquely personal perspective to Judy Cook’s program of Civil War songs, images and writings. “One Man’s Civil War” will be presented at the Champaign Public Library on Sunday, July 29, from 2 to 3 p.m., in Robeson Pavilion Room A & B. The event, sponsored by the Champaign Public Library Friends, is free and open to the public.

Cook is respected in both the United States and the United Kingdom as an enthusiastic interpreter of traditional songs presented in their purest form, using only her powerful unaccompanied voice. Her program in Champaign will include more than a dozen Civil War tunes, ranging from the humorous to the heartfelt, plus projected images and excerpts from letters written by Cook’s great-great-grandparents, Gilbert and Esther Claflin.

While Cook is a Virginia native who attended Oberlin College, the Claflins had their roots in the Midwest. They were farming in Wisconsin in the 1860s when the war separated them. Esther’s letters affectionately recall earlier times with her “roguish boy.” Gilbert reports from camp that he has been told to “cook till further orders,” an assignment that seems to suit him, as he can “cook a…hog as good as the best of them.”

The library is located at 200 W. Green St. For additional information, contact the library at [email protected] or at 217/403-2070.

Judy Cook’s biography/website: