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December 26, 2012

Music project aims to keep Civil War stories fresh


"We want to keep those real personal stories alive," Elkins said.

Elkins and Olivarez perform across the country and divide their time between Nashville and Atlanta. The Georgia city inspired their song "Copenhill," about the Battle of Atlanta when the city was burned by Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman's Union army.

The song recalls how Sherman watched from Copenhill, the site of the present-day Jimmy Carter Library and Museum, as flames lit the sky over Atlanta. Thousands died on ground now covered by a commuter train station in Atlanta's Inman Park neighborhood.

The project gained momentum in January 2012, when Elkins and Olivarez spent time at the Escape To Create artist residency program in Seaside, Fla. They've also developed a multi-media presentation for schools.

The band is named after a rare, vintage typewriter designed by Bernard Granville that dates to the 1890s, when it was produced by the Mossberg & Granville Manufacturing Co. in Providence, R.I. The company's typewriter production came to a halt in 1900 due to a machinist union strike, and it declared bankruptcy shortly after that.

Musicians have played an important role in raising awareness of Civil War history, said Mary Koik, a spokeswoman at the Civil War Trust.

Country music star Trace Adkins ended up joining the nonprofit's board of trustees after calling the organization and speaking to a receptionist a few years ago, Koik said.

"He just called and said 'Hi, my name is Trace Adkins and I'm a country and western singer," Koik said. "He said 'I think what you guys do is great, how can I get involved?'"

Adkins has ancestors who fought in the war, Koik said. Elkins also has relatives who fought, and their stories have been passed down through generations of her family, she said. Those personal accounts, and a desire to save battlefields from being forgotten or lost to development, fuel Granville Automatic's songs, Elkins said.

"To me, it's so important that these stories get carried on," she said.

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