I always assumed your "Cain" was actually "cane", and referred to sugar cane, a major crop and the primary source of sugar besides beets. Sugar Land, Texas is just outside Houston and is the home of Imperial Sugar Co.; they process theirs from cane. Today there are miles and miles of sugar cane growing in Texas, especially in the coastal lowlands along Hwy 77 between Victoria and Corpus Christie; probably entire counties in this sparsely populated region are little more than sugar cane. I don't know the growing range of sugar cane but I feel certain it was a major cash crop for other southern states as well, and quite likely fields and plantation homes would be set afire by union soldiers; thus "cane in defeat" or "cane" could simply be an allusion to the growers or the general population. Someone interested in etymology might apply themselves to see if "cane in defeat" was an established expression of the period, perhaps referring to crops wilted by drought? Cane is somewhat similar to a stocky bamboo in appearance and is a segmented tubular stalk with the sucrose-saturated pithy interior being what is pulped and processed. Once a stalk like that lost strength from malnutrition and wilted or was felled by wind, I doubt any amount of rain or TLC would "raise it back up" again.
And that's about all the explanation I can stomach.(pun intended) I don't much like the song; I've never liked civil war history nor appreciated the way some southern folks cling to the pre-war era as one of glory. Slavery may have been accepted then (even by "northerners" the like of Jefferson and Washington) and many slaves may have been members of defeated tribes, sold by the victors to Europeans and other slave traders (as opposed to being impressed by raiding anglos), but slavery is still a blot on America's heritage IMO. I abhor the confederate-flag wavers and declare them bubbas and thinly-disguised bigots,keeping their prejudice alive in the name of "heritage" or "southern pride."
OK, end of rant. I grew up as a Texas Jewboy in a small town south of Houston, somewhat provincial in its nature. I had ample opportunity to see and hear prejudices freely expressed, even among middle-class kids who knew better. I'm old enough to remember "colored" drinking fountains and separate "colored" waiting areas at Trailways bus stations. It was ugly then and it's distressing to see racial prejudices still in full bloom throughout this country. I really will stop now, this should be in a different thread entirely.
So sing those songs of protest, loud and clear. Carry the torches of freedom with vigor, and may their flames be fanned with the winds of change. The song in question, as a lament for southern losses, is a valid expression of the era, and I realize there are many ballads, usually enjoyable to hear, that immortalize crimes of various sorts. I just don't like the idea that this song might raise sympathy for a cause that was not entirely, if at all, just.
Oh well, if there were only happy shallow songs it would be a dull world. Start flinging overripe fruits and acidic invective if I'm being insensitive to contrary opinions, or just reading too much into this one that's not "really" there to start with.
hasta la vista, paz al mundo michael in a dark mood