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Lyr Req: Last Great Charge/Fight

DigiTrad:
CUSTER'S LAST CHARGE
THE LAST FIERCE CHARGE


Related threads:
Lyr Req: Two Soldiers (as sung by Bob Dylan) (15)
Lyr Add: Custer's Last Charge 2 (3)
Lyr Req: Two Soldiers (18)
Lyr Req: Two Soldiers / Last Fierce Charge (5)


tiompanista 26 Aug 07 - 10:32 PM
Peace 28 Aug 07 - 01:25 AM
tiompanista 28 Aug 07 - 02:08 PM
Peace 28 Aug 07 - 03:31 PM
dick greenhaus 28 Aug 07 - 04:13 PM
Peace 28 Aug 07 - 04:42 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 28 Aug 07 - 06:13 PM
Peace 28 Aug 07 - 06:33 PM
GUEST,Lighter 28 Aug 07 - 06:48 PM
Peace 28 Aug 07 - 07:02 PM
Peace 28 Aug 07 - 07:09 PM
Jim Dixon 28 Aug 07 - 07:22 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 28 Aug 07 - 07:37 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 28 Aug 07 - 08:03 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 28 Aug 07 - 10:14 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 28 Aug 07 - 10:44 PM
Peace 28 Aug 07 - 11:41 PM
Peace 29 Aug 07 - 12:04 AM
Q (Frank Staplin) 29 Aug 07 - 12:31 AM
Peace 29 Aug 07 - 12:37 AM
Peace 29 Aug 07 - 12:38 AM
Q (Frank Staplin) 29 Aug 07 - 12:46 AM
Peace 29 Aug 07 - 12:57 AM
Jim Dixon 29 Aug 07 - 10:31 AM
Jim Dixon 29 Aug 07 - 10:48 AM
Peace 29 Aug 07 - 10:52 AM
Q (Frank Staplin) 29 Aug 07 - 02:07 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 29 Aug 07 - 02:09 PM
Peace 29 Aug 07 - 04:34 PM
Lighter 30 Aug 07 - 05:47 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 30 Aug 07 - 06:22 PM
Lighter 30 Aug 07 - 11:06 PM
tiompanista 30 Nov 07 - 06:12 PM
Jim Dixon 17 Dec 08 - 08:57 AM
Artful Codger 08 May 09 - 08:33 AM
Joe Offer 08 May 09 - 05:52 PM
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Subject: Last Great Charge/Fight
From: tiompanista
Date: 26 Aug 07 - 10:32 PM

Dear Friends -
First, look at http://www.mudcat.org/@displaysong.cfm?SongID=6575

This is called "The Last Fierce Charge." Listen to the tune. I heard an abbreviated version (only, what, ten verses!) by Hazel Dickens and Alice Gerrard in the 'Seventies, on their wonderful eponymous LP, with a different tune. Relying on a twenty-year old memory, they cited the Baltimore Sun Newspaper after the Battle of Fredricksburg as the origin of the lyrics. I fell in love with the song. I subsequently discovered a version, different from the one Hazel and Alice had, and different from the Mudcat version, with a different tune and lyrics (but similar lyrics), in a slim volume by Canadian folklorist Helen Creighton, which I discovered in Bill Berg's bathroom in, I think maybe 1983. (Mountain Made Music, which was then in Nashville, Indiana.) Creighton--once again relying on old memory--attributed its origins to the Crimean War, saying, if I remember correctly that she collected the song in Nova Scotia.

Boy-oh-boy there's some great scholarship getting published on our great folk songs (See Laws A17). See, for example, Isaac's Storm by Erik Larson (Vintage Books, ISBN 0-375-70827-8) about the Galveston Flood of 1900 (see http://www.mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=10406#71919)
and Wolf of the Deep, by Stephen Fox (Knopf ISBN 978-1-4000-4429-0) about the Alabama privateer in the Civil War
see: http://www.mudcat.org/@displaysong.cfm?SongID=5033

I'd appreciate any suggestions, scholarship, discoveries about Two Soldiers, AKA Last Great Fight/Charge.
If you cc djames@tiompanalley and tell me you've a posting on Mudcat on this subject that would be even more wonderful.

Tell me you've posted!

Thanks
David James (tiompanista)


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Subject: RE: Last Great Charge/Fight
From: Peace
Date: 28 Aug 07 - 01:25 AM

To start the ball rolling . . . .
Lyrics copy-pasted from the link cited above.
-Joe Offer-

Two Soldiers

Lyrics: Traditional
Music: Traditional

A song from the American Civil War played by Jerry Garcia with David Grisman.

He was just a blue-eyed Boston boy
His voice was low with pain
I'll do your bidding comrade mine
If I ride back again
But if you ride back and I am left
You do as much for me
Mother, you know, must hear the news
So write to her tenderly

She's waiting at home like a patient saint
Her fond face pale with woe
Her heart will be broken when I am gone
I'll see her soon I know
Just then the order came to charge
For an instant hand touched hand
They said "aye" and away they rode
That brave and devoted band

Straight was the track to the top of the hill
The rebels they shot and shelled
Ploughed furoughs of death through the toiling ranks
And guarded them as they fell
There soon came a horrible dying yell
From heights they could not gain
And those that doom and death had spared
Rode slowly down again

But among the dead that were left on the hill
Was the boy with the curly hair
The tall dark man that rode by his side
Lay dead beside him there
There's no one to write to the blue-eyed girl
The words her lover had said
Mom, you know, awaits the news
She'll only know he's dead
Jerry Garcia Recordings
     Date Album Recorded By
     31 Oct 1987 Pure Jerry 2: Lunt-Fontanne Jerry Garcia Band
     Spring 1991 Garcia/Grisman Garcia/Grisman
Origins
"Two Soldiers" is a traditional song from the American Civil War, collected in Kentucky and Arkansas. It seems likely that Jerry Garcia learned it from a 1964 Mike Seeger recording (it was also recorded in 1973 by Hazel Dickens and Alice Gerard--Mike Seeger's wife). Jerry Garcia in turn taught it to Bob Dylan (who recoreded it on "World Gone Wrong" in 1991).

The song derives from a longer ballad, often titled "The Last Fierce Charge" (though that is normally set to a different tune). The lyrics fill in the background to the truncated version of the story that Jerry Garcia sang:
'Twas just before the last fierce charge
Two soldiers drew their rein
With a touch of hands, and parting words
That they might not meet again

One had mild blue eyes and curly hair
Just nineteen years, you know
With rosy cheeks and childish brow
He was only a boy, you know

The other was tall, dark, daring, and proud
Whose faith in this world was dim
He only trusted most in them
Who were all the world to him

They'd rode together for many a day
And marched for many a mile
But ne'er until now had they met a foe
With a peaceful common smile

They looked in each other's eyes
In the face of an awful doom
And the tall dark man was the first to speak
Saying, "Charlie, my time has come"

"We'll ride together into the fight
But you'll ride back alone
Then promise a little more trouble to take
When I am dead and gone"

"I have a face upon my breast
I'll wear it into the fight
With deep blue eyes and goiden hair
A face like morning light"

"Like morning light 'twas love to me
To brighten my lonely life
And little I've cared for the flowers of this world
Since she promised to be my wife"

"Write to her, Charlie, when I'm gone
Send back this fair young face
Write and tell her how I died
And where is my resting place"

"Tell her I will meet her on the border line
Of earth and heaven between
I know she'll meet me over there
And it won't be long, I ween"

There were tears in the eyes of the blue-eyed boy
His voice was filled with pain
"I'll do my comrade's parting wish
If I ride home again"

"But if you ride back and I am left
Will you do as much for me?
For I have a mother to hear the news
Write to her tenderly"

"One after another she has lost
She has buried all her husband's sons
And I was the last to my country's call
But she cheeredly sent me on"

"She is waiting at home like a praying saint
Her fair face filled with woe
'Twill break her heart when she hears I'm dead
I'll meet her soon, I know"

Just then there came an order to charge
An instant hands touched hands
Eyes answered eyes, and away they dashed
That bold devoted band

They rode together to the brow of the hill
Where the soldiers were stationed well
Past clouds and drifts of burning shots
That cheered them as they fell

But they had to turn from the awful fight
That fight they could not gain
And all those whom death had spared
Rode quietly back again

But among those dying upon the field
Lay the boy with the curly hair
And the tall, dark man that rode by his side
Lay dying by him there

There is no one to write to that blue-eyed girl
Those words her lover said
And the mother that's waiting at home for her son
Will learn that he is dead

She ne'er will know his last fond words
To cheer her in her pain
Until she crosses the river of death
And stands by his side again
From Ballads and Songs, Belden (with minor corrections). Collected by Ruth Sedwick in 1912 with the notation that it was "learned twenty-seven years ago in the Taney County hills."

Futher Information
For more information on recordings see Matt Schofield's Grateful Dead Family Discography
For sheet music, see:
          Jerry Garcia Songbook (vocal line and chords)


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Subject: RE: Last Great Charge/Fight
From: tiompanista
Date: 28 Aug 07 - 02:08 PM

Thanks, Peace! In sum so far:

"Two Soldiers" is a traditional song from the American Civil War, collected in Kentucky and Arkansas. It seems likely that Jerry Garcia learned it from a 1964 Mike Seeger recording (it was also recorded in 1973 by Hazel Dickens and Alice Gerard--Mike Seeger's wife).

From Ballads and Songs, Belden (with minor corrections). Collected by Ruth Sedwick in 1912 with the notation that it was "learned twenty-seven years ago in the Taney County hills."

So now we've Kentucky, Tennessee and Missouri (Taney County); Civil War origin and 1885 Missouri provenances. I recall Creighton citing the Crimean War.


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Subject: RE: Last Great Charge/Fight
From: Peace
Date: 28 Aug 07 - 03:31 PM

We need Q and Jim Dixon in on this. I'll message them about this thread, David.


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Subject: RE: Last Great Charge/Fight
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 28 Aug 07 - 04:13 PM

There's a nice version (words and a recording) at http://www.lyon.edu/wolfcollection/songs/songs.html

It's been transposed to Custer's Last Charge.
Lyrics copy-pasted from the link cited above.
-Joe Offer-

CUSTER'S LAST CHARGE
(THE LAST FIERCE CHARGE)
Sung by: J. Don Stark
Recorded in Miller, AR, 6/23/53

Click here to listen to the original recording

Just before Custer's last fierce charge,
Two soldiers drew their rein
With a parting look and a touch of their hands;
They might never meet again.
One had blue eyes and curly hair;
He was nineteen but a month ago--
Had red on his cheeks and down on his chin--
He was only a boy, you know.

The other was taller, stern, and proud;
His faith in this world were dim.
He only trusted the more in her
Who was all this world to him.
They'd rode together for many a day,
Had marched for many a mile.
They'd always met their foe 'til now
With a calm and a hopeful smile.

But now they looked in each other's face
With a gaze of ghostly gloom.
The tall dark man was the first to speak;
Says, "Charles, my hour has come,
But we will ride up the hill together,
And you will ride back alone.
Oh, promise me, Charles, some trouble to take
For me when I am gone.

"Upon my breast you'll find her face--
I'll wear it to the fight--
With dark blue eyes and curly hair.
Like thine, it is morning light.
This morning light is gladness to me
In this hour of lonely gloom,
But little cared I for the frown of fate
When she promised to be my own.

"Oh, write to her, Charles, when I am gone;
Send back this fair, fond face,
And tell her gently how I died
And where is my resting place.
Tell her that I will wait for her
In the borderland between
Her heaven and earth until she comes.
It won't be long, I ween."

The blue eyes of the boy were filled with tears;
His voice grew low with pain.
"I'll do your bidding, comrade dear,
If I ride back again.
But if you ride back and I'm left there,
You'll do as much for me.
I've a mother at home must hear the news.
Oh, write to her tenderly.

"She's praying at home like a weeping saint,
Her fond face wet with tears.
Her heart will be broken when she hears I am dead.
I'll see her no more, I fear.
Among the ones she's loved so well,
She's buried a husband and son,
And I was the last to my country's call,
So she cheered and sent me on."

Just then the order came to charge;
An instant hand touched hand.
They answered it, and on they went,
This brave, devoted band.
And on they went to the top of the hill,
Where rebels with shot and shell
And rifle fire poured into their ranks
And jarred them as they fell.

But yet they reached that night the height;
The height was so hard to win.
And those that death had kindly spared,
Rode slowly back again.
But among the ones that were left behind
Was the boy with the curly hair,
And the dark tall man that rode by his side
In death lay sleeping there.

No one to tell the blue-eyed girl
The words that her lover'd said,
Or the mother at home like a weeping saint
When she heard that her boy was dead.
May no more sorrow come to her,
But soothe and soften her pain,
Until she crosses the river of death,
And stands by his side again.

Also found in Randolph, Vol. II, #235, "That Last Fierce Fight"; Brown, Vol. II, #231, "The Last Fierce Charge"; Belden, p. 383, "The Last Fierce Charge."

All Songs Recorded by John Quincy Wolf, Jr., unless otherwise noted

The John Quincy Wolf Folklore Collection


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Subject: RE: Last Great Charge/Fight
From: Peace
Date: 28 Aug 07 - 04:42 PM

Here's a hotlink to Dick's link: http://www.lyon.edu/wolfcollection/songs/songs.html

(Great to meet you in person, Dick. It was one of a few really neat memories I carried away from Ormstown.)


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Subject: RE: Last Great Charge/Fight
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 28 Aug 07 - 06:13 PM

Collectons of this song are from all over the American states and Canada.
Most collectors say it came out of the American Civil War. American Memory has a version from Cowell; they attribute the song to the Civil War. Peacock (Songs of the Newfoundland Outports) has it as "The Last Great Charge," and also assigns it to the American Civil War.
The Traditional Ballads Index has a list of versions and more examples have been found since then.

Such widespread songs usually started with a song sheet, or sheet music, thus an origin should be found; so far none has surfaced for this poem.
The Damon-Pythias type story is popular, and it is not surprising that the song spread.
No 19th century precursor has been found; although seemingly based on the Civil War. Perhaps a newspaper was the source, but a 1912 printing in the Boston Globe is the earliest so far. Belden found it in Missouri in 1903, the earliest so far.


Its use for incidents in the Napoleonic Wars, the Crimeam War, and the Indian Wars all seem to be late variants.


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Subject: RE: Last Great Charge/Fight
From: Peace
Date: 28 Aug 07 - 06:33 PM

"The Two Soldiers" was recorded by Carl T Sprague somewhere between 1925 and 1929.


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Subject: RE: Last Great Charge/Fight
From: GUEST,Lighter
Date: 28 Aug 07 - 06:48 PM

The poem appeared anonymously under the title "At Fredericksburg" on the front page of _The Pittsfield_ (Massachusetts) _Sun_, June 25, 1863.


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Subject: ADD: At Fredericksburg (poem)
From: Peace
Date: 28 Aug 07 - 07:02 PM

Thanks, Lighter. Linked here is the Harper's Weekly page with the poem whereon it is followed by the initials LCM. Scroll down jus' a bit.

http://www.sonofthesouth.net/leefoundation/civil-war/1863/february/battle-fredericksburg-poem.htm


HARPER'S WEEKLY.
[FEBRUARY 7, 1863.
86
AT FREDERICKSBURG.
(Attributed to L.C.M.)

IT was just before the last fierce charge,
When two soldiers drew their rein,
For a parting word and a touch of hands—
They might never meet again.

One had blue eyes and clustering curls—
Nineteen but a month ago
Down on his chin, red on his cheek:
He was only a boy, you know.

The other was dark, and stern, and proud;
If his faith in the world was dim,
He only trusted the more in those
Who were all the world to him.

They had ridden together in many a raid,
They had marched for many a mile,
And ever till now they had met the foe
With a calm and hopeful smile.

But now they looked in each other's eyes
With an awful ghastly gloom,
And the tall dark man was the first to speak:
"Charlie, my hour has come.

"We shall ride together up the hill,
And you will ride back alone;
Promise a little trouble to take
For me when I am gone.

"You will find a face upon my breast—
I shall wear it into the fight
With soft blue eyes, and sunny curls,
And a smile like morning light.

"Like morning light was her love to me;
It gladdened a lonely life,
And little I cared for the frowns of fate
When she promised to be my wife.

"Write to her, Charlie, when I am gone,
And send back the fair, fond face;
Tell her tenderly how I died,
And where is my resting-place.

"Tell her my soul will wait for hers,
In the border-land between
The earth and heaven, until she comes:
It will not be long, I ween."

Tears dimmed the blue eyes of the boy—
His voice was low with pain:
"I will do your bidding, comrade mine,
If I ride back again.

"But if you come back, and I am dead,
You must do as much for me:
My mother at home must hear the news—
Oh, write to her tenderly.

"One after another those she loved
She has buried, husband and son;
I was the last. When my country called,
She kissed me and sent me on.

"She has prayed at home, like a waiting saint,
With her fond face white with woe:
Her heart will be broken when I am gone:
I shall see her soon, I know."

Just then the order came to charge—
For an instant hand touched hand,
Eye answered eye; then on they rushed,
That brave, devoted band.

Straight they went toward the crest of the hill.
And the rebels with shot and shell
Plowed rifts of death through their toiling ranks,
And jeered them as they fell.

They turned with a horrible dying yell
From the heights they could not gain,
And the few whom death and doom had spared
Went slowly back again.

But among the dead whom they left behind
Was the boy with his curling hair,
And the stern dark man who marched by his side
Lay dead beside him there.

There is no one to write to the blue-eyed girl
The words that her lover said;
And the mother who waits for her boy at home
Will but hear that he is dead,

And never can know the last fond thought
That sought to soften her pain,
Until she crosses the River of Death,
And stands by his side again.

L. C. M.


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Subject: RE: Last Great Charge/Fight
From: Peace
Date: 28 Aug 07 - 07:09 PM

I wonder if LCM refers to Louise Chandler Moulton? Any thoughts on that?


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Subject: RE: Last Great Charge/Fight
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 28 Aug 07 - 07:22 PM

I found some potentially useful information with Google Book Search:

"Ozark Folksongs," by Vance Randolph, contains a version called THAT LAST FIERCE FIGHT, with the first line, "'Twas just before the last fierce fight."

"Country Music Records : a discography, 1921-1942," by Tony Russell et al., 2004, lists a song called JUST BEFORE THE LAST FIERCE CHARGE," recorded by Green Bailey.

There is a text called THE TWO SOLDIERS contained in "Covered Wagon Days" by by Arthur Jerome Dickson, first published in 1929, based on a diary written in 1864. Click here to view.

There is a text called AT FREDERICKSBURG contained in "My Diary : The Lost Civil War Diaries : The Diaries of Corporal Timothy J. Regan" 2003. Click here to view.


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Subject: RE: Last Great Charge/Fight
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 28 Aug 07 - 07:37 PM

Thanks Lighter and Peace, it had to be out there somewhere.


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Subject: RE: Last Great Charge/Fight
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 28 Aug 07 - 08:03 PM

"At Fredericksburg" is in year 1862 of the Timothy J. Regan diaries, linked by Jim Dixon. Now who has this book? The author is not mentioned at the beginning of the poem.
It could be by Moulton, in 1863 she did write a poem connected to the Civil War but it wasn't At Fredericksburg."


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Subject: RE: Last Great Charge/Fight
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 28 Aug 07 - 10:14 PM

Who can visit "Muse"? or subscribes to "Civil War History"? Found in google-

"John Boyle O'Reilly's poem "At Fredericksburg- Dec. 13, 1862. "O'Reilly, an Irish nationalist poet and Fenian, read the work in public at least as early as ...."
"Oh, God, What a Pity!" The Irish Brigade at Fredericksburg and the Creation of Myth, Craig. A. Warren. Civil War History, vol. 47, no. 3, Sept. 2001, pp. 193-221. The Kent State University Press.

muse.jhu.edu/journals/cwh/v047/47.3warren.pdf


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Subject: RE: Last Great Charge/Fight
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 28 Aug 07 - 10:44 PM

More on John Boyle O'Reilly's authorship of the poem, "At Fredericksburg."
Civil War Poetry

"The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes." Volume XVI. Early National Literature, Part II; Later National Literature, Part I.
II. Poets of the Civil War I. Paragraph 7. The Earliest Fighting in Virginia.

Scroll down. ........
"The advance of Lee to Antietam, his repulse there, and his retreat found a record in Whittier's "Barbara Frietchie," Melville's "The Victor of Antietam," Boker's "The Crossing at Fredericksburg," John Boyle O'Reilly's "At Fredericksburg," and Aldrich's exquisite sonnets "Fredericksburg" and "By the Potomac.""


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Subject: RE: Last Great Charge/Fight
From: Peace
Date: 28 Aug 07 - 11:41 PM

He'd have been 18 years old at the time, and his career as a writer wasn't reflected in the literature until 1873 when his first work was published.


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Subject: RE: Last Great Charge/Fight
From: Peace
Date: 29 Aug 07 - 12:04 AM

That is, he was born in 1844.


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Subject: RE: Last Great Charge/Fight
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 29 Aug 07 - 12:31 AM

Something seems screwy.
He didn't escape to the U. S. until 1869, and you are right, his "Southern Seas" poems appeared in 1873. This, of course, was a book; he could have submitted poems to the literary magazines which were very popular.
I have not seen his biography by Evans, "Fanatic Heart."

It seems impossible that the poem appeared in 1862, if it indeed was by O'Reilly. We need that article by Warren in Civil War History, vol. 47, where the author tells when the poem appeared. The date also could be in the Cambridge poetry volumes; I believe that there are reference sections to the poems.

Press on!


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Subject: RE: Last Great Charge/Fight
From: Peace
Date: 29 Aug 07 - 12:37 AM

I was hoping you'd make that connection, Q. (Foolish of me to wonder if you would.) I don't think O'Reilly is the author, and since we have 'evidence' it was published in at least two sources, well, yer right. Something doesn't add up. As you say, we'll press on.


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Subject: RE: Last Great Charge/Fight
From: Peace
Date: 29 Aug 07 - 12:38 AM

" . . . in at leats two sources IN 1862 . . . ."


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Subject: RE: Last Great Charge/Fight
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 29 Aug 07 - 12:46 AM

Would like to know more about Moulton-
If he didn't write it, then the Cambridge series is wrong. That series should be available in major libraries.


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Subject: RE: Last Great Charge/Fight
From: Peace
Date: 29 Aug 07 - 12:57 AM

I didn't find any mention of her as being the author, Q. Just those initials at the bottom of the Harper's page. Strange. Yet her publishing output seemed to stop in 1859 and come back in 1873. In scholarly words, "What a pickle!"


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Subject: ADD: At Fredericksburg (poem by J.B. O'Reilly)
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 29 Aug 07 - 10:31 AM

John Boyle O'Reilly's poem AT FREDERICKSBURG is not the same poem.

O'Reilly's poem is here.

AT FREDERICKSBURG.—DEC. 13, 1862.
(John Boyle O'Reilly)

GOD send us peace, and keep red strife away ;
But should it come, God send us men and steel!
The land is dead that dare not face the day
When foreign danger threats the common weal.

Defenders strong are they that homes defend ;
From ready arms the spoiler keeps afar.
Well blest the country that has sons to lend
From trades of peace to learn the trade of war.

Thrice blest the nation that has every son
A soldier, ready for the warning sound ;
Who marches homeward when the fight is done,
To swing the hammer and to till the ground.

Call back that morning, with its lurid light,
When through our land the awful war-bell tolled ;
When lips were mute, and women's faces white
As the pale cloud that out from Sumter rolled.

Call back that morn : an instant all were dumb,
As if the shot had struck the Nation's life;
Then cleared the smoke, and rolled the calling drum,
And men streamed in to meet the coming strife.

They closed the ledger and they stilled the loom,
The plow left rusting in the prairie farm ;
They saw but " Union" in the gathering gloom ;
The tearless women helped the men to arm ;

Brigades from towns—each village sent its band :
German and Irish—every race and faith ;
There was no question then of native land,
But—love the Flag and follow it to death.

No need to tell their tale: through every age
The splendid story shall be sung and said ;
But let me draw one picture from the page—
For words of song embalm the hero dead.

The smooth hill is bare, and the cannons are planted,
Like Gorgon fates shading its terrible brow;
The word has been passed that the stormers are wanted,
And Burnside's battalions are mustering now.

The armies stand by to behold the dread meeting;
The work must be done by a desperate few ;
The black-mouthed guns on the height give them greeting—
From gun-mouth to plain every grass blade in view.

Strong earthworks are there, and the rifles behind them
Are Georgia militia—an Irish brigade—
Their caps have green badges, as if to remind them
Of all the brave record their country has made.

The stormers go forward—the Federals cheer them ;
They breast the smooth hillside—the black mouths are dumb;
The riflemen lie in the works till they near them,
And cover the stormers as upward they come.

Was ever a death-march so grand and so solemn ?
At last, the dark summit with flame is enlined ;
The great guns belch doom on the sacrificed column,
That reels from the height, leaving hundreds behind.

The armies are hushed—there is no cause for cheering :
The fall of brave men to brave men is a pain.
Again come the stormers ! and as they are nearing
The flame-sheeted rifle-lines, reel back again.

And so till full noon come the Federal masses—
Flung back from the height, as the cliff flings a wave ;
Brigade on brigade to the death-struggle passes,
No wavering rank till it steps on the grave.

Then comes a brief lull, and the smoke-pall is lifted,
The green of the hillside no longer is seen ;
The dead soldiers lie as the sea-weed is drifted,
The earthworks still held by the badges of green.

Have they quailed ? is the word. No: again they are forming—
Again comes a column to death and defeat!
What is it in these who shall now do the storming
That makes every Georgian spring to his feet ?

" O God ! what a pity!" they cry in their cover,
As rifles are readied and bayonets made tight;
"'Tis Meagher and his fellows! their caps have green clover;
'Tis Greek to Greek now for the rest of the fight! "

Twelve hundred the column, their rent flag before them,
With Meagher at their head, they have dashed at the hill!
Their foemen are proud of the country that bore them ;
But, Irish in love, they are enemies still.

Out rings the fierce word, " Let them have it! " the rifles
Are emptied point-blank in the hearts of the foe :
It is green against green, but a principle stifles
The Irishman's love in the Georgian's blow.
The column has reeled, but it is not defeated ;
In front of the guns they re-form and attack ;
Six times they have done it, and six times retreated ;
Twelve hundred they came, and two hundred go back.

Two hundred go back with the chivalrous story ;
The wild day is closed in the night's solemn shroud ;
A thousand lie dead, but their death was a glory
That calls not for tears—the Green Badges are proud !

Bright honor be theirs who for honor were fearless,
AVho charged for their flag to the grim cannon's mouth ;
And honor to them who were true, though not tearless,—
Who bravely that day kept the cause of the South.

The quarrel is done—God avert such another;
The lesson it brought we should evermore heed :
Who loveth the Flag is a man and a brother,
No matter what birth or what race or what creed.


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Subject: RE: Last Great Charge/Fight
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 29 Aug 07 - 10:48 AM

Google Book Search has several books by Louise Chandler Moulton, as well as anthologies that contain her poems.

A cursory inspection didn't turn up anything promising.


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Subject: RE: Last Great Charge/Fight
From: Peace
Date: 29 Aug 07 - 10:52 AM

Way ta go, Jim.

I hope tomorrow that I can do a re-cap of what we have here. It's beginning to get confusing.


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Subject: RE: Last Great Charge/Fight
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 29 Aug 07 - 02:07 PM

Dec. 13, 1862 is when the Battle of Fredericksburg was fought. The poem would have been written later.
The article by Warren, "Oh, What a Pity," in the journal, Civil War History, as cited above, may help. And that poem in the 1863 Pittsfield, Mass. paper- is it the same poem?. It is difficult and expensive to find information without university research facilities!

I believe Jim Dixon is correct- These seem to be lines from O'Reilly's poem:

AT FREDERIKSBURG, DECEMBER 13, 1862

God send us peace, and keep red strife away, But
should it come, God send us men ans steel! The land
is dead that dare not face the day When foreign
danger threats the common weal.

Defenders strong are they that homes defend;
From ready arms the spoiler keeps afar.
Well blest the country that has sons to lend
From trades of peace to learn the trade of war.

http://www.traditionalmusic.co.uk/gt-irish-songs-lyrics/golden-treasury-of-irish-songs2%20-%200331,htm

Probably written after O'Reilly became a friend of Walt Whitman's and absorbed his Civil War poems.

Digression-
Remarks by John F. Kennedy, 1957, speaking of Soviet actions in Hungary:
"I know of few men in our land, and none in this room, who would ignore these tyrannies as far-off troubles of no concern to us here at home. For we realize, as John Boyle O'Reilly once wrote, that:

The world is large, when its weary leagues
Two loving hearts divide;
But the world is small, when your enemy
Is loose on the other side."
............
Kennedy goes on to speak of the "Wild Geese,"- the officers and soldiers forced to flee their native Ireland after the Battle of the Boyne; he speaks of the Irish who broke the ranks of the English at Fontenoy, who fought with the Spanish and turned the tide of battle against the Germans at Melazzo, "and fighting for the American Union Army, they bore the brunt of the slaughter at Fredericksburg"
(It should be mentioned that the Army of the Confederacy also had many Irish immigrant soldiers).


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Subject: RE: Last Great Charge/Fight
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 29 Aug 07 - 02:09 PM

Fredericksburg, Fredericksburg... Not enough fingers.


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Subject: RE: Last Great Charge/Fight
From: Peace
Date: 29 Aug 07 - 04:34 PM

OK. So are we dealing with TWO John Boyle O'Reillys or variant poems/songs?


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Subject: RE: Last Great Charge/Fight
From: Lighter
Date: 30 Aug 07 - 05:47 PM

Two entirely different poems. Warren's article quotes the O'Reilly poem indicated above by Jim Dixon and says nothing about the other "At Fredericksburg." Warren writes that O'Reilly's poem is known to have existed "as least as early as October 1875," which suggests that it was most likely written - or at least put into final form - long after the war.

"The Last Fierce Charge," as we should call the song for convenience, appears to be little known outside the world of traditional song.

Except for its lack of the initials "L.C.M.," the text in the Pittsfield Sun is word-for-word identical with that in Harper's Weekly.


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Subject: RE: Last Great Charge/Fight
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 30 Aug 07 - 06:22 PM

As noted above, O'Reilly's poem was titled "At Fredericksburg, December 13, 1862"- I think the verses I quoted are a fragment.
The ca. 1875 date mentioned by Lighter is reasonable as this was the time that O'Reilly was a close friend of Walt Whitman's, and Whitman was writing some poetry about the Civil War.

That printing in the Pittsfield newspaper may have been the first, followed by the copy in Harper's. The latter, in the article linked by Peace, would have insured rather wide circulation of the poem.


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Subject: RE: Last Great Charge/Fight
From: Lighter
Date: 30 Aug 07 - 11:06 PM

The website linked by Jim Dixon dates the Harper's Weekly text (by "L.C.M.") to "Feb. 7, 1863," making it earlier by about four months than its appearance in teh Pittsfield Sun.

A quick look at Timothy Regan's recently published Diary, also linked by Jim, makes it clear that Regan (or his editors) interpolated later material, so that a date of "December, 1862" for Regan's text of the poem is probably insupportable. Evidence: The poem "A Child's Questions," by Horatio Alger, Jr., appears at the end of May, 1861; but it did not see print until 1863.


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Subject: RE: Last Great Charge/Fight
From: tiompanista
Date: 30 Nov 07 - 06:12 PM

Beloved Friends

Such wonderful scholarship. That's why I posted to this site. I'm not to terribly far from Fort Wayne, IN where the library is said to have a copy of "My Diary : The Lost Civil War Diaries : The Diaries of Corporal Timothy J. Regan"

It's going to have to go on the back burner for a while, but I DO have a friend in Fort Wayne . . .

Thanks all.


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Subject: Lyr Add: AT FREDERICKSBURG (Harper's Weekly, 1863)
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 17 Dec 08 - 08:57 AM

From Harper's Weekly, Feb. 7, 1863:

AT FREDERICKSBURG.

IT was just before the last fierce charge,
When two soldiers drew their rein,
For a parting word and a touch of hands—
They might never meet again.

One had blue eyes and clustering curls—
Nineteen but a month ago
Down on his chin, red on his cheek:
He was only a boy, you know.

The other was dark, and stern, and proud;
If his faith in the world was dim,
He only trusted the more in those
Who were all the world to him.

They had ridden together in many a raid,
They had marched for many a mile,
And ever till now they had met the foe
With a calm and hopeful smile.

But now they looked in each other's eyes
With an awful ghastly gloom,
And the tall dark man was the first to speak:
"Charlie, my hour has come.

"We shall ride together up the hill,
And you will ride back alone;
Promise a little trouble to take
For me when I am gone.

"You will find a face upon my breast—
I shall wear it into the fight
With soft blue eyes, and sunny curls,
And a smile like morning light.

"Like morning light was her love to me;
It gladdened a lonely life,
And little I cared for the frowns of fate
When she promised to be my wife.

"Write to her, Charlie, when I am gone,
And send back the fair, fond face;
Tell her tenderly how I died,
And where is my resting-place.

"Tell her my soul will wait for hers,
In the border-land between
The earth and heaven, until she comes:
It will not be long, I ween."

Tears dimmed the blue eyes of the boy—
His voice was low with pain:
"I will do your bidding, comrade mine,
If I ride back again.

"But if you come back, and I am dead,
You must do as much for me:
My mother at home must hear the news—
Oh, write to her tenderly.

"One after another those she loved
She has buried, husband and son;
I was the last. When my country called,
She kissed me and sent me on.

"She has prayed at home, like a waiting saint,
With her fond face white with woe:
Her heart will be broken when I am gone:
I shall see her soon, I know."

Just then the order came to charge—
For an instant hand touched hand,
Eye answered eye; then on they rushed,
That brave, devoted band.

Straight they went toward the crest of the hill.
And the rebels with shot and shell
Plowed rifts of death through their toiling ranks,
And jeered them as they fell.

They turned with a horrible dying yell
From the heights they could not gain,
And the few whom death and doom had spared
Went slowly back again.

But among the dead whom they left behind
Was the boy with his curling hair,
And the stern dark man who marched by his side
Lay dead beside him there.

There is no one to write to the blue-eyed girl
The words that her lover said;
And the mother who waits for her boy at home
Will but hear that he is dead,

And never can know the last fond thought
That sought to soften her pain,
Until she crosses the River of Death,
And stands by his side again.

L. C. M.

[Other threads about this song:
Lyr Req: Two Soldiers / Last Fierce Charge
Lyr Req: Two Soldiers
Lyr Add: Custer's Last Charge 2
Lyr Req: Last Great Charge/Fight]


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Last Great Charge/Fight
From: Artful Codger
Date: 08 May 09 - 08:33 AM

From Handbook of American Folklore by Richard Mercer Dorson (Indiana University Press, 1986), p.414:

For example, the ballad "The Last Fierce Charge" (Laws A17) can be traced to a poem by Virginia Francis Townsend.

The footnoted reference is D. K. Wilgus, notes to "Native American Ballads," RCA Victor LPV-548. Dorson makes this statement as an example of a ballad being traced to a specific original source.

The Townsend attribution is guardedly repeated in Folk Songs of the Catskills, Norman Cazden and others, p.79, with a different reference, though probably pointing to the same bit of research.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Last Great Charge/Fight
From: Joe Offer
Date: 08 May 09 - 05:52 PM

Here's the Traditional Ballad Index entry for this song:

Last Fierce Charge, The [Laws A17]

DESCRIPTION: Two soldiers, boy and man, are about to ride into battle (at Fredericksburg?). Each asks the other to write to his home should he die. Both are killed; no letter is sent to mother or sweetheart
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1863 (February 7, 1863 edition of Harper's Weekly)
KEYWORDS: war battle death farewell Civilwar
HISTORICAL REFERENCES:
June 17, 1775 - Battle of Bunker Hill (fought on Breed's Hill, and won by the British, though at heavy cost)
Dec 13, 1862 - Battle of Fredericksburg. Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, well-positioned and entrenched, easily throws back the assault of Ambrose Burnside's Army of the Potomac
July 1-3, 1863 - Battle of Gettysburg. George Gordon Meade's Army of the Potomac holds off Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia
June 25, 1876 - Battle of the Little Bighorn. Lt. Colonel George A. Custer (who had been a Major General during the Civil War) is killed, along with the entire force of cavalry (five companies with somewhat over 250 men) with him.
FOUND IN: US(MA,MW,SE,So) Canada(Mar,Newf) Britain(Scotland(Aber))
REFERENCES (16 citations):
Laws A17, "The Last Fierce Charge (The Battle of Fredericksburg, Custer's Last Charge)"
GreigDuncan1 105, "The Two Soldiers" (1 text, 1 tune)
Belden, pp. 383-387, "The Last Fierce Charge" (2 texts plus mention of 1 more, 1 tune)
Randolph 234, "That Last Fierce Fight" (2 texts, 1 tune)
Fuson, pp. 94-96, "The Soldier Boy with Curly Hair" (1 text)
Eddy 139, "The Last Fierce Charge" (2 texts)
Dean, pp. 14-16, "The Charge at Fredricksburg" (1 text)
BrownII 231, "The Last Fierce Charge" (1 text plus mention of 1 more)
Peacock, pp. 1004-1006, "The Last Great Charge" (1 text, 1 tune, a conflate version)
Creighton-Maritime, pp. 156-157, "Balaclava" (1 text, 1 tune)
Mackenzie 118, "The Battle of Fredericksburg" (1 text)
Dibblee/Dibblee, pp. 86-87, "The Last Fierce Charge" (1 text, 1 tune)
Friedman, p. 295, "The Last Fierce Charge" (1 text)
FSCatskills 14, "The Battle of Gettysburg" (1 text, 1 tune)
Fife-Cowboy/West 45, "Custer's Last Charge" (1 text, 1 tune)
DT 692, LASTFIER

Roud #629
CROSS-REFERENCES:
cf. "The Soldier's Letter" (plot)
cf. "I'll Be With You When the Roses Bloom Again" (plot)
cf. "Custer's Last Charge (I)" (subject)
ALTERNATE TITLES:
Two Soldiers
Fight at Bunker Hill
The Last Fierce Charge of the French at Waterloo
Notes: As the list of song titles shows, this piece could be particularized to deal with almost any battle (as, indeed, Belden has a text called "Fight at Bunker Hill," after the Revolutionary War battle. This, however, is historically impossible; the Americans weren't doing any charging at Bunker Hill. In any case, the "Bunker Hill" text never mentions that battle).
Since, however, the second-earliest (and perhaps least famous) event commemorated was the Battle of Fredericksburg, it seems quite likely that the song was originally about that conflict.
Phillips Barry had two texts credited to Virginia F. Townsend -- but even if this is accurate, it may apply only to an adaption; both were "Gettysburg" texts. - RBW
Creighton-Maritime names this "Balaclava" -- I assume the name the singer assigned -- though that is never mentioned in the ballad; Creighton also has a fragment naming the battle as Waterloo, referenced as in ms. as "The Last Great Charge." - BS
Jim Dixon recently pointed out to me a publication that may be the original. It was found in the February 7, 1863 edition of Harper's Weekly. It is titled "At Fredericksburg," and signed L.C.M. There is no tune (unless "L.C.M." is a reference to the meter -- the song does fit the standard definition of Common Meter and at least on definition of Long Meter, sometimes abbreviated LCM). The fact that it appeared just a couple of months after Fredericksburg would seem to imply that it was indeed inspired by that battle.
It is very similar to some of the traditional versions. Despite the title, there is absolutely no explicit reference to Fredericksburg, although the circumstances fit (the Union soldiers charge up a hill and take dreadful casualties). This lack of specificity no doubt made it easier to adapt the song to other circumstances.
File: LA17

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The Ballad Index Copyright 2009 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.



ROUD (click) has 78 listings.


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