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Origin: The Boys in Blue

Bobby O'Brien 29 Jan 97 - 10:36 PM [Bill Foster] 30 Jan 97 - 12:59 PM
George Seto - 29 Oct 01 - 10:18 PM
Jim Dixon 02 Jan 11 - 10:26 PM
TonyA 02 Jan 11 - 10:57 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 03 Jan 11 - 05:04 PM
TonyA 03 Jan 11 - 08:17 PM
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Subject: Need history of song
From: Bobby O'Brien
Date: 29 Jan 97 - 10:36 PM

This civil war song was recorded by a friend of mine, Margo, in Ireland in 1984 on the album "Ireland Must Be Heaven" (rosses records lp. 101)

Margo doesn't know where she found it. Id like to knw who in the USA recorded it, wrote it, etc. it goes:

Twas on a summer's evening an old man bent with age landed in a village from off a dusty stage

(song tells about a man showing up at the Express office to pick up his son. The clerk thinks hes confused and directs him to the train depot, until the old man tells the clerk his son is coming home dead, killed in the war, and his body will arrive at the express office soon.

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Subject: RE: Need history of song
From: [Bill Foster]
Date: 30 Jan 97 - 12:59 PM

Sorry I don't know the song, but I will begin looking for it. In the meantime, if you have access to words and tune, I would be interested in acquiring them. I work at a university with a fairly good library for song research, and I'll try to get some facts for you.

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Subject: RE: Need history of song
From: George Seto -
Date: 29 Oct 01 - 10:18 PM

The Boys In Blue

"On to Richmond!" "On to Atlanta!"
Is the war cry the country all through,
Butternuts, clear the way for the Yankee,
The brave Boys that are dressed in the Blue.
There's a man by the name of Ulysses
Who is putting the Butternuts through;
He sees through Jeff Davis's devices,
And leads on the Boys in the Blue.
There's a man called General Sherman
And he's death on the Butternuts too;
His flank movements the Rebels alarmin,
When he comes with his soldiers in Blue.
Johnny Rebs think that Lee and Joe Johnson
Can save the Confederate crew;
But Grant will soon be in Richmond,
With his boys that are dressed in the Blue.
Billy Sherman is bound for Atlanta,
And this centre of Rebeldom too;
Will fall like a rotten old shanty,
'Fore the Boys that are dressed in the Blue.
Then down goes this wicked rebellion,
Down goes old Jeff Davis too;
Then hear the glad shouts for the Union
And soldiers that's dressed in the Blue.
Then cheers upon cheers for Ulysses,
And all of his Generals too,
The world will be filled with his praises,
And his Boys that dressed in the Blue.
Three cheers then for Abraham Lincoln,
And true men the country all through;
For sustaining the Flag of the Union
And the Boys in the jackets of Blue.
We'll shout for our glorious Union,
One that rebels can never undo;
With Freedom all over the Nation
And honor for Boys in the Blue.
Wives, mothers and sweethearts will greet us,
When this cruel war is all through;
And when all the pretty girls meet us
They "go for" the Boys in the Blue.

Written in the Field Hospital at Resaca, Ga., on account of a wound received in the battle, and published in the Chattanooga Gazette, June 14, 1864.

From: War Songs Poems and Odes by R.W. Burt Peoria Illinois 1909


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Subject: RE: Origin: The Boys in Blue
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 02 Jan 11 - 10:26 PM

The song that was requested (not the one posted) sounds like a folk-processed variant of HE IS COMING TO US DEAD, which was written by Gussie L. Davis in 1899.

See the thread Lyr Req: He Is Coming to Us Dead (Gussie L Davis). It contains the original lyrics as well as a version called THE BOYS IN BLUE. However, the lyrics don't quite match what you have quoted (although you can see a parallel).

When I use Google Books to search for the phrase "on a summer's evening an old man bent with age", it brings up:

Journal of the Ohio Folklore Society, 1978.

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Subject: RE: Origin: The Boys in Blue
From: TonyA
Date: 02 Jan 11 - 10:57 PM

Track 5 on volume 9 of the 15 LP set FOLK MUSIC IN AMERICA, edited by Richard K Spottswood and released 1976-78 by the Library of Congress is:

ROAMIN' JACK Ted Hawkins Mountaineers. Atlanta 11/2/31 2:48 Columbia 15752-D (w1520001-1). Beautiful hillbilly song with mandolin, fiddle, and guitar. Ezra "Ted" Hawkins: vocal and mandolin. One of the longest-lasting of the vast number of songs written about the Civil War. Ted Hawkins performed on Atlanta radio with the Skillet Lickers after 1922, and in 1931 began to appear regularly in their recordings.

It was on an autumn evening, an old man bent with age
Strolled up to the village express, just off of a dusty stage.
"Is this the express office? I've come to meet my son.
They told me that his train was due this place at half-past one."

"You've made a great mistake, sir, I would like for you to know.
This is the express office, not the town depot."
"You do not understand me, lad, with quivering lips he said.
(He's) not coming as a passenger, he's coming to me dead."

Just then a whistle pierced the air, "The express!" someone cried.
And with feeble, trembling steps, the old man passed outside.
Just then a casket in a box was lowered to the ground.
It was an eager, tearful crowd that quickly gathered round.

"Don't handle him so roughly, boys, he is my darling Jack.
He went away as you are now; see how he's coming back.
He has broken his poor mother's heart; mine is broken, too.
We told him that he'd come back dead if he joined those boys in blue."

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Subject: RE: Origin: The Boys in Blue
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 03 Jan 11 - 05:04 PM

The Spanish-American War? As noted above, song published in 1899.

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Subject: RE: Origin: The Boys in Blue
From: TonyA
Date: 03 Jan 11 - 08:17 PM

Publication in 1899 would prove it didn't originate in World War I, but not that it didn't originate in the Civil War.

Of course it's possible that the song was created ex nihilo by Davis in 1899, but there's some reason to doubt that (this post, as well as the Spottswood's liner notes, above), and let's not forget all the songs that A.P. Carter altered a little and then claimed to have written.

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