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When Johnny Comes Marching Home – 1863

A longing in music for the return of loved ones and an end to war sung by both South and North.
 
“When Johnny Comes Marching Home” (sometimes “When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again”) is a popular song of the American Civil War that expressed people’s longing for the return of their friends and relatives who were fighting in the war.

The Irish antiwar song “Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye” and “When Johnny Comes Marching Home” share the same melodic material. Based on internal textual references, “Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye” apparently dates from the early 1820’s, while “When Johnny Comes Marching Home” was first published in 1863. It was sung by both sides of the Civil War. it was used as a motivation song that told the soldiers what happens when the war is over.

As with much folk music of this period, many variants in text and music appear as the song is transmitted orally and subject to many external influences. Primacy of one version over another is difficult to prove conclusively because most versions were never written down or published. James Fuld in The Book of World Famous Music (page 640) indicates that some believe the melody is not Irish in origin.

The lyrics to “Johnny Comes Marching Home,” written by Irish-American bandleader Patrick Gilmore and published under the pseudonym ‘Louis Lambert’, effectively reverse those of “Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye”, in which Johnny returns home blind and crippled, to the woman and children he abandoned in order to go to Sri Lanka to serve in the British Army for the East India Company.

The Johnny so longed for in the song is Patrick Gilmore’s future brother in-law a Union Light Artillery Captain named John O’Rourke. The song was written by Patrick for his sister Annie Gilmore as she longed for the safe return of her fiancé from the Civil War. (“The House that O’Rourke Built” Patti Jo Peterson The Plattsmouth Journal August 30, 2007 page 5, and “The O’Rourke House” Patti Jo Peterson The Plattsmouth Journal June 15, 2006 page 11) —Wikipedia

 
 

 


 

Lyrics
The original lyrics as written by Gilmore, are:

When Johnny comes marching home again
Hurrah! Hurrah!

We’ll give him a hearty welcome then
Hurrah! Hurrah!

The men will cheer and the boys will shout
The ladies they will all turn out
And we’ll all feel gay

When Johnny comes marching home.

The old church bell will peal with joy
Hurrah! Hurrah!

To welcome home our darling boy,
Hurrah! Hurrah!

The village lads and lassies say
With roses they will strew the way,
And we’ll all feel gay

When Johnny comes marching home.

Get ready for the Jubilee,
Hurrah! Hurrah!

We’ll give the hero three times three,
Hurrah! Hurrah!

The laurel wreath is ready now
To place upon his loyal brow
And we’ll all feel gay

When Johnny comes marching home.

Let love and friendship on that day,
Hurrah, hurrah!

Their choicest pleasures then display,
Hurrah, hurrah!

And let each one perform some part,
To fill with joy the warrior’s heart,
And we’ll all feel gay

When Johnny comes marching home.

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