John Brown's Body!

Zack

Sergeant
Joined
Aug 20, 2017
Location
Los Angeles, California
Besides the simple, catchy tune, part of what made the John Brown song so fun and popular was that anyone could come up with lyrics for it as long as they fit the tune. In the spirit of that, here are some of the verses I've found for the song (sources at bottom).

Please post more verses you've seen in diaries or letters or memoirs or wherever. Or make up your own verse (just mark it as such)

service-pnp-ppmsc-02700-02794r.jpg


John Brown’s Body Lies A-Moulderin’ in the Grave (x3)
But his truth keeps marching on!

He’s gone to be a soldier in the army of the Lord! (x3)
His soul is marching on!

John Brown’s knapsack is strapped upon his back! (x3)
His soul is marching on!

His pet lambs will meet him on the way; (x3)
They go marching on!

They will hang Jeff. Davis to a tree! (x3)
As they march along!

We'll hang Jeff Davis from a sour apple tree (x3)
As they march along!

We'll feed old Jeff Davis sour apples (x3)
'til he gets the diarhee.

Now, three rousing cheers for the Union; (x3)
As we are marching on!

Old John Brown's body is a-mouldering in the dust,
Old John Brown's rifle's red with blood-spots turned to rust,
Old John Brown's pike has made its last, unflinching thrust,
His soul is marching on!

This version is from the First Arkansas, an African-American regiment in the Union Army:
Oh, we’re the bully soldiers of the "First of Arkansas,"
We are fighting for the Union, we are fighting for the law,
We can hit a Rebel further than a white man ever saw,
As we go marching on.

Sources:
https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/brown-history-john-browns-body/
https://www.battlefields.org/learn/articles/lyrics-ca-1861
https://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/active_learning/explorations/brown/music1.cfm
 

Claude Bauer

First Sergeant
Forum Host
Joined
Jan 8, 2012
Besides the simple, catchy tune, part of what made the John Brown song so fun and popular was that anyone could come up with lyrics for it as long as they fit the tune. In the spirit of that, here are some of the verses I've found for the song (sources at bottom).

Please post more verses you've seen in diaries or letters or memoirs or wherever. Or make up your own verse (just mark it as such)

View attachment 396760

John Brown’s Body Lies A-Moulderin’ in the Grave (x3)
But his truth keeps marching on!

He’s gone to be a soldier in the army of the Lord! (x3)
His soul is marching on!

John Brown’s knapsack is strapped upon his back! (x3)
His soul is marching on!

His pet lambs will meet him on the way; (x3)
They go marching on!

They will hang Jeff. Davis to a tree! (x3)
As they march along!

We'll hang Jeff Davis from a sour apple tree (x3)
As they march along!

We'll feed old Jeff Davis sour apples (x3)
'til he gets the diarhee.

Now, three rousing cheers for the Union; (x3)
As we are marching on!

Old John Brown's body is a-mouldering in the dust,
Old John Brown's rifle's red with blood-spots turned to rust,
Old John Brown's pike has made its last, unflinching thrust,
His soul is marching on!

This version is from the First Arkansas, an African-American regiment in the Union Army:
Oh, we’re the bully soldiers of the "First of Arkansas,"
We are fighting for the Union, we are fighting for the law,
We can hit a Rebel further than a white man ever saw,
As we go marching on.

Sources:
https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/brown-history-john-browns-body/
https://www.battlefields.org/learn/articles/lyrics-ca-1861
https://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/active_learning/explorations/brown/music1.cfm
They were really into graphic imagery in their lyrics weren't they? Appears that some found the lyrics, "coarse and irreverent," and wanted something more spiritually uplifting. Enter Julia Ward Howe's "Battle Hymn of the Republic," set to the same tune.

A fascinating history to this tune--thanks for posting!
 

DBF

Sergeant Major
Joined
Aug 6, 2016
Please post more verses you've seen in diaries or letters or memoirs or wherever. Or make up your own verse (just mark it as such)

This was also from your source this interesting tidbit regarding the "other" John Brown

The original John Brown had a name sake that served in the Massachusetts Volunteer Militia. The “Scotsman” was aware of the other John Brown and he was the known to be the target for “many good natured jokes” from his fellow soldiers. Unfortunately he never lived to hear the beautiful words Julia Ward howe penned to the familiar tune. He drowned in the Shenandoah River at Front Royal, Virginia. ​

Other Lyrics:

“Old John Brown's body lies a-mouldering in the grave,
While weep the sons of bondage whom he ventured all to save;
But though he lost his life in struggling for the slave,
His truth is marching on.

(Chorus)
Glory, Glory, Hallelujah!
His truth is marching on!

John Brown was a hero, undaunted, true and brave;
Kansas knew his valor when he fought her rights to save;
And now though the grass grows green above his grave,
His truth is marching on.

(Chorus)

He captured Harpers Ferry with his nineteen men so few,
And he frightened "Old Virginny" till she trembled through and through,
They hung him for a traitor, themselves a traitor crew,
But his truth is marching on.

(Chorus)

John Brown was John the Baptist for the Christ we are to see,
Christ who of the bondsman shall the Liberator be;
And soon throughout the sunny South the slaves shall all be free.
For his truth is marching on.

(Chorus)

The conflict that he heralded, he looks from heaven to view,
On the army of the Union with its flag, red, white, and blue,
And heaven shall ring with anthems o'er the deeds they mean to do,
For his truth is marching on.

(Chorus)

Oh, soldiers of freedom, then strike while strike you may
The deathblow of oppression in a better time and way;
For the dawn of old John Brown was brightened into day,

And his truth is marching on.

(Chorus)


https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/brown-history-john-browns-body/

"Say, Brothers, Will You Meet Us” the original tune (possible early 1800’s) and sometime in the 1850's it was was a popular religious camp meeting song. It was referred to as an echo song - one group sang - then one group answered:​

O fathers will you meet me, . . (By the grace of God I’ll meet you,)
O fathers will you meet me, . . (By the grace of God I’ll meet you,)
O fathers will you meet me, . . (By the grace of God I’ll meet you,)

On Canaan’s happy shore?

It continues with mothers, brothers, sisters the echo stays the same, until the last time when it echos back:

“There we’ll shout and give Him glory,
There we’ll shout and give Him glory,
There we’ll shout and give Him glory,

For glory is His own.”

212.jpeg

https://www.loc.gov/resource/ihas.200000841.0/?sp=1
https://hymnary.org/text/say_brothers_will_you_meet_us
 

Zack

Sergeant
Joined
Aug 20, 2017
Location
Los Angeles, California
I've seen a couple versions of the origin of the song. The George Kimball version attibuting it to the "Tiger" Battalion of the Massachusetts militia -

We had a jovial Scotchman in the battalion, named John Brown ... and as he happened to bear the identical name of the old hero of Harper's Ferry, he became at once the butt of his comrades. If he made his appearance a few minutes late among the working squad, or was a little tardy in falling into the company line, he was sure to be greeted with such expressions as "Come, old fellow, you ought to be at it if you are going to help us free the slaves"; or, "This can't be John Brown—why, John Brown is dead." And then some wag would add, in a solemn, drawling tone, as if it were his purpose to give particular emphasis to the fact that John Brown was really, actually dead: "Yes, yes, poor old John Brown is dead; his body lies mouldering in the grave."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Brown's_Body
 

DBF

Sergeant Major
Joined
Aug 6, 2016
Here’s a few verses from another - - -

"Bummers, Come and Meet Us"

McClellan is our leader now, we’ve had our last retreat;
McClellan is our leader now, we’ve had our last retreat;
McClellan is our leader now, we’ve had our last retreat;
We’ll now go marching on.

Say, brothers, will you meet us?
Say, brothers, will you meet us?
Say, brothers, will you meet us?
As we go marching on.


Thomas turned a Somerset, and gave the Rebels rats;
Thomas turned a Somerset, and gave the Rebels rats;
Thomas turned a Somerset, and gave the Rebels rats;
And sent them rolling home.

Say, brothers, will you meet us?
Say, brothers, will you meet us?
Say, brothers, will you meet us?
And send them rolling home.


How are you, Johnny Bull, old boy? How are you Johnny Bull?
How are you, Johnny Bull, old boy? How are you Johnny Bull?
If you wan to fight, old Roast Beef, you will get your belly full,
And then go rolling home.

Oh, Johnny, don’t you fight us;
Oh, Johnny, don’t you fight us;
Oh, Johnny, don’t you fight us;
Or we’ll send you rolling home.


The girls we left behind us, boys, our sweethearts at the North;
The girls we left behind us, boys, our sweethearts at the North;
The girls we left behind us, boys, our sweethearts at the North;
Smile on us as we march.

Oh, sweet-hearts, don’t forget us;
Oh, sweet-hearts, don’t forget us;
Oh, sweet-hearts, don’t forget us.
We’ll soon come marching home!!
 

Zack

Sergeant
Joined
Aug 20, 2017
Location
Los Angeles, California
Here’s a few verses from another - - -

"Bummers, Come and Meet Us"

McClellan is our leader now, we’ve had our last retreat;
McClellan is our leader now, we’ve had our last retreat;
McClellan is our leader now, we’ve had our last retreat;
We’ll now go marching on.

Say, brothers, will you meet us?
Say, brothers, will you meet us?
Say, brothers, will you meet us?
As we go marching on.


Thomas turned a Somerset, and gave the Rebels rats;
Thomas turned a Somerset, and gave the Rebels rats;
Thomas turned a Somerset, and gave the Rebels rats;
And sent them rolling home.

Say, brothers, will you meet us?
Say, brothers, will you meet us?
Say, brothers, will you meet us?
And send them rolling home.


How are you, Johnny Bull, old boy? How are you Johnny Bull?
How are you, Johnny Bull, old boy? How are you Johnny Bull?
If you wan to fight, old Roast Beef, you will get your belly full,
And then go rolling home.

Oh, Johnny, don’t you fight us;
Oh, Johnny, don’t you fight us;
Oh, Johnny, don’t you fight us;
Or we’ll send you rolling home.


The girls we left behind us, boys, our sweethearts at the North;
The girls we left behind us, boys, our sweethearts at the North;
The girls we left behind us, boys, our sweethearts at the North;
Smile on us as we march.

Oh, sweet-hearts, don’t forget us;
Oh, sweet-hearts, don’t forget us;
Oh, sweet-hearts, don’t forget us.
We’ll soon come marching home!!

I've never seen this version thank you!

Must have been song specifically between July 26, 1861 and November 9, 1862 since they reference McClellan as the leader.

The second and third verses both reference England? I don't quite get either of them. Is Thomas a reference to George Thomas? And is Roast Beef a nickname for a general too - Rosecrans (Old Rosey) maybe? But then why is it paired with John Bull.

And if it is General Thomas and General Rosecrans (which is absolutely a guess) then why is it paired with a verse about McClellan? Would the Army of the Potomac boys be singing about the Western Theater?

The last verse is really sweet. Reminds me of that song The Girl I Left Behind Me.
 

DBF

Sergeant Major
Joined
Aug 6, 2016
I wondered if there was a printing error in the Thomas verse and it meant a somersault and gave the rebels rats (?) being he was a Southern man that fought for the North, although what it had to do with McClellan beats me. I left out some of the verses so if you want to read the entire song it is here:
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bummers-com-and-meet-us-john-brown-song-undated-librofcongress-as200480.gif

I agree with you that I'd never seen this before and I do like the last verse.
 

Si Klegg

Corporal
Joined
Jul 13, 2018
Location
Bedford UK
I've never seen this version thank you!

Must have been song specifically between July 26, 1861 and November 9, 1862 since they reference McClellan as the leader.

The second and third verses both reference England? I don't quite get either of them. Is Thomas a reference to George Thomas? And is Roast Beef a nickname for a general too - Rosecrans (Old Rosey) maybe? But then why is it paired with John Bull.

And if it is General Thomas and General Rosecrans (which is absolutely a guess) then why is it paired with a verse about McClellan? Would the Army of the Potomac boys be singing about the Western Theater?

The last verse is really sweet. Reminds me of that song The Girl I Left Behind Me.
'Roast Beef' is just another name for English people going by what was our national dish in the 19th century, though in the 20th century it should have been 'Fish and Chips' and nowadays 'Chicken Tikka Masala' :whistling:

The French still call us 'Rosbifs' in response to us calling them 'Frogs'.
 
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