Music of the Civil War: The Vacant Chair

Samuel.Sohm

First Sergeant
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#1
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The Vacant Chair, written by George F. Root in 1861

The poem that would become the song "The Vacant Chair" was written by H.S. Washburn after the death of Lt. John William Grout of the 15th Massachusetts Infantry at the Battle of Ball's Bluff. Grout was 18 years old and seemed to embody, to Washburn at least, the sacrifice made by so many young men during the soul wrenching Civil War which had only just begun.

The poem speaks of a family, meeting on Thanksgiving day and mourning for their soldier who had died recently. It speaks of the anguish and sadness when they think of the previous years Thanksgiving meal when he had still been with them.

After the poem became more well known, famous songwriter George Root put it to music and it would become one of the best known songs of the Civil War. Below you will find the most common lyrics and a video of the song.
We shall meet but we shall miss him.
There will be one vacant chair.
We shall linger to caress him
While we breathe our ev'ning prayer.
When one year ago we gathered,
Joy was in his mild blue eye.
Now the golden cord is severed,
And our hopes in ruin lie.
CHORUS: We shall meet, but we shall miss him.
There will be one vacant chair.
We shall linger to caress him
While we breathe our ev'ning prayer.
At our fireside, sad and lonely,
Often will the bosom swell
At remembrance of the story
How our noble Willie fell.
How he strove to bear the banner
Thro' the thickest of the fight
And uphold our country's honor
In the strength of manhood's might.
CHORUS
True, they tell us wreaths of glory
Evermore will deck his brow,
But this soothes the anguish only,
Sweeping o'er our heartstrings now.
Sleep today, O early fallen,
In thy green and narrow bed.
Dirges from the pine and cypress
Mingle with the tears we shed.
CHORUS
To read more about this sond see below:
https://www.masshist.org/database/viewer.php?item_id=2183
http://www.civilwarpoetry.org/union/songs/chair.html
http://www.contemplator.com/america/vchair.html
 

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CMWinkler

Colonel
Retired Moderator
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Oct 17, 2012
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14,200
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Middle Tennessee
#5
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"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="
" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="420" height="315" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true"></embed></object>
 

Billy Yank

First Sergeant
Joined
May 31, 2013
Messages
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Location
Putnam County, IL
#6
I am haunted by the lyrics from "Kathleen Mavourneen" when W.S. Hancock & L. Armistead parted in California before heading East. "...it may be for years and it may be forever, then why art thou silent, Kathleen Mavourneen"?
 
Joined
Jun 20, 2013
Messages
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Location
United States
#7
Civil War music is either hopelessly patriotic, hopelessly sentimental, hopelessly romantic, and in some cases hopelessly funny. I know this, but hearing almost any song from the period affects me deeply. It's nearly the same kind of feeling I have when I hear songs from Les Mis, only different and in a way stronger, because these were songs played and sang and loved by real people.
 



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