Civil War Ballads: Two Little Boys

American composer Theodore F. Morse and lyricist Edward Madden wrote “Two Little Boys” in 1902 as a music hall song about two brothers who dream of growing up and joining the cavalry. The Country Gentlemen recorded a version for their album Bluegrass at Carnegie Hall (1962). Like “Marching through Georgia,” this song also gained international fame. In 1969, an Australian entertainer named Rolf Harris popularized it on his BBC variety show in the United Kingdom, and today it’s more well-known across the ocean.

Two little boys had two little toys
Each had a wooden horse
Gaily they played each summer’s day
Warriors both of course
One little chap then had a mishap
Broke off his horse’s head
Wept for his toy then cried with joy
As his young playmate said

Did you think I would leave you crying
When there’s room on my horse for two
Climb up here Jack and don’t be crying
I can go just as fast with two
When we grow up we’ll both be soldiers
And our horses will not be toys
And I wonder if we’ll remember
When we were two little boys

Long years had passed, war came so fast
Bravely they marched away
Cannon roared loud, and in the mad crowd
Wounded and dying lay
Up goes a shout, a horse dashes out
Out from the ranks so blue
Gallops away to where Joe lay
Then came a voice he knew

Did you think I would leave you dying
When there’s room on my horse for two
Climb up here Joe, we’ll soon be flying
I can go just as fast with two
Did you say Joe I’m all a-tremble
Perhaps it’s the battle’s noise
But I think it’s that I remember
When we were two little boys

Do you think I would leave you dying
There’s room on my horse for two
Climb up here Joe, we’ll soon by flying
Back to the ranks so blue
Can you feel Joe I’m all a tremble
Perhaps it’s the battle’s noise
But I think it’s that I remember
When we were two little boys

The song speaks of courage and devotion between two brothers not even war can tear apart. It’s similar to the plot of “Jackanapes,” a children’s story by English writer Juliana Horatia Ewing published in 1879. That story was set in Europe during the Napoleonic Wars. “The ranks so blue” definitely describe Union soldiers during the American Civil War. Since Theodore F. Morse, from Washington, DC, and Edward Madden, from New York City, were Americans, this makes the most sense.

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About Michael Kleen

Michael Kleen is an author, raconteur, and freelance columnist. He has a M.A. in History and M.S. in Education. He lives in Rockford, Illinois, where he was the 2013 Republican candidate for mayor.

Posted on June 22, 2017, in History, Music and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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