Category Archives: History

Civil War Ballads: Song for the Irish Brigade

Like “Kelly’s Irish Brigade,” David Kincaid recorded this song honoring Irish-American volunteers in the Confederate Army for his album The Irish-American’s Song (2006). The fourth stanza appears to specifically refer to troops who fought under Colonel Edward A. O’Neal in the Army of Northern Virginia.

Oh, not now for songs of a nation’s wrongs,
not the groans of starving labor;
Let the rifle ring and the bullet sing
to the clash of the flashing sabre!
There are Irish ranks on the tented banks
of Columbia’s guarded ocean;
And an iron clank from flank to flank
tells of armed men in motion.

And frank souls there clear true and bare
To all, as the steel beside them,
Can love or hate withe the strength of Fate,
Till the grave of the valiant hide them.
Each seems to be mailed Ard Righ,
whose sword’s avenging glory
Must light the fight and smite for Right,
Like Brian’s in olden story!

With pale affright and panic flight
Shall dastard Yankees base and hollow,
Hear a Celtic race, from their battle place,
Charge to the shout of “Faugh-a-ballaugh!”
By the sould above, by the land we love
Her tears bleeding patience
The sledge is wrought that shall smash to naught
The brazen liar of nations.

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Civil War Ballads: High Water Mark

“High Water Mark” is part three in a three-part, 32-minute epic appearing on heavy metal band Iced Earth’s album The Glorious Burden (2004). The three-song serial commemorates the Battle of Gettysburg, July 1-3, 1861. Former Judas Priest frontman Tim “Ripper” Owens provided vocals on the album. The songs appear to be based on either the novel The Killer Angels (1987) by Michael Shaara or the movie Gettysburg (1993), which was also based on the novel.

[Lee:]
“It was very close yesterday
I thought for sure they would break
But this attack that I have planned
A massive strike across open land
In the center they will break
Plan it well, everything’s at stake
We’ll hit ’em hard, not a silent gun
Before the infantry’s begun.

Execute it well, we risk everything.
It’s in God’s hands now.”

[Longstreet:]
“General Lee I must tell you straight
That I believe this attack will fail.
No 15,000 men ever made
Will overtake that ridge today.
A mile charge over open ground
With Yankee cannon gunnin’ us down.”

[Lee:]
“We do our duty, We do what we must
And in my plan you will trust.”
(Thousands die on this day)
“Execute it well, we risk everything.
It’s in God’s hands now.”

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Civil War Ballads: Hold At All Costs

“Hold At All Costs” is part two in a three-part, 32-minute epic appearing on heavy metal band Iced Earth’s album The Glorious Burden (2004). The three-song serial commemorates the Battle of Gettysburg, July 1-3, 1861. Former Judas Priest frontman Tim “Ripper” Owens provided vocals on the album. The songs appear to be based on either the novel The Killer Angels (1987) by Michael Shaara or the movie Gettysburg (1993), which was also based on the novel.

[Armistead:]
“Just a mile or so away
Lies my dearest friend in this world.
He wears the Blue and I the Gray
And God it hurts me so
The last time we were together
I grabbed his hand and I pledged
If I ever draw my sword on you
May the good lord strike me dead.”

The Union flank’s in trouble
To the Round Top on the double
A bad decision, insubordination
Exposed our line in a dangerous way

The burden lies upon us
Surrender is not an option
We are the flank and if we break
The Union crumbles, We could lose the war!

Down below the carnage
The rebels charging onward
Push the slaughter toward the Peach Orchard.
Through the Wheatfield and Devil’s Den

The valor of the Texans
And Alabama’s best men
They’re unrelenting and devastating
The last full measure of devotion’s clear.

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Civil War Ballads: The Devil To Pay

“The Devil To Pay” is part one in a three-part, 32-minute epic appearing on heavy metal band Iced Earth’s album The Glorious Burden (2004). The three-song serial commemorates the Battle of Gettysburg, July 1-3, 1861. Former Judas Priest frontman Tim “Ripper” Owens provided vocals on the album. The songs appear to be based on either the novel The Killer Angels (1987) by Michael Shaara or the movie Gettysburg (1993), which was also based on the novel.

In July 1863
A nation torn in tragedy
A trick of fate, two great armies merge
Gods of war at Gettysburg
Devastation lies ahead
50,000 bodies litter the land
Hell rages three full days
The reaper sows, there’s the devil to pay

The pressure’s on and the reb’s attack
The yanks must hold, they can’t fall back
Just two brigades, 2,000 strong
Against 20,000 they can’t hold long

General Reynolds makes his way
Expect no mercy from the Iron Brigade
Until he shows they’re on their own
But Buford’s men have a will of stone

Bayonets gleam in the morning sun
Smoke and fire belching from their guns
Another volley and again they strike
Thousands more comin’ down Chambersburg Pike

[Chorus:]
This tragedy and what it brings
All the devastation
(The reaper has his way)
Men will kill, Blood will spill
To preserve the nation
(There’s the devil to pay)

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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

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Civil War Ballads: Marching through Georgia

Henry Clay Work, a Connecticut composer and songwriter, wrote this song in 1865 to commemorate Major General William T. Sherman’s “March to the Sea”, near the end of the American Civil War. It became wildly popular and its tune and lyrics were adopted by other countries to celebrate their own military achievements. Its music is even used for two high school anthems in Sydney, Australia!

Bring the good old bugle, boys, we’ll sing another song;
Sing it with a spirit that will start the world along,
Sing it as we used to sing it, fifty thousand strong,
While we were marching through Georgia.

Hurrah! Hurrah! We bring the jubilee!
Hurrah! Hurrah! The flag that makes you free!
So we sang the chorus from Atlanta to the sea,
While we were marching through Georgia.

How the darkeys shouted when they heard the joyful sound!
How the turkeys gobbled which our commissary found!
How the sweet potatoes even started from the ground,
While we were marching through Georgia.

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