The Vacant Chair

This is a song that I meant to post yesterday. It’s from the Civil War and for some background information:

“This song, which first appeared in the Worcester Spy around Thanksgiving 1861, was written to commemorate the death of Lt. John William Grout of the 15th Massachusetts Infantry, who was killed at the Battle of Ball’s Bluff. Although it had been set to music at least once, it enjoyed no success until the famous George F. Root took it in hand and wrote this tune to accompany it.

The song was as popular in the Confederacy as it was up North and spawned at least three Southern versions.

I first heard it when I was in the Academic Decathlon in high school, with the topic being the U.S. Civil War. It really is a powerful song that should be more popular than it is.

Words by H.S. Washburn Music by George F. Root (1820-1895)

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

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