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Lighter Origins: The Battle of Shiloh's Hill (4) RE: Origins: The Battle of Shiloh's Hill 13 Jun 20


I've turned up some additional references. The words were rather well known in the South and Midwest.

I’ve looked at the 1887 example in the Girard (Kans. ) Press (June 18, 1887), p.1.

It was sent on June 1 by R.C. Freeman of Mulberry Grove, Kans., as a "song ballad" preserved in writing, which had been "presented to me by a Confederate prisoner at Jackson, Miss., in 1864." So Freeeman seems to have received a written rather than merely a sung copy. It's virtually identical to the Allan version.

"Said prisoner," Freeman continues, "told me the song was composed by a rebel soldier on the battle field of Shiloh."

A text appeared a little earlier in the Princeton (Ind.) Clarion (Apr. 23, 1885), p. 2, "Re-published by special request." This differs very slightly from the 1874 (and alleged 1864) texts: the biggest difference is that "ten thousand men were killed" is replaced by "ten thousand 'foot the bill.'"

Also virtually identical to Allan's is the version in the Marion County (Ala.) (May 28, 1896), p. 8, "By request of a young lady reader of the News." Its only real novelty is "the truth to you I'll tell" in place of "a story I will tell."

We should be made cautious of any claim to authorship of any traditional song by the note introducing the ballad in the Newton (N.C.) Enterprise (Feb. 15, 1906), p. 1: "Written for the Newton Enterprise...[by] W. T. Cline." In this case, the "horror of the fighting" fills the singer's heart not with "anguish" but with "anger." Notable too is the absence of the prayer to save the souls of "all" who died. The quatrain arrangement and a "Sing carry me away,/ Sing carry me away" refrain, are as in the 1915 N.C. version.

The Evening Star (Independence, Kans.) quotes a single line on Aug. 10, 1908, p. 8: "It was a fearful slaughter, and it made the blood to chill." But the occasion is only to compare a local baseball game to the battle of Shiloh!

The Asher (Okla.) Clipper (May 21, 1909), p. 12, credits its text (Allan's) to "B.F. Arthur, in the Dallas News."

"The Battle of Shiloh," in the Purcell (Okla. )Republic (Nov. 10, 1910), p. 3, "was handed to us by John McDevitt. The card was carried in the Civil War by Mr. McDevitt's grandfather, who purchased it from a blind soldier during the war. " Again, virtually Allan's text, except that "valiant" soldiers are now "veteran" soldiers, and the singer’s feet were “tramping on the side of Shiloh hill.”

The text in the Hartshorne (Okla.) Sun (Oct. 1, 1914), p. 3, was “Copied by T. H. O’Kelley.” Here, “our feet were trailing the top” of Shiloh hill.

In 1915 Mr. E. J. Curtis requested the Weekly Town Talk (Alexandria, La.) to print the song, which it did on June 16, p. 11. The text was supplied by Mrs. E. C. Blanton, of Mixon, Texas.

Unremarkable texts also appeared in the Dewar (Okla.) Telegram (Mar. 7, 1918) and the Union (Miss.) Appeal (Oct. 28, 1926).

The Cedar Rapids Gazette (Apr. 6, 1918), p. 3, credits the “poem” to “the pen of Mr. [William E.] Varney,” of Cedar Rapids, a Union veteran. It “gives, in verse, his impressions of the battle.”


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