The Boy Who Wore The Blue (MacEdward Leach)

Dear Madam, I'm a soldier,
my speech is rough and plain,
I'm not much use at writing
but I hate to cause you pain;
I promised him that I would write
and I thought I might do so,
When it came from one that loved him
perhaps it might ease the blow.

In reading this now you may
find the pain I strive to hide,
For if you'll pardon a soldier's words,
I'll tell you how he died;
I have been ten years soldiering,
he seemed to take to me,
More than any of the other lads,
he admired my company.

The morning of the battle
all in our crowded tent,
There was many a brave boy sobbing,
and many a knee was bent;
But they knew not on tomorrow
when the bloody work was done,
How many would assemble here
for to see the setting sun.

And as we left our crowded tent
your soldier boy and I,
We slowly strolled together
beneath the clear blue sky;
He spoke of home he loved so well
and friends he loved so dear,
Whilst I got none to speak about
but always love to hear.

And then he said, "Dear comrade,
if it would be that I should fall,
Will you write home and tell them
how I thought and spoke of all?"
I promised, but I did not think
the time would be so soon,
And the battle was three days ago,
he died today at noon.

The morning of the battle,
fast came the shot and shell,
I was standing close beside him
and saw him when he fell;
I gently raised him in my arms
and laid him on the grass,
It was going against the orders
but I guess they let it pass.

It was a dreaded mini-ball
that hit him in the side,
I did not think it settled
till the night before he died;
And when he saw that he must go,
he called me to his bed,
Saying, "Comrade do not forget
to write when I am dead.'

"Herein, underneath my pillow
is a lock of golden hair,
The name it's on the papers
and it's in my mother's care;
Last week I wanted so to leave,
I seemed too young to go,
Last month I passed my birthday,
I was eighteen years you know.

"And tell them how I died,
and give them my goodbye,
And then pray to God for grace
and all His who went by."
His voice then grew
as I gently raised his head,
He murmered. "Goodbye, comrades,
your soldier boy is dead."

We wrapped him in his soldier's coat
and lay him out that night,
We buried him under a shady tree
where the moon was shining bright;
We carved him out a headstone
as skillful as we could,
And if you want to find it
I will show you where it stood.

I'll keep the belt he used to wear,
he told me so to do,
There's a hole within the left side,
that's where the ball went through,
So now I've done his bidding,
I've got nothing more to do,
But while I live I'll always mourn
for the boy that wore the blue.

####.... Author unknown. Variant of a traditional American Civil War ballad, The Soldier's Letter ....####

Collected in 1950 from Mike Carey [1904-1997] of Cape Broyle, NL, and published in MacEdward Leach And The Songs Of Atlantic Canada, ©2004 Memorial University of Newfoundland Folklore and Language Archive (MUNFLA).

A variant was collected in 1951 from Mrs Thomas (Anastasia) Ghaney [1884-1959] of Fermeuse, NL, and published as Madam I Am A Soldier in MacEdward Leach And The Songs Of Atlantic Canada, ©2004 Memorial University of Newfoundland Folklore and Language Archive (MUNFLA).

A variant was also recorded by Tommy Nemec singing acapella the songs he heard sung by his grandfather, John P Myrick [1900-1984] with Thomas (Tom) Finlay [1885-?] at house parties in St Shotts and on Cape Pine, NL (Songs From The Cape, 2003, trk#2, Backcove Music, St John's, NL, recorded at the Cape Pine Lightstation).


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