MacEdward Leach and the Songs of Atlantic Canada
The Last Great Charge
Jack Knight NFLD 1 Tape 13A Track 7
Pouch Cove Audio: Yes
Ballad / dying soldier

Twas just before the last great charge
Two soldiers drew their rein
With a clasp of the hand and a parting word
They might never meet again

They had rode together for manys the raid,
They had marched for manys the mile
And ever before they met the foe
With a calm and cheerful smile

But now they looked in each other's face
With that awful ghastly gloom
The tall dark man was the first to speak
Saying, "Charley, my hour is come.

"We'll ride together down the hill
But if you'll ride back again
You must promise a little trouble to take
For me when I am slain

"You'll find a face upon my breast
I wear it into the fight
With bright blue eyes and clustering curls
That shines like the morning light

"Like the morning light was her love for me
As she gladdened my lonely life
What cared I for the powers of fate
When she promised to be my wife

"Write to her Charley when I am gone
Send back that fair fond face
And tell her tenderly how I died
And where is my resting place."

Tears dimmed the blue eyes of the boy
His face grew low with pain
"I'll do your bidding comrade mine
If I'll ride back again

"If you'll arrive back and I do not
You must do as much for me
I've a mother at home who would bear the news
Just write to her tenderly

"At home she's prayed like a watching saint
Her fair face white with woe
I know the news it will break her heart
I soon shall see her I know."

Just then the order came to charge
In an instant hand clasped hand
They answered aye and away they rode
With that brave and devoted band

They rode till they came to the crest of the hill
Where the rebel shot and shell
Poured rifle death in their charging ranks
And jeered them as they fell

Amongst the dead that was left behind
Was the boy with the curly hair
The tall dark man that rode by his aide
Lay dead beside him there

There was no one to write to that blue eyed girl
The words her lover had said
And the mother at home would not hear of the news
That her darling boy was dead

She never shall know of the last fond thought
Was said to soothe her pain
Until she reaches the river of death
And stands by his side again


Sources:   Laws A17 ("The Last Fierce Charge"); Mercer 144; Peacock 1004; Mackenzie ("The Battle of Fredericksburg"); Roud 629.

History: Probably an American Civil War ballad, although the specific battles referenced differ from one song variant to another. Peacock notes that Fredericksburg or Gettysburg are sometimes named as the locale.  

Text notes: Two soldiers heading into battle promise to send messages to their loved ones if either dies. Both die, and their messages are not delivered.

Tune notes: A short dorian melody in 6/8 metre, with one 8-syllable line and one, lower register, 6-syllable line. The insistent, thrice-repeated motif, "cbg," in the first phrase perhaps suggests the idea of a charging army.

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