TENTING TONIGHT ON THE OLD CAMP GROUND

(WALTER C. KITTREDGE) (1863)

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The soldier was not forgotten in songs expressing a depth of personal feeling. "Tenting on the Old Camp Ground" appealed particularly to them, not as an exciting battle song, but as a description of what they were thinking. Its author was Walter C. Kittredge of New Hampshire. He had been drafted in the Union army in the early months of 1863, and expected soon to leave for the front. He had been a professional singer, so it was natural that, thinking of the coming separation from his wife and daughter, he composed a song expressing his emotion....
But Kittredge did not serve on the battlefield after all. He was rejected for military service on medical grounds. So he joined the famed Hutchinson family of singers and toured with them for twenty years thereafter.
The touching and plaintive words..., so perfectly matched to the music, were favorites of both soldiers and civilians. No program of war songs was complete without a quartet rendition of the song.... Every local reunion and meeting of the Grand Army of the Republic and all its national conventions... featured the song, which might appropriately be termed one of the most affecting of the Civil War period.

C. A. Brown (revised by Willard A. Heaps), The Story of Our National Ballads, New York, NY, 1960, pp. 208-210.

Lyrics as reprinted in Hazel Arnett, I Hear America Singing, New York, NY, 1975, pp. 86-87.
"To see the DREAM of peace" in the chorus of Arnett's version substituted for "To see the DAWN of peace" (as in all other versions I have access to)
-- Manfred Helfert

We're tenting tonight on the old camp ground,
Give us a song to cheer
Our weary hearts, a song of home
And friends we love so dear.
CHORUS:
Many are the hearts that are weary tonight,
Wishing for the war to cease;
Many are the hearts looking for the right
To see the dawn of peace.
Tenting tonight, tenting tonight,
Tenting on the old camp ground.
We've been tenting tonight on the old camp-ground,
Thinking of days gone by,
Of the loved ones at home that gave us the hand,
And the tear that said, "Good-bye!"

The lone wife kneels and prays with a sigh
That God his watch will keep
O'er the dear one away and the little dears nigh,
In the trundle bed fast asleep.

We are tenting tonight on the old camp ground.
The fires are flickering low.
Still are the sleepers that lie around,
As the sentinels come and go.

Alas for those comrades of days gone by
Whose forms are missed tonight.
Alas for the young and true who lie
Where the battle flag braved the fight.

No more on march or field of strife
Shall they lie so tired and worn,
No rouse again to hope and life
When the sound of drums beat at morn.

We are tired of war on the old camp ground,
Many are dead and gone,
Of the brave and true who've left their homes,
Others been wounded long.

We've been fighting today on the old camp ground,
Many are lying near;
Some are dead, and some are dying,
Many are in tears.

FINAL CHORUS:
Many are the hearts that are weary tonight,
Wishing for the war to cease;
Many are the hearts looking for the right,
To see the dawn of peace.
Dying tonight, dying tonight,
Dying on the old camp ground.

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