Answers to a Civil War tearjerker: Weeping sad and lonely

weeping sad and lonely coverIn a nation torn and divided over slavery, everyone could unite in their fear and grief at the carnage.

“Weeping Sad and Lonely, or, When This Cruel War Is Over” became the most popular of the many songs that expressed it.

Families on both sides of the conflict sang it. So did the soldiers. The lyrics sounded such a note of despair that some commanders tried to forbid soldiers to sing it.

It was so successful commercially that it inspired more optimistic songs explicitly published as answers to it.

Weeping Sad and Lonely, or When This Cruel War Is Over

The poems of Connecticut-born Charles Carroll Sawyer do not take sides in the conflict. Instead, they express a universal war-weariness. As senior partner of the Brooklyn music publisher Sawyer & Thompson, he had a ready outlet for his lyrics. “Weeping Sad and Lonely” was the best selling of several.  Henry Tucker, apparently a staff songwriter for Sawyer & Thompson, wrote the musoc.

Neither the lyrics the music have much artistic merit, but the song’s popularity outlasted the war.

Dearest Love, do you remember, when we last did meet,
How you told me that you loved me, kneeling at my feet?
Oh! How proud you stood before me, in your suit of blue,
When you vow’d to me and country, ever to be true.

CHORUS: Weeping, sad and lonely, hopes and fears how vain!
When this cruel war is over, praying that we meet again.

When the summer breeze is sighing, mournfully along,
Or when autumn leaves are falling, sadly breathes the song.
Oft in dreams I see thee lying on the battle plain,
Lonely, wounded, even dying, calling but in vain.


If amid the din of battle, nobly you should fall,
Far away from those who love you, none to hear you call —
Who would whisper words of comfort, who would soothe your pain?
Ah! The many cruel fancies, ever in my brain.


But our Country called you, Darling, angels cheer your way;
While our nation’s sons are fighting, we can only pray.
Nobly strike for God and Liberty, let all nations see
How we loved the starry banner, emblem of the free.


weeping sad and lonely southern cover“Weeping Sad and Lonely” first appeared in 1862. Lee & Walker of Philadelphia issued two arrangements in 1863.

One was an easy piano arrangement, the other substituted melodeon for the original piano accompaniment.

Two editions appeared in the South, one by Geo. Dunn & Compy. of Richmond and one by J.C. Schreiner & Son of Macon & Savannah.

Both used “When This Cruel War Is Over” as the title. They needed only alter the first verse to make the lyrics suit the needs of the Confederate side:

Dearest one do you remember when we last did meet
When you told me how you loved me, kneeling at my feet?
Oh how proud you stood before me in your suit of grey
When you vow’d to me and country ne’er to go astray.

Rossiter’s Answer to Weeping Sad and Lonely

Weeping sad and lonely Rossiter answer coverAs popular as Sawyer’s poem was, some found it unsatisfactory. It was too pessimistic, and it lacked patriotism. Its popularity, however, opened the door for other song-writing teams to try their hand at something more hopeful.

Besides its two arrangements of the original, Lee & Walker issued two versions of “I Remember the Hour When Sadly We Parted: Answer to Weeping Sad and Lonely” in 1863, with lyrics by Ednor Rossiter and music by B. Frank Walters. One had piano accompaniment, the other guitar.

Rossiter’s lyrics shift the viewpoint from the girl to the soldier. He loves her dearly, of course, but also proudly represents his country’s cause. If he gives his life in the war, he wants her to know that the cause is worth his sacrifice, and they will be reunited in heaven.

I remember the hour when sadly we parted,
The tears on your pale cheek glist’ning like dew
When clasped in your arms almost broken hearted,
I swore by the bright sky I’d ever be true.
True to the love that nothing could sever,
And true to the flag of my country forever.

CHORUS: Then weep not, love oh, weep not,
Think not hopes are vain,
For when this fatal war is over,
We shall surely meet again.

Oh let not, my own love, the summer winds, winging
Their sweet laden zephyrs o’er land and o’er sea,
Bring aught to your heart, with the autumn birds’ singing,
But hopes for the future and bright dreams of me;
For while in your pure heart my mem’ry you’re keeping,
I ne’er can be lonely while waking or sleeping.


But if, while the loud shouts of vic’try are ringing
O’er the land that foul traitors have sought to betray,
You hear o’er the voices so joyfully singing,
That he who so loved you has fallen in the fray,
Oh, think that he’s gone where there’s dark treason never,
Where tears and sad partings are banished forever.

CHORUS: Then weep not, love, oh, weep not,
One hope is not in vain,
For when the war of life is over,
We in Heav’n may meet again.

Hewitt’s Answer to When This Cruel War is Over

weeping sad and lonely Hewitt answer coverJohn Hill Hewitt had been the leading American song writer from about 1825 until Stephen Collins Foster overshadowed him.

He immediately became one of the leading Confederate song writers, although much of his work for the theater remains unpublished.

He wrote only the lyrics to “When upon the Field of Glory: Answer to ‘When This Cruel War is Over,'” published by by J.C. Schreiner & Son. Hermann L. Schreiner, staff songwriter and probably the son, provided the music.

It seems unlikely that either of the answer songs became widely known. Even less likely that they made it to the other side.

Yet Hewitt’s lyrics strike much the same tone as Rossiter’s. Hewitt’s soldier even seems to assume that he will be killed. But like Rossiter’s, he assures his girl of his love and devotion to his country’s cause.

When upon the field of glory,
‘Mid the battle cry,
And the smoke of cannon curling
Round the mountain high;
Then sweet mem’ries will come o’er me,
Painting home and thee.
Nerving me to deeds of daring
Struggling to be free.

CHORUS: Weep no longer, dearest,
Tears are now in vain.
When this cruel war is over,
We may meet again.

Oft I think of joys departed,
Oft I think of thee;
When night’s sisters throw around me
Their star’d canopy.
Dreams so dear come o’er my pillow,
Bringing up the past.
Oh! how sweet the soldier’s visions!
Oh! how short they last!


When I stand, a lonely picket,
Gazing on the moon,
As she walks her starry pathway
In night’s silent noon;
I will think that thou art looking
On her placid face;
Then our thoughts will meet together
In a heavenly place.


When the bullet, swiftly flying
Through the murky air,
Hit its mark—my sorrow’d bosom—
Leaving death’s pang there;
Then my thoughts on thee will turn, love,
While I prostrate lie,
My pale lips shall breathe, ‘God bless thee!—
For our cause I die!


The very fact that Sawyer’s poem attracted answers on both sides of the conflict testifies to its power and commercial success. No one who writes extensively about Civil War songs can fail to comment on it. It seems impossible to exaggerate its influence.

Source and image credits: Library of Congress Civil War Sheet Music Collection

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