The Vacant Chair

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Something for the weekend.  The incomparable Kathy Mattea singing the Civil War song The Vacant Chair.  Originally written in 1862 to commemorate Second Lieutenant John William Grout, 15th Massachusetts, who was killed at age eighteen at Ball’s Bluff, one of the early battles of the War, it proved immensely popular North and South as the nation eventually mourned approximately 620,000 vacant chairs.

Here is a heart-wrenching version by the unforgettable Tennessee Ernie Ford:

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We shall meet but we shall miss him.
There will be one vacant chair.
We shall linger to caress him,
While we breathe our ev’ning prayer.
When a year ago we gathered,
Joy was in his mild blue eye.
But a golden cord is severed.
And our hopes in ruin lie.

We shall meet, but we shall miss him.
There will be one vacant chair.
We shall linger to caress him,
While we breathe our ev’ning prayer.

At our fireside, sad and lonely,
Often will the bosom swell,
At remembrance of the story,
How our noble Willie fell.
How he strove to bear our banner,
Thro’ the thickest of the fight,
And uphold our country’s honor
In the strength of manhood’s might.

True they tell us wreaths of glory,
Evermore will deck his brow,
But this soothes the anguish only,
Sweeping o’er our heartstrings now.
Sleep today o’ early fallen,
In thy green and narrow bed.
Dirges from the pine and cypress
Mingle with the tears we shed.

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