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For Memorial Day, a Civil War ballad

By Tim Smith, The Baltimore Sun

11:36 AM EDT, May 27, 2013

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On this Memorial Day, I thought it would be worth recalling the Civil War origins of this annual observance. Here is one of the most beloved songs from those terrible years of when the country was torn apart by an internal conflict.

"The Vacant Chair" may seem overly sentimental in our cyncial era, but the bitterwseet words and simple tune can still haunt, as they did when the Civil War was taking its toll on so many soldiers and their families.

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

... At our fireside, sad and lonely,
Often will the bosom swell,
At remembrance of the story
How our noble Willie fell ...

Sleep today, Oh early fallen,
In thy green and narrow bed,
Dirges from the pine and cypress,
Mingle with the tears we shed ...