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Thanksgiving and the Adhesion Among Men

AC Benus

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Thanksgiving and the Adhesion Among Men

 

 

@Parker Owens brought a certain song to my attention yesterday. I did a little digging on The Vacant Chair and learned a thing or two. Although the lyrics portray a Civil War family mourning the loss of a beloved son, the poem was actually written in tribute to love. Henry Stevenson Washburn was 48 years old when he met and watched 18-year-old John William Grout lead a charge and die in the Battle of Ball’s Bluff. The young lieutenant must have meant a great deal to the poet, and since the death occurred near the time of Thanksgiving, he imagined himself as a loved one gathered around the table with the rest of the dead boy’s family.

 

This is the poem he wrote in tribute.

 

 

The Vacant Chair

 

 

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 will linger to caress him,

When 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.

 

We shall meet, but we shall miss him.

There will be one vacant chair.

We will linger to caress him,

When we breathe our ev'ning prayer.

 

Lt.-J.-W.-Grout.jpg

 

Composer George Root set it to music and moved the entire nation, both North and South. Here is a straightforward, but emotionally charged recording of the song.

 

 

 

 

By the end of the war, and the carnage wrought by the murder of the president, Washburn and Root’s song took on national significance at Thanksgiving time.

 

Walt Whitman memorialized the slain war hero like this:

 

O how shall I warble myself for the dead one there I loved?

And how shall I deck my song for the large sweet soul that has gone?

And what shall my perfume be for the grave of him I love?

 

Sea-winds blown from east and west,

Blown from the Eastern sea and blown from the Western sea, till there on the prairies meeting,

These and with these and the breath of my chant,

I'll perfume the grave of him I love.

 

2015spring_a-pilgrims-journey_1920x1080.

 

And so I bid you all a happy Thanksgiving, and feel it’s appropriate to remember those who made this day about family and love.

 

_

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Thank you for writing about this song, which moved me so much as a young man. It moves me still. 

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21 minutes ago, Parker Owens said:

Thank you for writing about this song, which moved me so much as a young man. It moves me still. 

It is moving. I was not surprised at all to find out it's from one brother in arms to another :)   

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Wow. Thank you for sharing this touching piece of history.

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This is a wonderful poem, made better by the historical details added. Thanksgiving is a perfect time to remember these men and this music. Thanks AC xo

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I can only add to what others have said, AC. The poem and song are wonderful. I love the history you bring to GA .. we are all so much better for it. Thank you, AC! 

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