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When Johnny Comes Marching Home
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Educator's Guide: The Arts: Singing Soldiers: "When Johnny Comes Marching Home"
It was popular with soldiers and their families on both sides of the conflict and went on to be a classic American song, much beloved by military and brass bands. Gilmore was serving with the Massachusetts Infantry at the time and used the pseudonym Louis Lambert on the sheet music when the song was published. Far from being a partisan song on one side or the other, it was a song that could unite people because all it calls for is the safe return of the soldiers.
This has led to some debate between folk song historians as to which song came first. Their structures are the same and they are both about returning from war but they are very different because their viewpoints are from different moments in time.
When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again is full of optimism and hope because it looks forward to a time when the war is over and the soldiers will march home safely. The two songs share the same melody and lyrical structure so one is clearly a parody of the other but which came first? Gilmore never clarified what that song was called. When Johnny Comes Marching Home was the first to be published in print form which would suggest it was the original.
On the other hand, many Irish songs were passed down orally for generations before they were published. There is also a reference in the Irish song to Johnny being stationed in Ceylon. This would most likely refer to the Kandyan Wars, which occupied British forces between and Unless, researchers find a printed version of Johnny I Hardly Knew Ya that predates the American version, the debate is likely to continue. McGinty and Carlin represent Derry.