“There Was An Old Soldier” from The American Songbag

Carl Sandburg


Carl Sandburg put a book together comprised of songs from American’s early days entitled: The American Songbag. Altogether the volume contains 280 songs, one of which is posted below. In the volume published in 1927, Sandburg provides an Apologia. Part of what it says, is this:

“The book was begun in depths of humility, and ended likewise with the murmur, “God be merciful to me, a sinner.” It is a book for sinners, and for lovers of humanity. I apoligize to them for the sins of the book and that it love much but not enough.”

Looking at page 432, there is the song There Was An Old Soldier. A brief bit of background is provided about the work:

“A leading favorite of the Grand Army of the Republic, one of the healthiest survivors of the contest between the Blue and the Gray, and a widely known piece of American Folk lore.”



O there was an old soldier and he had a wooden leg,

He had no tobacco but tobacco he could beg.

Another old soldier as sly as a fox,

He always had tobacco in his old tobacco box.

Said the one old soldier, “Won’t you give me a chew?”

Said the other old soldier, “I’ll be hanged if I do,

Save up your pennies and put away your rocks,

And you’ll always have tobacco in your old tobacco box.

Well, the one old soldier was a feelin’ very bad,

He says, “I’ll get even, I will, begad!”

He goes to a corner, takes a rifle from his peg,

And stabs the other soldier with a splinter from his leg.

There was an old hen and she had a wooden foot,

And she made her nest by a mulberry root,

And she laid more eggs than any hen on the farm;

And another wooden foot wouldn’t do her any harm.

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