Johnny has gone for a soldier

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Because Ken Burns featured it in the soundtrack for his documentary The Civil War many people think of that war when they hear it. However, the song Johnny has gone for a soldier, also known as Buttermilk Hill, is actually an older older song. It was quite popular during the American Revolution. The lyrics for it are below.

Musically there are better versions than the one I've embedded, but I think the anonymous young girl hesitantly singing it acappella captures it quite nicely. I imagine that, back in Revolutionary days, many a forlorn girl sung it to themselves just like that. Its sadness is the human price that was paid for the soaring words of the Declaration of Independence we'll celebrate tomorrow.
Here I sit on Buttermilk Hill
Who can blame me, cryin' my fill
And ev'ry tear would turn a mill,
Johnny has gone for a soldier.

Me, oh my, I loved him so,
Broke my heart to see him go,
And only time will heal my woe,
Johnny has gone for a soldier.

I'll sell my rod, I'll sell my reel,
Likewise I'll sell my spinning wheel,
And buy my love a sword of steel,
Johnny has gone for a soldier.

I'll dye my dress, I'll dye it red,
And through the streets I'll beg for bread,
For the lad that I love from me has fled,
Johnny has gone for a soldier.