Scholarly Editing

The Annual of the Association for Documentary Editing

2013, Volume 34

"Will not these days be by thy poets sung": Poems of the Anglo-African and National Anti-Slavery Standard, 1863–1864

Edited by Elizabeth Lorang and R. J. Weir
page 1 page 2 page 3 page 4
Complete Issue: The Anglo-African (5 March 1864)
Capt. Lindley Miller, "Marching Song of the First Arkansas" The Anglo-African (5 March 1864): [1]View Poem Image
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MARCHING SONG OF THE FIRST ARKANSAS.

[The following song[1] was written by Capt. Lindley Miller[2]
of the First Arkansas colored regiment. Capt. Miller says
the "boys" sing the song on dress parade with an effect
which can hardly be described, and adds, that "while it is
not very conservative, it will do to fight with." Capt. Mil-
ler
is a son of the late ex-Senator Miller of New Jersey.]
Oh! we're de bully soldiers of de "First of Arkansas,"[3] We are fighting for de Union, we are fighting for de law; We can hit a rebel furder dan a white man eber saw, As we go marching on. Glory, glory, hallelujah, etc.
See dar! above de centre, where de flag is wavin' bright; We are goin' out of slavery; we are bound for freedom's
     light;
We mean to show Jeff. Davis how de Africans can fight! As we go marching on.
We hab done wid hoein' cotton, we hab done with hoein'
     corn,
We are colored Yankee soldiers now, as sure as you are
     born;
When de massas hear us yellin' dey'll tink it's Gabriel's
     horn,
As we go marching on.
Dey will hab to pay us wages, the wages of their sin, Dey will hab to bow their foreheads to their colored kith
     and kin,
Dey will hab to gib us house-room, or de roof shall tumble
     in,
As we go marching on.
We heard de proclamation, massa hush it as he will; De bird he sing it to us, hoppin' on de cotton hill, And the possum up de gum-tree he couldn't keep it still, As he went climbing on.
Dey said, "Now colored bredren, you shall be forever
     free,
From the first of January, eighteen hundred and sixty-
     three";
We heard it in de riber goin' rushin' to de sea, As it went sounding on.
Father Abraham has spoken, and de message has been sent, De prison doors he opened, and out de pris'ners went, To join de sable army of de "African descent," As we go marching on.
Den fall in, colored bredren, you'd better do it soon; Don't you hear de drum a beatin' de Yankee Doodle tune? We are wid you now dis mornin', we'll be far away at
     noon,
As we go marching on.

Notes

  1. Miller set his lyrics to the tune of the immensely popular Union song "John Brown's Body." Versions of this song—associated with abolitionist martyr Brown and his militant antislavery message—were used to promote African American enlistment. "Marching Song of the First Arkansas" was issued as a broadside by the Supervisory Committee for Recruiting Colored Regiments in Philadelphia (David Walls, "Marching Song of the First Arkansas Colored Regiment: A Contested Attribution," Arkansas Historical Quarterly, 66 [2007], 407). See also "Father Abraham's Proclamation" (Anglo-African, October 3, 1863) and "A War Song for the Black Volunteers" (Anglo-African, October 10, 1863).Go back
  2. Lindley Hoffman Miller (1834–1864), son of Jacob W. Miller, US senator from New Jersey (1841–1853). Miller was commissioned as captain in the First Arkansas Volunteers in November 1863. In January 1864 Miller told his mother that he had written "a song for [the soldiers] to the tune of 'John Brown' the other day, which the whole Regiment sings. . . . You will not like it I fear" (quoted in David Walls, "Marching Song of the First Arkansas Colored Regiment: A Contested Attribution" Arkansas Historical Quarterly, 66 [2007]: 415). Miller's "Song" appeared in the National Anti-Slavery Standard on February 27, with the dateline "Jan. 18, 1864"—a week later it was reprinted on the front page of the Anglo-African.Go back
  3. Arkansas seceded from the Union on May 6, 1861. The terms of the Emancipation Proclamation applied to the state: "all persons held as slaves" were declared free on January 1, 1863. The First Arkansas Volunteer Infantry Regiment (African Descent) was officially mustered into service on May 1, 1863. The regiment was posted at Goodrich's Landing in Louisiana between June 1863 and January 1864.Go back