Just Before the Battle, Mother

DESCRIPTION: "Just before the battle, Mother, I am thinking most of you.... Farewell, mother, you may never Press me to your heart again But O, you'll not forget me, Mother, If I'm numbered with the slain." The singer will be true to the cause despite missing Mother
AUTHOR: George F. Root
EARLIEST DATE: 1863 (see NOTES)
KEYWORDS: war battle Civilwar mother nonballad
FOUND IN: US
REFERENCES (12 citations):
RJackson-19CPop, pp. 102-105, "Just Before the Battle, Mother" (1 text, 1 tune)
Silber-CivWarFull, pp. 151-153, "Just Before the Battle Mother" (1 text, 1 tune)
Silber-CivWarAbbr, pp. 12-13, "Just Before the Battle, Mother" (1 text, 1 tune)
Hill-CivWar, pp. 230-231, "Just Before the Battle, Mother" (1 text)
JHCox 74, "Just Before the Battle, Mother" (1 text)
Musick-Larkin 7, "Just Before the Battle Mother" (1 text)
Emerson, pp. 117-118, 'Just Before the Battle, Mother" (1 text)
JHJohnson, p. 118, "Just Behind the Battle, Mother" (1 text, a parody)
WolfAmericanSongSheets, #1174, pp.. 80-81, "Just Before the Battle, Mother" (14 references)
Silber-FSWB, p. 280, "Just Before The Battle, Mother" (1 text)
DT, JSTBATTL* (JSTBATT2)
ADDITIONAL: Wehman's Song Book [of 148 Songs] No. 59 (New York, n.d. (digitized by Internet Archive)), p. 7, "Just Before the Battle Mother" (1 text) [see notes re source]

ST RJ19102 (Full)
Roud #4263
RECORDINGS:
James Doherty, "Just Before the Battle, Mother" (Edison 51109, 1923)
Liberty Quartet, "Just Before the Battle, Mother" (Emerson 943, 1912)
Monroe Quartet, "Just Before the Battle, Mother" (OKeh 45133, 1927)
J. W. Myers, "Just Before the Battle, Mother" (CYL: Columbia 32433, c. 1904)
Will Oakland, "Just Before the Battle, Mother" (CYL: Edison 297, c. 1897) (CYL: Edison [BA] 1516, 1912)
Charlie Oaks, "Just Before the Battle, Mother" (Vocalion 15345, 1926) (Vocalion 5112, 1927)
Scotty the Drifter (The Singing Cowboy) [pseud. for Benny Borg], "Just Before the Battle Mother" (Decca 5143, 1935)
Unidentified tenor, "Just Before the Battle Mother" (Busy Bee A-55, c. 1906)
Wheeler & Ballard "Just Before the Battle, Mother" (Resona 75074, 1920)

BROADSIDES:
Bodleian, Harding B 11(1953), "Just Before the Battle Mother" ("Just before the battle mother"), J. Harkness (Preston), 1840-1866; also 2806 b.10(122), 2806 b.9(14), 2806 c.8(284), 2806 c.8(228), Harding B 11(1905), Harding B 11(1954), Firth c.14(265), 2806 c.14(27), "Just Before the Battle Mother"
LOCSinging, hc00023b, "Just Before the Battle, Mother" ("Just before the battle, mother"), Charles Magnus (Chicago), no date; also cw103180, cw103170, "Just Before the Battle, Mother"

CROSS-REFERENCES:
cf. "Farewell, Mother" (tune)
cf. "The Boys of Sanpete County" [Laws B26] (tune)
SAME TUNE:
Parody on Just Before the Battle (by Eugene T Johnson) (WolfAmericanSongSheets p. 124)
NOTES: [Earlier versions of the Ballad Index dated] George F. Root's famous Civil War song to "1862." Several websites show PDFs of the "original" sheet music dating it to 1862.
However...
A close, close look at these images shows a date of "1872." Since the song was indeed sung during the Civil War, this must be either a later edition or a typographical error.
Other secondary sources give the date of the song's appearance as "1864."
The mystery may be settled by P. H. Carder's meticulous biography, George F. Root, Civil War Songwriter (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2008). On p. 222 Carder specifies, with mention publishers' plate numbers, a publication by Root & Cady (Chicago) in the latter months of 1863.
In far-off Utah, Miss Julia Young of the Deseret Musical Association had performed the song in concert as early as Dec. 16, 1863 (The Deseret News, March 2, 1864, p. 178). I find various newspaper printings of the lyrics beginning with the Gallipolis [Ohio] Journal, May 5, 1864.
That suggests that Eugene F. Johnston's popular parody, "Skedaddling Song" (beginning "Just before the battle, mother,/ I was drinking mountain dew") is likely to have appeared some time in 1864. - JL
Regarding Wehman's Collection Norm Cohen writes, "Songbook #6 was undated, but most likely 1884-5." Each page except the first is headed Wehman's Universal Songster. The first page is undated but states, "Published Quarterly -- January, April, July and October. Norm Cohen's Finding List... has WE29, Universal Songster as "monthly serial ... [beginning] 1881 (Norm Cohen, A Finding List of American Secular Songsters Published Between 1860 and 1899 (Murfreesboro: Middle Tennessee State University), p. 150).
Musick-Larkin's text adds a final verse beginning "Leaning on the merit mother Of the one who went before." English broadsides Bodleian Harding B 11(1953) and 2806 b.10(122) add two verses from "The Battle Cry of Freedom" beginning "Yes we'll rally round the flag boys." - BS
According to E. Lawrence Abel, Singing the New Nation: How Music Shaped the Confederacy, 1861-1865, Stackpole, 2000, pp. 196-197, this song was popular with both north and south, but it was not published in the Confederacy until 1865, when J. W. Davies & Sons came out with an edition. This omitted George F. Root's name, presumably because he was so well-known as a Northern songwriter. There were a few changes in the words, only one of which had any real significance: "Tell the traitors, IF around you" instead of "Tell the traitors ALL around you." - RBW
Last updated in version 3.8
File: RJ19102

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