In honor of St. Patrick’s day I thought I’d do something a bit different than the Kelly’s Ford battle. The tune “Garry Owen” is often related to the cavalry, although during the war it was the march of the 69th New York infantry. It was later particularly associated with the 7th Cavalry. Custer reportedly heard it sung among his Irish troopers and liked it so much that it became adopted as the unofficial regimental march.
The song’s lyrics have changed a great deal over time. This morning we’ll look at three of them. Here are the song’s ‘original’ lyrics, the ones Custer most likely heard:
Let Bacchus’ sons be not dismayed
But join with me, each jovial blade
Come, drink and sing and lend your aid
To help me with the chorus:
Instead of spa, we’ll drink brown ale
And pay the reckoning on the nail;
No man for debt shall go to jail
From Garryowen in glory.
We’ll beat the bailiffs out of fun,
We’ll make the mayor and sheriffs run
We are the boys no man dares dun
If he regards a whole skin.
Our hearts so stout have got us fame
For soon ’tis known from whence we came
Where’er we go they fear the name
Of Garryowen in glory.
After the battle of Little Big Horn, the 7th Cavalry developed their own new lyrics to the tune. The leader of the element would sing the lines of the verses, and the group would yell back “Sgt. Flynn” at the end of each of those lines. According to some reports, this version was sung by the elements of the 7th Cavalry at Wounded Knee.
I can hear those Sioux bucks singing, Sgt. Flynn
I can hear those tom-toms ringing, Sgt. Flynn
I can hear those Sioux bucks singing,
I can here those tom-toms ringing,
But they don’t yet know the tune to Garry Owen.
Garry Owen, Garry Owen, Garry Owen
In the valley of Montana all alone
There are better days to be
In the seventh cavalry
When we charge again For dear old Garry Owen.
It’s first call I hear it sounding, Sgt. Flynn
And it sounds like taps a-rounding, Sgt. Flynn
Oh me lads, here’s something fancy
Take a break, it’s Private Clancy
And you’ll feel better when he strikes up Garry Owen
For it’s Boots and Saddles sounding, Sgt. Flynn
Along the line the men are bounding, Sgt. Flynn
So let’ saddle-up and fall in
For the trumpets are callin’
And the band is tuning up for Garry Owen.
For it’s forward we’re advancing, Sgt. Flynn
And the breeze guides are a-lancing, Sgt. Flynn
Walk, trot, gallop, charge by thunder,
We will ride those cut throats under.
Drive your sabers to the hilt for Garry Owen.
We are ambushed and surrounded, Sgt. Flynn
Yet recall has not been sounded, Sgt. Flynn
Gather round me and we’ll rally
Make one last stand in the valley
For the Seventh Regiment and Garry Owen.
You are cut, and scalped, and battered, Sgt. Flynn
All your men are dead and scattered, Sgt. Flynn
I will make your bed tomorrow
With my head bowed down in sorrow.
O’er your grave, I’ll whistle Taps and Garry Owen.
The 7th’s version of the lyrics changed over time, and by 1905 they looked like this. I believe these are the same lyrics later adopted as the offical tune for both the 7th Cavalry Regiment and the 1st Cavalry Division.
We are the pride of the Army
And a regiment of great renown,
Our Name’s on the pages of History.
From sixty-six on down.
If you think we stop or falter
While into the fray we’re going
Just watch the steps with our heads erect,
While our band plays Garryowen.
In the Fighting Seventh’s the place for me,
Its the cream of all the Cavalry;
No other regiment ever can claim
Its pride, honor, glory and undying fame.
We know fear when stern duty
Calls us far away from home,
Our country’s flag shall safely o’er us wave,
No matter where we roam.
‘Tis the gallant 7th Cavalry
It matters not where we are going”
Such you’ll surely say as we march away;
And our band plays Garryowen.
Then hurrah for our brave commanders!
Who led us into the fight.
We’ll do or die in our country’s cause,
And battle for the right.
And when the war is o’er,
And to our home we’re goin
Just watch your step, with our heads erect,
When our band plays Garryowen.