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"When Johnny Comes Marching Home"
When Johnny Comes Marching Home - Project Gutenberg eText 21566.png
Cover, sheet music, 1863
Written by Louis Lambert
Written 1863
Language English
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"When Johnny Comes Marching Home" (sometimes "When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again") is a popular song of the American Civil War that expressed people's longing for the return of their friends and relatives who were fighting in the war.



The Irish antiwar song "Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye" and "When Johnny Comes Marching Home" share the same melodic material. Based on internal textual references, "Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye" apparently dates from the early 1800s, while "When Johnny Comes Marching Home" was first published in 1863. It was sung by both sides of the Civil War.[1]

As with much folk music of this period, many variants in text and music appear as the song is transmitted orally and subject to many external influences. Primacy of one version over another is difficult to prove conclusively because most versions were never written down or published. James Fuld in The Book of World Famous Music (page 640) indicates that some believe the melody is not Irish in origin.

The lyrics to "Johnny Comes Marching Home," written by Irish-American bandleader Patrick Gilmore and published under the pseudonym 'Louis Lambert',[1] effectively reverse those of "Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye", in which Johnny returns home blind and crippled, to the woman and childs he abandoned in order to go to Sri Lanka to serve in the British Army for the East India Company.

The Johnny so longed for in the song is Patrick Gilmore's future brother in-law a Union Light Artillery Captain named John O'Rourke. The song was written by Patrick for his sister Annie Gilmore as she longed for the safe return of her Captain from the Civil War. ("The House that O'Rourke Built" Patti Jo Peterson The Plattsmouth Journal August 30, 2007 page 5, AND "The O'Rourke House" Patti Jo Peterson The Plattsmouth Journal June 15, 2006 page 11)

Other versions

Quite a few variations on the song, as well as songs set to the same tune but with different lyrics, have appeared since When Johnny Comes Marching Home was popularized. The alleged larcenous tendencies of some Union soldiers in New Orleans were parodied in the lyrics "For Bales", to the same tune. A British version appeared in 1914, with the similar title, "When Tommy Comes Marching Home."

Popular Culture (after 1950)

  • The Chad Mitchell Trio album Mighty Day on Campus (1961) includes "Johnnie," a combined version of both "When Johnny Comes Marching Home" and "Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye."
  • Frijid Pink made a rock version of the song with a bit altered lyrics under the name "We're Gonna Be There". The song was published as a bonus track to the Defrosted album (1970).
  • Malvina Reynolds wrote different lyrics for the tune in her song "The Judge Said" (1977).
  • The Dutch folk group Pater Moeskroen wrote different lyrics for the tune in their song "Vannacht".
  • A French version (without vocals) "Johnny Revient d'la Guerre" was recorded by Bérurier Noir, on the album Macadam Massacre (1983).
  • Guns N' Roses used a part of the song for their song "Civil War" (1991).
  • The melody for the song was used as an intro to "Heaven's Hung in Black" by W.A.S.P. on their 2007 album Dominator.
  • The same tune is used for the children's songs "The Ants Go Marching One By One"
  • Also, Supertramp saxophonist John Helliwell played the first part of the song as part of his saxophone solo during the "Jerusalem"/explosion section of "Fool's Overture" on the 1980 double live album Paris.
  • On their "Dahmer" album (2000), Macabre uses the same theme in the song In The Army Now with modified lyrics, telling about Jeffrey Dahmer during his conscription in Germany.
  • An obscene version prevalent in military and Rugby-football circles also exists - beginning "Three German Officers Crossed the Rhine," although this lyric is more often associated with the World War I song Mademoiselle from Armentières.
  • Parts of the song were performed by U2 during the Vertigo Tour (2005) as a medley with "Bullet the Blue Sky."
  • The melody of that song is also use by the 92nd infantry regiment of Clermont-Ferrand (France) as anthem, with other lyrics.
  • UK mobile phone network O2, part of Telefónica Europe started using an instrumental version of this song in a TV advertisement in the first half of 2008.[3] It is also used as the music-on-hold track played to customers waiting to speak to O2's Customer Services.
  • The tune is used by Liverpool FC fans in a song about their striker, Fernando Torres.
  • The tune is also used as a basis for a song sung by Manchester United fans about defender John O'Shea.
  • United States soccer fans sing the chorus to this song during matches as a patriotic hymn to support their national team.[4]
  • Since 2009 the Roseville Gypsies Cricket Club have used this tune as the basis for their team song.
  • A version referencing gays in the military was sung by Bill McNeal (Phil Hartman) on NewsRadio. "When Johnny comes marching home, He's Gay! He's Gay!"
  • For their 2007 tour, Streetlight Manifesto used two instrumental verses to introduce the first song, "Everything Went Numb."
  • Paul Wall & Chamillionaire used the melody of this song for both versions of "True" from Controversy Sells (2005).
  • The tune was used with distinctly British lyrics by Anglo Saxon for their song 'When Daddy comes marching home'. Released on iTunes (2007)
  • Iced Earth used a part of the song for their song "The Devil to Pay" on The Glorious Burden (2004).
  • The music for this song is used (with different lyrics) by The Clash for their song "English Civil War" (1979). Country music group Boy Howdy released a version of the song in 1991.
  • The song, or its tune, has also been used in the soundtracks of several movies, including:
  • It was also used in the episode "G.I. D'oh" of The Simpsons.
  • It was made into a JibJab parody entitled, "He's Barack Obama". [5]
  • Tyske Ludder has a cover version entitled "March" on their 2009 release Anonymous.
  • Asterix In Belgium includes a song that the Roman soldiers sing whilst marching back into Gaul from Belgium, which is a variation on this song called 'When Gaius Comes Marching Home Again'
  • The song was used in a 2009 television commercial for Rexona Woman.


The original lyrics as written by Gilmore, are:[6]

Illustration of a Zouave company on Civil War era broadside of "When Johnny Comes Marching Home".
When Johnny comes marching home again
Hurrah! Hurrah!
We'll give him a hearty welcome then
Hurrah! Hurrah!
The men will cheer and the boys will shout
The ladies they will all turn out
And we'll all feel gay
When Johnny comes marching home.
The old church bell will peal with joy
Hurrah! Hurrah!
To welcome home our darling boy,
Hurrah! Hurrah!
The village lads and lassies say
With roses they will strew the way,
And we'll all feel gay
When Johnny comes marching home.
Get ready for the Jubilee,
Hurrah! Hurrah!
We'll drink him a toast or two or three,
Hurrah! Hurrah!
The laurel wreath is ready now
To place upon his loyal brow
And we'll all feel gay
When Johnny comes marching home.
Let love and friendship on that day,
Hurrah, hurrah!
Their choicest pleasures then display,
Hurrah, hurrah!
And let each one perform some part,
To fill with joy the warrior's heart,
And we'll all feel gay
When Johnny comes marching home.


  1. ^ a b Erbsen, page 68
  2. ^ Jay Nordlinger, "American Sounds: A little music with your politics - music at political conventions", National Review, 2000-09-11
  3. ^ YouTube: O2 "Two by Two" commercial from 2008
  4. ^
  5. ^ He's Barack Obama
  6. ^ Lambert, "When Johnny Comes Marching Home".


  • Lambert, Louis (Patrick Gilmore). "When Johnny Comes Marching Home". Boston: Henry Tolman & Co. (1863)
  • Erbsen, Wayne: Rousing Songs and True Tales of the Civil War. Native Ground Books & Music, 2008. ISBN 1883206332

External links



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