All Quiet along the Potomac Tonight

(1863)

"All Quiet along the Potomac Tonight" was a popular Civil War song, published in 1863. The lyrics, written by Ethel Lynn Beers, were originally published as the poem "The Picket-Guard" in Harper's Weekly in 1861. The song was composed by John Hill Hewitt in 1863.

"The Picket-Guard"
by Ethel Lynn Beers
(Lyrics for Hewitt's "All Quiet along the Potomac Tonight")


All quiet along the Potomac, they say,
Except now and then a stray picket
Is shot as he walks on his beat to and fro,
By a rifleman hid in the thicket.
'Tis nothing, a private or two now and then
Will not count in the news of the battle;
Not an officer lost, only one of the men,
Moaning out all alone the death rattle.
"All quiet along the Potomac tonight!"


All quiet along the Potomac tonight,
where the soldiers lie peacefully dreaming,
and their tents in the rays of the clear autumn moon,
and the light of the camp fires are gleaming;
there's only the sound of the lone sentry's tread,
as he tramps for the rock to the fountain,
and thinks of the two on the low trundle bed,
far away in the cot on the mountain.
"All quiet along the Potomac tonight!"


His musket falls slack - his face dark and grim,
grows gentle with memories tender,
as he mutters a pray'r for the children asleep,
and their Mother - "may heaven defend her!"
The moon seems to shine as brightly as then -
that night when a love yet unspoken
leap'd up to his lips and when low murmur'd vows
were pledg'd to be ever unbroken.
"All quiet along the Potomac tonight!"


Then drawing his sleeve roughly over his eye
He dashes off tears that are welling,
And gathers his gun closer up to its place
As if to keep down the heart-swelling.
He passes the fountain, the blasted pine tree
The footstep is lagging and weary;
Yet onward he goes, through the broad belt of light,
Toward the shades of the forest so dreary.
"All quiet along the Potomac tonight!"


Hark! Was it the night wind that rustled the leaves,
Was it moonlight so wondrously flashing?
It looks like a rifle -- "Ah! Mary, good-bye!"
And the lifeblood is ebbing and splashing.
All quiet along the Potomac tonight,
No sound save the rush of the river;
While soft falls the dew on the face of the dead -
The picket's off duty forever.
"All quiet along the Potomac tonight!"


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