Sunday, May 24, 2020

"God Bless the Old Sixth Corps"

The VI Corps was among the most accomplished in the Army of the Potomac. Through several different leaders, the VI Corps time and again carried out its orders and did so well. Their battle record was enviable for any similar sized unit in the American Civil War. Fighting under the "Greek Cross" corps badge they developed a fine reputation.

I get to talk about the VI Corps at work often. They were, after all, the stars of the April 2, 1865, breakthrough at Petersburg, which is preserved today by Pamplin Historical Park. I've made it point to try to learn what I can about their service during the Civil War, particularly in 1864-65.

This past week, while reading about the VI Corps' role in the Shenandoah Valley Campaign of 1864, when they were detached from the Army of the Potomac to serve the the Army of the Shenandoah, and led by Philip H. Sheridan, I came across a reference to a song titled "God Bless the Old Sixth Corps."

Written in 1865 by Thomas P. Ryder (1836-1887), and as one might imagine, the song gives the VI Corps a heap of well-deserved praise.

God Bless the Old Sixth Corps

God Bless our noble army!
The hearts are strong and brave,
That have willingly come our standard
From treason's grasp to save,
But from the Western Prairie
To Atlantic's rocky shore,
The truest, noblest hearts of all
Are in the Old Sixth Corps.

Then, ere we part tonight, boys,
We'll sing one song the more.
With chorus swelling loud and clear
God bless the Old Sixth Corps!

In the thickest of the battle,
Where cannon's fiery breath
Smites many a strong heart pressing,
On to victory or death.
The foremost in the conflict,
The last to say, "'tis o're",
Who know now what it is to yield
You'll find the "Old Sixth Corps."


There's many a brave many lying,
Where he nobly fought and fell,
There's many a mother sighing,
For the sons she loved so well.
And the Southern winds are breathing
A requiem where they lie,
O' the gallant followers of the cross
Are not afraid to die!


Our truest, bravest heart is gone,
And we remember well
The bitter anguish of that day
When noble Sedgwick fell.
But there is another left,
To lead us in the fight,
And with a hearty three times three
We'll cheer our gallant Wright!


Then on! Onward we will press,
Till treason's voice we still,
And proudly waves the "Stripes and Stars",
On ev'ry Southern hill.
We'll struggle till our flag is safe,
And honored as before,
And men in future times will say,
God bless the Old Sixth Corps.


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