At the outset of the war, Connecticut-born Charles Carroll Sawyer turned from writing sonnets to writing sentimental ballads with huge success. His method of composition was to transform the report of an actual war incident into a poignant or passionate musical moment, and his songs, unlike most other wartime composers’, remained completely non-partisan, touching Northern and Southern hearts alike. “Who Will Care For Mother Now?” and “Mother Would Comfort Me” lead the throng of inevitable “mother” songs which war engenders; “Weeping Sad and Lonely,” his finest effort, enjoyed unprecedented popularity, selling over a million copies. Also called “When This Cruel war Is Over,” “Weeping Sad and Lonely” depicts the “many cruel fancies” of a soldier’s sweetheart as she recalls their last meeting. A melancholic expression of heroic hopes and tender pride, the song balances the young woman’s fears for the safety of her proud soldier and her stoical acceptance of his possible fate. Minor substitutions in stanza one and in the final verse allowed it to be sung by both Union and Confederate songsters.
The numerous musical responses to Sawyer’s tune range from the outwardly optimistic “When This Cruel War Is Over, I Will Come Back To You” (Grenville) to the darkly realistic “Answer To When This Cruel War Is Over” (Hewitt). Thus, the song’s widespread appeal is attested to by the continuing musical dialogue it inspired. So moving to mid-nineteenth sensibilities was it that generals on both sides finally forbade its singing in camp.
Weeping, Sad and Lonely
Dearest one, do you remember,
When we last did meet?
When you told me how you loved me,
Kneeling at my feet?
Oh! how proud you stood before me,
In your suit of gray;
When you vowed from me and country,
Ne’er to go astray!
Weeping, sad and lonely,
Sighs and tears, how vain;
When this cruel war is over,
Praying then to meet again!
When the summer breeze is sighing
Or when autumn leaves are falling,
Sadly breathes the song.
Oft in dreams I see you lying
On the battle plain;
Lonely, wounded, even dying,
Calling, but in vain. (Chorus)
If amid the din of battle,
Nobly you should fall;
Far away from those who love you,
None to hear you call:
Who would whisper words of comfort?
Who would soothe your pain?
Such are many cruel fancies
Ever in my brain! (Chorus)
But our country called you, loved one,
Angels guide your way;
While our “Southern boys” are fighting,
We can only pray.
When you strike for God and Freedom,
Let all nations see
How you love our Southern banner,
Emblem of the free. (Chorus)