Johnny Has Gone For A Soldier

 

Jim Adams’ challenge this week is to write about a song that has Jack or John in its lyrics.  Johnny Has Gone For A Soldier is a folk song which dates back to at least the Seventeenth Century, and was popular in the American War of Independence, the Napoleonic conflicts, and the American Civil War.

The exact origins of the song are unknown, but it may draw from the Irish tune Siúil A Rún.

There have been many covers of the Johnny version, and they have been performed by both male and female artists.  John Tams’ version featured in the Sharpe series of Napoleonic dramas.

Other versions have taken a more America Civil War theme in their arrangement and presentation.

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Lyrics:

Here I sit on Buttermilk Hill
Who can blame me, cryin’ my fill
And ev’ry tear would turn a mill
Johnny has gone for a soldier
Me, oh my, I loved him so
Broke my heart to see him go
And only time will heal my woe
Johnny has gone for a soldier
I’ll sell my rod, I’ll sell my reel
Likewise I’ll sell my spinning wheel
And buy my love a sword of steel
Johnny has gone for a soldier
I’ll dye my dress, I’ll dye it red
And through the streets I’ll beg for bread
For the lad that I love from me has fled
Johnny has gone for a soldier
Source: Musixmatch
Songwriters: Alice Parker / Robert Shaw
Johnny Has Gone For A Soldier lyrics © Wb Music Corp.

Stalemate

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Devanath at Pixabay

The skirmish had begun shortly after sunrise, and a tremendous battle developed  through the day.  Each side had moments when victory seemed assured only for reinforcements to arrive in aid of their foes.  This give and take over only about a mile of land, in the end, caused both armies to withdraw as the day ebbed away.  Neither general believed he had the manpower or remaining energy to pursue his withdrawing enemy.

As the sun set into the western hills, a column of cavalry of about seventy strong made its way back to its bivouac site from which two hundred had ridden that morning.  Each survivor carried his own emotional and physical scars from the day’s engagement.  Each wondered what the next dawn would hold in store for them.

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Fandango’s Flash Fiction Challenge #43

 

Monument: A Cousins Tale

 

image: National Post

Luke stood starring at a shrine of sorts along the right hand wall of the tavern.  Seven Ralulee lances were on a rack below a painting of a young man who bore some resemblance to the landlord.

 

Below the portrait was a framed silver heart, a silver rose with a golden “V” at its centre, and a golden rose.  A polished brass plaque bore the inscription, “Daniel Howard, Hero of the Flames.”

 

“That’s my brother,” Peter said sorrowfully, stepping from behind the bar.

 

“He held off the Ralulee advance,” Luke said in reverent awe.  “Then you must be Peter.  You’re a hero.”

 

“No lad, just a survivor,” the old man said gruffly.

 

“The lances are from the warriors you slew!”  Luke observed in an admiring tone.

 

“Trophies of my shame, Boy.  They remind me of my failings.”

 

“Why shame?” Uran asked courteously.

 

“Because I am here, and my little brother is not,” he said.  “Now, about the biscuit,” he said stepping towards the shelves.

***

It was thirty-five years before and the troop of eleven men of the King’s Yeomanry had formed a piquet in the approach to an oasis.  The kingdom men had enjoyed a series of victories from the mountain passes, and all away across the High Dunes.  They now had halted to regroup and gather their strength.  Many were astonished at how swiftly the Ralulee had abandoned the cool waters and withdrawn at their approach.

 

Suddenly shimmering  lines of fire burst up through thin layers of sand as the long lengths of oil and bitumen soaked ropes were lit from the Ralulee lines to the south.  Several kingdom soldiers just stared as the flames snaked across the sands towards them, uncertain as to what to make of them.  Then with a tremendous burst of flame cisterns of bitumen disguised beneath the kingdom men’s positions burst into life.  Many of the soldiers were killed in the initial blast and the rest ran about in disarray.

 

From the south massed phalanxes of Ralulee infantry began to move forwards.  The men of the Yeomanry with the flames to their backs, and the approaching Ral before them formed a defensive line between two huge dunes which made a direct approach to the oasis’ flank.

 

The brothers, Peter and Daniel Howard emptied their quivers at the advancing Sultanate troops then drew their sabres to make their stand.

 

All around them their colleagues struggled for life.  At least seventy Ralulee light infantry had entered the narrow pass and the yeomen gave their all to stop them.

 

Sergeant Wheeler was the first to fall, a lance in his side, though he managed to slay his own killer with a disembowelling stroke from his prone dying position.

 

The two Howard brothers rushed forwards to assist him, but being too late stood back to back to meet the onslaught.

 

Daniel who had already dropped three Ral with his bow, now thrust his shield under the lance of a tribesman and ducking under the staff buried his blade in his belly, then spinning to his right he made a backhanded stroke across the face of a second Ralulee warrior.

 

Peter presented his shield to an approaching warrior who embedded his lance into its wood and leather face.  Releasing the shield, and diving to his left, Peter severed both knees of his opponent.  The man fell and Peter gave him a killing blow through the kidneys.

 

Another Ralulee prepared to lunge at him from behind, but Trooper Blackwell gave the man a sword thrust across the back of his neck.  The three yeomen now faced a ring of five Ral, and as one rushed towards Blackwell he was sliced across the back of his calves by Peter.  Daniel grabbed the staggering man’s lance, and spun it round in time to arrest the approach of another Ral warrior with a thrust to the throat.

 

Peter parried a lance stroke and spun to attempt a reposte, but as he did the scimitar of a Ralulee officer sliced off the cavalryman’s ear.   Peter continued his spin to come about an additional one hundred eighty decrees, passing up to stroke at the lance-man and burying his blade through the eye slot of the officer’s helm.  The blade stuck fast and Peter wrestled the dying man’s scimitar from his grip and continued to fight.

 

By this time Daniel had recovered his own blade which he had dropped in order to grab the lance.  He shifted to his left to face an oncoming warrior, but tripped over the fallen form of Blackwell who had suffered a lance thrust under the armpit which had just missed the protection of his breastplate.

 

A Ralulee whose lance had snapped giving a killing blow to Trooper Smyth pounced upon him with a drawn dagger.  The blade pierced Daniel’s left shoulder, after severing the leather fastening strap.  Daniel reached up and gouged at the eyes of the man with his thumbs, causing him to momentarily jump back.  Howard taking advantage of the shift in the man’s weight wrenched the man’s own helmet from his head and proceeded to beat him across skull with it.

 

Peter at this time dove to his brother’s aid, and pulled the unconscious Ral from him. Just as he released the man a Ralulee lance thrust removed two fingers from his right hand.  The pain was excruciating, and Peter became dizzy and passed out, just as the Ralulee trumpets sounded the retreat.

 

When Peter came to he was amid the bodies of nine of his fallen comrades.  His brother had suffered severe blood loss from his shoulder wound, and could not move his left arm.  Daniel’s breathing was shallow and erratic.

 

Lieutenant Hall knelt down before the dying Daniel and tried to stem the flow of blood, but it was too late.  Daniel reached towards his brother and whispered, “We did well.”

 

Around them lay the bodies of twenty-four Ralulee. Peter and his lieutenant were the only survivors from among kingdom men.  Daniel had killed seven of the tribesmen, and Peter five including their officer. Several other Ral had crept away from the battle site with wounds.

 

To their rear, King Hector had rallied his troops and seen off the frontal assault on the oasis, but the brave action of the Yeomanry piquets had stopped the oasis being flanked.

 

Both Howard brothers received the Golden Rose for bravery.

 

Peter had his brother’s decorations mounted and commissioned a portrait of his brother with the money he received for pawning his own golden medal.

 

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The Listening Post

Tree, At Night, Silhouette

image: Pixabay

 

It was a cloudless, but dark night, and “Alabama,” and “Ski” were dug-in near a series of fallen tree trunks. Com-wire had been strung at various distances in front of the listening post and empty c-ration cans filled with pebbles were placed on the wires.

Shortly before midnight there was a rattling at about eighty meters out.

“Animal?” Alabama whispered.

“Maybe,” Ski replied.

Then there were two additional sounds of cans being jostled.

“Recan LP1 to Recan Ranger. Over,” Ski whispered over the field radio.

“This is Recan Ranger,” came the reply from Staff Sergeant Ortega over the earpiece.

“We have a movement to out one o’clock. Can we get some light? Over.”

Two flares shot up from behind the listening post and burst out illuminating the forest.

“This is Recan LP1, we have a platoon sized unit to our forward, we can see one crew served weapon. Over.”

As he spoke, the advancing intruders shifted direction directly towards the LP.

“We have them at fifty meters coming right at us,” Ski warned over the radio.

“Get out of there, son,” the Captain’s voice crackled over the earpiece.

The two started to crawl away along their prepared escape path, but the enemy was approaching too quickly.

“On three, leg it,” Corporal Badowski instructed. “One, two, three.”

Both Marines broke into a full out run towards the perimeter.

They were quickly surrounded by the whizzing of passing rounds.

Suddenly Lance Corporal “Alabama” Taylor felt the burning sensation of a round piercing his left thigh, the force of which took him off his feet.

“Shit, I’m hit,” Taylor called out.

“Keep going,” he urged Badowski, who stopped and leaned over him trying to lift him by his deuce gear.

“No way,” the corporal retorted, “You’re coming with me, even if I have to carry you!”

And he did.

 

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Christian Response to War

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Jesus taught to “turn the other cheek,” and while the ideal for individual believers is one we can strive for, it is not so simple for nation states.  War (while a moral and social evil) is an issue in our lives.   Jesus recognised this when He said “there will be wars and rumours of wars.” As a real life issue the church has tried to use its influence to moderate and restrict conflict’s abuses.

Just War Theory is one such approach. This attempt began its evolution in the Medieval period, but has developed in an attempt to take “modern” war (17th and 18th Century) into consideration.  It, while praiseworthy, is difficult to implement as the nature and ideology of warfare has changed.

Its basic points are:

  1. The War must be started and controlled by the authority of the state or ruler, not by vassals or underlings.
  2. There must be a just cause; those attacked must deserve it.
  3. The war must be fought to promote good or avoid evil.
  4. All other possible ways of solving the problem have been tried.
  5. There should be “proportionality:” Innocent civilians should not be killed and only enough force should be used as is needed to achieve victory.
  6. The good gained by the victory must be greater than the evil which led to the war.

Other Christian approaches include pacifism.  This is a bit of a difficult approach as there are several nuanced and divergent sub-approaches to this “peacefulness.” They range from the total avoidance of violent response to conflict, to “principled” limited responses based on either the nature of the conflict, or the amount of resistance offered.

The 1986 film, The Mission brings the pacifism verses “Just War,” stances into focus. The film set in the mid-18th Century relates the missionary efforts of the Jesuits in South America. Conflict arises when colonial authorities order the mission to be closed, and the native people return to the forest. Spoiler alert: The two key priests Gabriel (Jeremy Irons) and Rodrigo (Robert DeNiro) differ on how to respond to the demands.  Gabriel follows the path of pacifism and serves the flock as a priest. Rodrigo chooses to follow the tribes chief in a “Just War.” Which priest is right?

Such questions remain with us today. How are we personally to deal with conflict? And if conflict generally, how about war?

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