All Quiet Along the Potomac

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Melody - John Hill Hewitt, 1863
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Ethel L. Beers

"All quiet along the Potomac," tonight,
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.

2. All quiet along the Potomac tonight,
Where the soldiers lie peacefully dreaming,
Their tents in the rays of the clear Autumn moon,
O'er the light of the watch fires, are gleaming;
There's only the sound of the lone sentry's tread
As he tramps from the rock to the fountain,
And thinks of the two in the low trundle bed,
Far away in the cot on the mountain.

3. His musket falls slack, his face, dark and grim,
Grows gentle with memories tender,
As he mutters a pray'r for the children asleep,
For their mother, may Heaven defend her.
The moon seems to shine just as brightly as then
That night when the love yet unspoken
Leaped up to his lips when low-murmured vows
Were pledged to be ever unbroken.

4. Then drawing his sleeve roughly o'er his eyes,
He dashes off tears that are welling,
And gathers his gun closer up to his breast,
As if to keep down the heart's 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.

5. 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 his 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.


Inspired by newspaper headlines early in the war, it was originally titled "The Picket Guard". It was run in the November 30, 1861, edition of "Harper's Weekly." It was later set to music by John H. Hewitt, who was serving in the Confederate army. The song enjoyed tremendous popularity on both sides.

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