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Poetic Reflections



John William Grout (1843-1861) was a civil war soldier from Worcester, Massachusetts and a graduate of Phillips Academy, Andover in 1859, who served with the Union's 15th Massachusetts as a Second Lieutenant and was killed at age eighteen at the Battle of Ball's Bluff. His death inspired a famous poem that was later turned into a Civil War song. The poem ("The Vacant Chair") is an allegory that describes the pain suffered by the family of those killed in war when sitting at the Thanksgiving table. The poem was written by Henry S. Washburn and was turned into song by George F. Root. Root wrote "The Battle Cry of Freedom", "Tramp! Tramp! Tramp!" and other songs of the Civil War. "The Vacant Chair" was a hit in both the North and the South.

Lt. Grout's body was recovered on November 5, 1861, after being washed 35 miles back to Washington DC. His remains were identified by the name written on his clothing.

We shall meet, but we shall miss him,
   There will be one vacant chair.
We shall linger to caress him,
   While we breath our evening prayer

When a year ago we gathered,
   Joy was in his mild blue eye,
But a golden cord is severed,
   And our hopes in ruin lie.

   At our fireside, sad and lonely,
Often will the bosom swell,
   At remembrance of the story
   How our noble Willie fell.

How He strove to bear our banner,
   Through the thickest of the fight.
And upheld our country's honor,
   With the strength of manhood's might.

True, they tell us wreathes of glory,
Evermore will deck his brow,
But this soothes the anguish only,
   Sweeping o'er our heartstrings now.

Sleep today, O early fallen!
   In the green and narrow bed;
Dirges from the pine and cypress
   Mingle with the tears we shed.

We shall meet, but we shall miss him.
   There will be one vacant chair.
We shall linger to caress him,
   When we breath our evening prayer.

Lamoille Newsdealer, DEC. 6, 1861

Submitted By: Deanna French
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