To Canaan

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Something for the weekend.  To Canaan.   One of the more bloodthirsty songs of our Civil War, it is based on this poem by Oliver Wendell Holmes, published in 1862:

To Canaan


WHERE are you going, soldiers,

With banner, gun, and sword?

We ‘re marching South to Canaan

To battle for the Lord

What Captain leads your armies

Along the rebel coasts?

The Mighty One of Israel,

His name is Lord of Hosts!

To Canaan, to Canaan

The Lord has led us forth,

To blow before the heathen walls

The trumpets of the North!

What flag is this you carry

Along the sea and shore?

The same our grandsires lifted up,–

The same our fathers bore

In many a battle’s tempest

It shed the crimson rain,–

What God has woven in his loom

Let no man rend in twain!

To Canaan, to Canaan

The Lord has led us forth,

To plant upon the rebel towers

The banners of the North!

What troop is this that follows,

All armed with picks and spades?

These are the swarthy bondsmen,–

The iron-skin brigades!

They’ll pile up Freedom’s breastwork,

They ‘LL scoop out rebels’ graves;

Who then will be their owner

And march them off for slaves?

To Canaan, to Canaan

The Lord has led us forth,

To strike upon the captive’s chain

The hammers of the North!

What song is this you’re singing?

The same that Israel sung

When Moses led the mighty choir,

And Miriam’s timbrel rung!

To Canaan! To Canaan!

The priests and maidens cried:

To Canaan! To Canaan!

The people’s voice replied.

To Canaan, to Canaan

The Lord has led us forth,

To thunder through its adder dens

The anthems of the North.

When Canaan’s hosts are scattered,

And all her walls lie flat,

What follows next in order?

The Lord will see to that

We’ll break the tyrant’s sceptre,–

We ‘ll build the people’s throne,–

When half the world is Freedom’s,

Then all the world’s our own

To Canaan, to Canaan

The Lord has led us forth,

To sweep the rebel threshing-floors,

A whirlwind from the North.

Oliver Wendell Holmes

The song is sung by Bobby Horton who has waged a one man crusade to bring Civil War music to modern audiences.  He is also a Southerner and I give him credit for not adding editorial comment to what even Union loving me views as an over the top diatribe!

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