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Tenting on the Old Camp Ground

Music drifted in the night air. It was a melancholy song that caused Lucas to stop thinking and just listen with a heavy heart. -It Took a War

Tenting Tonight
By: Walter Kittredge
We're tenting tonight on the old camp ground
Give us a song to cheer
Our weary hearts, a song of home
And friends we love so dear
Many are the hearts that are weary tonight
Wishing for the war to cease
Many are the hearts that are looking for the right
To see the dawn of peace
Tenting tonight, tenting tonight, tenting on the old camp ground

We've been tenting tonight on the old camp ground
Thinking of days gone by
Of the loved ones at home that gave us the hand
And the tear that said "Goodbye"


We are tired of war on the old camp ground
Many are dead and gone
Of the brave and true who've left their homes
Others been wounded long


(Tenting Tonight artwork by my sister, Haley.)

 A draft notice in 1863 was the main inspiration for "Tenting on the Old Camp Ground" written by Walter Kittredge. It was written as a farewell to civilian life and a plea for peace when Kittredge was drafted. He never did serve in the army, the cause being he had battled rheumatic fever as a child and was exempt from service.

Kittredge tried selling his creation to a Boston publisher, but it was turned down. They were looking for a more patriotic song than the mournful words Kittredge had penned down.

Kittredge then brought his song to the Hutchinsons, a famous singing group. They were very excited about the song and performed it in a series of concerts. "Tenting on the Old Camp Ground" became an instant success.

A man named J.W. Turner plagiarized Kittredge's lyrics and turned it from gloom to joy. It never became popular. The lyrics went like this:

We're tenting today on the old camp ground
Our hearts are light and joyous ever;
We think of home, we talk of friends,
And happy times we've had together.

Yeah, it was pretty lame. 

What are your favorite songs from the past? 



  1. I love this song, in spite of its melancholy. Probably one of my favorite Civil War songs along with "Lorena" and "The Bonnie Blue Flag." There's a nice version of it that I can play in my favorite music book, Best Loved Songs of the American People. I wish I could find an orchestral recording of it, but all that seems to be out there is piano and vocal.

    And I love old songs in general. I actually started a recurring series on my blog this year, spotlighting old songs that are featured in classic books—I'm planning on doing another entry in it this month.

  2. Oooh I love Lorena and The Bonnie Blue Flag, too! Half the songs on my ipod are 1860's songs! =)

    I remember reading one of your posts about old songs...that was part of the inspiration for writing this post! I can't wait to read your new one this month!