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Friday, September 27, 2013

Gilmore's song, When Johnny Comes Marching Home, first performed in Boston on September 26, 1863

The classic war anthem, When Johnny Comes Marching Home, was first performed at Tremont Temple in Boston on Saturday, September 26, 1863 by Patrick S. Gilmore and his Orchestra.  The concert was announced in the Boston Daily Evening Transcript as described as a sacred concert.

Gilmore originally published the song - also known as the Soldiers Return March - under the pseudonym Louis Lambert for reasons unknown, but later acknowledged that he authored the piece.  The song appeared during the height of the American Civil War, and was meant as an optimistic tribute "dedicated to the Army and Navy of the Union." 

Henry Tolman & Company of Boston was the publisher.

The late Gilmore expert Michael Cummings surmised that Gilmore took the song for an earlier Irish marching song called Johnie I Hardly Knew Ye, which was apparently sung by Irish regiments fighting for the British in Ceylon in the early 19th century.

It has remained popular ever since and has been recorded by hundreds of musicians, ranging from jazz organist Jimmy Smith to Boston's own Dropkick Murphys.

Find more information about Boston's Irish history by visiting

From Irish Boston, 2nd edition, by Michael Quinlin / Publisher: Globe Pequot Press / Publication Date: October 1, 2013