“We Are Coming, Father Abra’am” Urged Northern Men to Answer Lincoln’s Call for 300,000 Troops

On July 1st, 1862, as General George McClellan’s unsuccessful and costly Peninsula Campaign was coming to an end, President Abraham Lincoln called on northern states governors to supply 300,000 more volunteers for the Union Army and Navy. New York abolitionist James Sloan Gibbons was, at 52, too old to join the army, but he did do something else to help the cause. Gibbons wrote a four verse poem called “Three Hundred Thousand More” to inspire others to enlist. The poem was published in the New York Evening Post on July 16th, 1862.

It wasn’t long before eight different composers, including Stephen Foster, Luther O. Emerson, and J.A. Getze arranged music for the poem. The name of song itself was changed to “We Are Coming, Father Abra’am” The lively quickstep tune became popular, and although it’s anyone’s guess how much influence it had, the quota for more soldiers was met, and many new regiments were mustered into service later that summer and fall.

The lyrics:

We are coming, Father Abraham, three hundred thousand more,
From Mississippi’s winding stream and from New England’s shore.
We leave our plows and workshops, our wives and children dear,
With hearts too full for utterance, with but a silent tear.
We dare not look behind us but steadfastly before.
We are coming, Father Abraham, three hundred thousand more!

We are coming, coming, our Union to restore,
We are coming, Father Abraham, three hundred thousand more!

If you look across the hilltops that meet the northern sky,
Long moving lines of rising dust your vision may descry;
And now the wind, an instant, tears the cloudy veil aside,
And floats aloft our spangled flag in glory and in pride;
And bayonets in the sunlight gleam, and bands brave music pour,
We are coming, Father Abr’am, three hundred thousand more!

We are coming, coming, our Union to restore,
We are coming, Father Abraham, three hundred thousand more!

If you look up all our valleys where the growing harvests shine,
You may see our sturdy farmer boys fast forming into line;
And children from their mother’s knees are pulling at the weeds,
And learning how to reap and sow against their country’s needs;
And a farewell group stands weeping at every cottage door,
We are coming, Father Abr’am, three hundred thousand more!

We are coming, coming, our Union to restore,
We are coming, Father Abraham, three hundred thousand more!

You have called us, and we’re coming by Richmond’s bloody tide,
To lay us down for freedom’s sake, our brothers’ bones beside;
Or from foul treason’s savage grip, to wrench the murderous blade;
And in the face of foreign foes its fragments to parade.
Six hundred thousand loyal men and true have gone before,
We are coming, Father Abraham, three hundred thousand more!

We are coming, coming, our Union to restore,
We are coming, Father Abraham, three hundred thousand more!

Officers of the 153rd New York Infantry, one of the regiments raised in the summer of 1862

Here’s a nice rendition of the song by the Heritage String Band:


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