Behind the Song
“He’s a fighter.”
That’s what Abraham Lincoln said of this man. He was willing to take the fight to the confederate forces, unlike previous commanding generals.
He sent many men to their deaths. But he won the war for the Union.
Like another fighter for liberty in dark times, Winston Churchill, this man was more successful in war than in peace.
I’m talking about Ulysses S. Grant, the subject of today’s song.
When I learned about Grant’s life, something bittersweet struck me. He was most at home with horses. He loved them, understood them, felt at peace with them.
Learning this made me wish that he could have made a livelihood with his horses. And that’s where the chorus of this song comes from.
My daddy was a tanner but I could not stand the stink so he let me drive the horses it gave me time to think. I journeyed out to West Point set records on my horse we jumped the highest hurdle I felt I found my course. But war seized the nation lust for Mexico I saw blood and great daring as we made carrion for the crow. Ride, horseman, ride. Ride, horseman, ride. Your other knack is sending men to die so ride, horseman, ride. I was lonesome for my lady in a guard-house by the sea so I quit my commission early to try my hand at living free. Seven years of poverty I could not earn a dime I failed at growing corn I hawked wood to stay alive. But the tinder of bondage erupted into flame the nation needed fighters the nation called my name. In the mud I fought my enemies in the hut I fought my chiefs I split the mighty river sent my brother south to reap. Ride, horseman, ride. Ride, horseman, ride. Your other knack is sending men to die so ride, horseman, ride. In peace-time I was restless so to service I returned this time to lead the nation secure what war had earned. I was dogged by corruption I could not trust my men and when I tried to build a fortune I was cheated once again. Now I can take the measure of any beast or foe but the heart of a smiling man is more than I will know. Ride, horseman, ride. Ride, horseman, ride. Your other knack is sending men to die so ride, horseman, ride. Now on this porch I'm dying my throat is rotting brown all I own now are my stories so I rush to write them down. Judge me not too harshly as I shuffle to my grave yes, I bled the nation many died, but more were saved. These New York hills grow darker but still I think I see a horse without a rider galloping to me. Ride, horseman, ride. Ride, horseman, ride. Your other knack is sending men to die so ride, horseman, ride.