Day 3, Gettysburg Cemetery Ridge– Post 8/28/63


O’Kane – Pennsylvania 69th, The Philadelphia Brigade

No sooner had his men been organized than artillery opened on both sides. All hunched down, each with his own thoughts, some lost in prayer, when suddenly General Hancock with Webb in tow arrived. Facing O’Kane, Hancock said, “I came to congratulate your steadiness, which prevented Johnny Reb from capturing those guns.”

O’Kane’s obvious brogue seemed to intrigue the General. Who asked. “I don’t suppose you know the words to “Kathleen Mavoureen?”

Unfortunately, I can’t carry a tune. But I’m certain some of my lads can. If you don’t mind my asking, why that particular song?”

I believe that tomorrow, Johnny Reb is going to test our resolve to hold this ridge. One of those leading the charge will most likely be my very best friend, Lew Armistead. The last time we were together, we sang Kathleen Mavoureen.”

O’Kane looked around, “Meehan, front and center.”

This lad’s from Sligo and can shatter glass with the power of his voice.”

The men of the 69th grew quiet as Meehan erupted in song. The voice of the tenor floated across the vale. Union gunners halted their deadly fire to listen, swiftly followed by those of their opponents.

When Meehan came to the verse;

Oh, has thou forgotten how soon we must sever? Oh, hast thou forgotten how soon we must part? It may be for years, and it may be forever, Oh, why art thou silent, thou voice of my heart? It may be for years, and it may be forever, then why art thou silent, Kathleen Mavoureen?”

O’Kane could have sworn he saw tears running down Hancock’s face. When the song ended, the general and his cluster turned on their heel and departed without as much as a thank you. Looking at their backs, Duffy asked, “Do you t’ink Johnny Reb heard Meehan?”

This make O’Kane consider just how far the Sligo man’s voice carried. But then he shrugged off the thought, “The Butternuts must have wondered why we stopped firing and waited for our next move.”


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