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American Ballads and Folk Songs
tions, came many cadets whose names were later to be written on their country's roll of honor. Many of our famous generals of the last century were fond of recalling the cold winter nights when they had slipped out of barracks and skated down the river to partake of the good cheer at Benny's. It is even recorded that Cadet Jefferson Davis, in attempting to evade some officers who had descended upon Benny's tavern, once fell over a cliff and was nearly killed.
"I suspect that not many of Benny's young visitors during his early days in Highland Falls knew that their host was something of a churchman; yet he left proof of this fact in an old legal document which he signed in 1836 as a trustee of the First Presbyterian Church of Highland Falls.
"The song that has perpetuated Benny's fame was originally composed by Lieutenant O'Brien of the Eighth Infantry. He had been an assistant surgeon in the army, but had just been commissioned in the infantry when, in 1838, he visited his friend Ripley A. Arnold of the First Class. Together they made many visits to Benny's, where O'Brien composed the first few stanzas of the song and sang them to the tune of 'The Wearing of the Green.' O'Brien died in a Florida campaign a few years later. For many years after his death each class added a verse to the song. Of the nine given here, the first, fifth, and sixth are those generally sung.
"During the Civil War the song was widely sung in the army, and many army verses were improvised. During the summer of 1865 when boatloads of returning soldiers were daily passing Benny's, the bands would strike up 'Benny Havens, Oh!' while hundreds of voices joined in the song.
"From Nevada's hoary ridges, from stormy coasts of Maine, From lava beds and Yellowstone the story never waned} Wherever duty called, they went, their steps were never slow, With cAlma Mater' on their lips and 'Benny Havens, Oh.'
"When this life's troubled sea is o'er and our last battle's through. If God permits us mortals there his blest domain to view,