Familiar Songs - Their Authors & Histories

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ALL QUIET ALONG THE POTOMAC.
563
ALL QUIET ALONG THE POTOMAC.
This famous song has had many claimants; but when the matter is looked into, only two remain about whose right to it there can be any serious discussion. These are Lamar Fontaine and Mrs. Ethel Lynn Beers.
Mr. Fontaine was born at Gay Hill, Texas. In 1840 his father moved to Austin, and was secretary to General Lamar, after whom the son was named. The family removed again, and young Fontaine describes himself as fond of all the pastimes of a wild frontier life, and says it was his delight to slip away from home and live among the Indians. He became a major in the Confederate army. After the war he wrote: " I have been endeav­oring to eke out a living as pedagogue, with a helpless wife and child dependent upon my daily labors, with poor pay, and a cripple too; for I received eleven wounds during the war, and have lost my right limb."
In reply to a letter from Mr. Davidson, author of " Living Writers of the South," Mr. Fontaine says: "Now, the poem in question was written by me while our army lay at Fairfax Court-House, or rather the greater portion, in and around that place. On the 2d day of August, 1861,1 first read it to a few of my messmates, in Company I, 2d Virginia Cavalry. During the month of August I gave away many manuscript copies to soldiers, and some few to ladies in and about Leesburg, Loudon Co., Va. In fact, I think that most of the men belonging to the 2d Virginia, then commanded by Colonel Radford, were aware of the fact that I was the author of it. I never saw the piece in print until just before the battle of Leesburg (October 21, 1861), and then it was in a Northern paper, with the notice that it had been found on the dead body of a picket. I hope the controversy between myself and others, in regard to ' All Quiet along the Potomac to-night,' will soon be for­ever settled. I wrote it, and the world knows it; and they may howl over it, and give it to as many authors as they please. I wrote it, and I am a southern man, and I am proud of the title, and am glad that my children will know that the South was the birthplace of their fathers, from their generation back to the seventh."
Mr. Fontaine mentions other poems of his, which are " non-come-at-able just now/'' and he encloses a manuscript of the disputed poem which differs very slightly from its. contestant.
Mr. Davidson also publishes a letter on the subject, written by Mr. Chandler Harris, of Georgia, in the course of which he says: " After a careful and impartial investigation of all the facts in my reach, I have come to the conclusion that Mrs. Beers, and not Mr. Fontaine, wrote the poem in question. My reasons for believing that Mr. Fontaine is not the author of ' All Quiet/ are several:
"1. The poem appeared in Harper's Weekly for November 30, 1861, as 'The Picket Guard,' over the initials of Mrs. Ethel Beers, of New York. 2. It did not make its appear­ance in any Southern paper until about April or May, 1862. 3. It was published as having; been found in the pocket of a dead soldier, on the battle-field. It is more than probable that the dead soldier was a Federal, and that the poem had been clipped from Harper. 4. I have compared the poem in Harper with the same as it first appeared in the Southern papers, and find the punctuation to be precisely the same. 5. Mr. Fontaine, so far as I have seen, has given elsewhere no evidence of the powers displayed in that poem. I, however,, remember noticing in the Charleston Courier, in 1863 or 1864, a 'Parodie' (as Mr. L. F. had it) on Mrs. Norton's ' Bingen on the Rhine,' which was positively the poorest affair I ever saw. Mr. Fontaine had just come out of a Federal prison, and some irresponsible editor, in speaking of this 'parodie,' remarked that the poet's Pegasus had probably worn his wings out against the walls of his Northern dungeon.








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