Which came first the chicken or the egg. I first learned about "Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye" from a popular American version written during the Civil War. That song "When Johnny Comes Marching Home" was first published in 1863 as "Words and Music by Louis Lambert," which was a pseudonym for Patrick Sarsfield, 1829-1892. Patrick was a native of Ireland who emigrated to Boston. "When Johnny Comes Marching Home" is a rousing song about a hero returning from war.
The first published version of "Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ye" came out several years after Sarsfield's song. Nevertheless, it is strongly believed to have originated in Ireland.
It's a much more somber song that tells about the woes and horrors of war in the popular folk tradition of describing the body parts blown off a soldier who does not come home to his love.
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