Artist’s rendering of the Battle of Missionary Ridge, Chattanooga, TN, November 25, 1863

Don't Let Me Die in Tennessee

In August of 1862, a ragtag group of volunteers from across the state of Wisconsin gathered in Milwaukee to enlist to fight in the American Civil War for the Union Army. 

15 months later, already ground down by battles at Stones River and Chickamauga, the 24th Wisconsin Infantry Regiment huddled at the base of 300-foot-high Missionary Ridge in Chattanooga, TN, looking up at 40,000 Confederate soldiers. What came next would change the course of the war. According to legend, the state’s rallying cry “On Wisconsin!” was born on that hill.

 

The evening I finished writing this song, I was awakened just after midnight by the sound of an EF3 tornado shredding my neighborhood in East Nashville. My house was left untouched, but I packed up and left Tennessee a few months later.

I stepped off of the M&M train

To cannon fire and a grand parade

We’d ridden all night from towns out west

To join a thousand of Milwaukee’s best

 

We marched through Kentucky in the autumn heat

Chased those Rebels into Tennessee

They whipped us good at the Georgia line

And we limped back to Chattanooga with our dead behind

 

Now we’re cold and starving on the valley floor

And the fever’s like they’ve never seen before

Buzzards are circling overhead

This was not how it was s’posed to end

 

I’ve read my bible and said my prayers

Forgiven you when you weren’t there

All I ask to make us square

Just do this one thing for me

Don’t let me die in Tennessee

 

We’re in trouble from the look of it

Must be 40,000 Rebels on that ridge

Nobody’s sure that we can break that line

But we’ve come this far and there’s a hill to climb

 

So rush the slope, boys, and duck the shells

“On Wisconsin!” a young man yells

As a bullet burns into my thigh

I raise my rifle and I close one eye

 

I’ve read my bible and said my prayers

Forgiven you when you weren’t there

All I ask to make us square

Just do this one thing for me

Don’t let me die in Tennessee   

 

I’ve read my bible and said my prayers

Forgiven you when you weren’t there

All I ask to make us square

Just do this one thing for me

Don’t let me die in Tennessee   

 

 

© 2020 Chris Richards / White Mare Music (BMI)