“Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ye”


The girl meets her Johnny returned from the wars. She can barely recognize him; he has lost arms, legs, and eyes. She tells him "With your drums and guns and guns and drum, the enemy nearly slew ye... O, Johnny, I hardly knew ye."


Scholars continue to argue whether "Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ye" or the cheerful "When Johnny Comes Marching Home" is the original. "When Johnny Comes Marching Home," by Patrick S. Gilmore, can be firmly dated to the beginning of the Civil War, while "Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ye" does not appear until slightly later (reportedly 1869, though the earliest date I've been able to verify is 1885).

For further details, see the entry on "When Johnny Comes Marching Home." - RBW

Cross references


  • Bodleian, 2806 b.10(218), "Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ye" ("While going the road to sweet Athy"), H. Such (London), 1863-1885; also 2806 c.8(265), Firth c.26(233), "Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ye"; Harding B 26(297), 2806 b.9(118)[some illegible words],"Johney I hardly knew ye"[inconsistent spelling throughout]


  • The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem, "Johnny I Hardly Knew You" (on IRClancyMakem02)


  1. PBB 94, "Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ye" (1 text)
  2. Scott-BoA, pp. 329-330, "Johnny, I Hardly Knew You" (1 text, tune referenced)
  3. Hodgart, p. 212, "Johnny, I hardly knew ye" (1 text)
  4. O'Conor, pp. 92-93, "Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ye" (1 text)
  5. Darling-NAS, pp. 388-389, "Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ye" (1 text)
  6. Silber-FSWB, pp. 278-279, "Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye" (1 text)
  7. ADDITIONAL: Kathleen Hoagland, editor, One Thousand Years of Irish Poetry (New York, 1947), pp. 271-274, "Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ye" (1 text plus excerpts from 3 parodies)
  8. Charles Sullivan, ed., Ireland in Poetry, p. 90, "Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ye (1 text)
  9. Roud #3137
  10. BI, PBB094


Author: unknown
Earliest date: before 1886 (broadside, Bodleian 2806 b.10(218))
Found in: Ireland