“The Last Fierce Charge”


Two soldiers, boy and man, are about to ride into battle (at Fredericksburg?). Each asks the other to write to his home should he die. Both are killed; no letter is sent to mother or sweetheart


As the list of song titles shows, this piece could be particularized to deal with almost any battle (as, indeed, Belden has a text called "Fight at Bunker Hill," after the Revolutionary War battle. This, however, is historically impossible; the Americans weren't doing any charging at Bunker Hill. In any case, the "Bunker Hill" text never mentions that battle).

Since, however, the second-earliest (and perhaps least famous) event commemorated was the Battle of Fredericksburg, it seems quite likely that the song was originally about that conflict.

Phillips Barry had two texts credited to Virginia F. Townsend -- but even if this is accurate, it may apply only to an adaption; both were "Gettysburg" texts. - RBW

Creighton-Maritime names this "Balaclava" -- I assume the name the singer assigned -- though that is never mentioned in the ballad; Creighton also has a fragment naming the battle as Waterloo, referenced as in ms. as "The Last Great Charge." - BS

Historical references

  • June 17, 1775 - Battle of Bunker Hill (fought on Breed's Hill, and won by the British, though at heavy cost)
  • Dec 13, 1862 - Battle of Fredericksburg. Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, well-positioned and entrenched, easily throws back the assault of Ambrose Burnside's Army of the Potomac
  • July 1-3, 1863 - Battle of Gettysburg. George Gordon Meade's Army of the Potomac holds off Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia
  • June 25, 1876 - Battle of the Little Bighorn. Lt. Colonel George A. Custer (who had been a Major General during the Civil War) is killed, along with the entire force of cavalry (five companies with somewhat over 250 men) with him.

Cross references


  1. Laws A17, "The Last Fierce Charge (The Battle of Fredericksburg, Custer's Last Charge)"
  2. Belden, pp. 383-387, "The Last Fierce Charge" (2 texts plus mention of 1 more, 1 tune)
  3. Randolph 234, "That Last Fierce Fight" (2 texts, 1 tune)
  4. Fuson, pp. 94-96, "The Soldier Boy with Curly Hair" (1 text)
  5. Eddy 139, "The Last Fierce Charge" (2 texts)
  6. Dean, pp. 14-16, "The Charge at Fredricksburg" (1 text)
  7. BrownII 231, "The Last Fierce Charge" (1 text plus mention of 1 more)
  8. Peacock, pp. 1004-1006, "The Last Great Charge" (1 text, 1 tune, a conflate version)
  9. Creighton-Maritime, pp. 156-157, "Balaclava" (1 text, 1 tune)
  10. Mackenzie 118, "The Battle of Fredericksburg" (1 text)
  11. Dibblee/Dibblee, pp. 86-87, "The Last Fierce Charge" (1 text, 1 tune)
  12. Friedman, p. 295, "The Last Fierce Charge" (1 text)
  13. FSCatskills 14, "The Battle of Gettysburg" (1 text, 1 tune)
  14. Fife-Cowboy/West 45, "Custer's Last Charge" (1 text, 1 tune)
  15. DT 692, LASTFIER
  16. Roud #629
  17. BI, LA17


Alternate titles: “Two Soldiers”; “Fight at Bunker Hill”; “The Last Fierce Charge of the French at Waterloo”
Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1903 (Belden)
Found in: US(MA,MW,SE,So) Canada(Mar,Newf)