Written as a campaign song (sung to the tune "Hunters of Kentucky") [click here to hear sound file] in the 1864 presidential contest between George B. McClellan, the former commander of the Army of the Potomac, and his one-time boss, Abraham Lincoln, these verses express the author's belief that "Little Mac" would make a far more acceptable national leader than the buffoonish incumbent. Many felt that Lincoln's insistence on preserving the Union at all costs was destroying the very thing he hoped to protect. The Democratic platform on which McClellan ran called for an immediate armistice and a convention of all the warring parties to "secure peace without further bloodshed."
In the end, McClellan's campaign came to naught. Following the fall of Atlanta in September 1864 and General Philip Sheridan's defeat of the Confederates in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia a month later, the Northern voting public could sense victory in the air and gave Lincoln another chance to do it his way.
The term "sons of shoddy" in the last verse refers to "a class of people who tried to pass themselves off as being superior by virtue of their (usually ill-gotten) wealth, but were in fact inferior in character and moral worth. This sense of the word was originally applied to those who made fortunes in United States contracts by supplying inferior goods" (from Civil War Wordbook, by Darryl Lyman, Combined Books, Conshohocken, Pa., 1994, p. 153). "Shoddy," which originated in England in the 1830s, was an inferior woolen material made by combining new wool and used woolen fabrics to produce a poor-quality yarn. During the War, many contractors who supplied uniforms to the Federal army cut corners and increased their profits by using shoddy. Uniforms so constructed disintegrated at an alarming rate and introduced a new slang word into the English language.
This poem was taken from The Poetical Works of Charles G. Halpine (Miles O'Reilly), published by Harper and Brothers, New York, 1869.
"Soon We'll Have the Union Back"