"Official Song of the 1st Cavalry Division"
An Old Irish Quick Step
Lyrics by Thomas Moore, circa 1807
Synthesized by UnKnown Artist

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  1st Cavalry Division  
Official Song - Garryowen

1st Cavalry Division Official Song - Garryowen

"As one of the Army's two on-call heavy contingency force divisions, the First Team has an on-order mission to deploy to a designated contingency area of operations by sea, air or land, conduct reception, staging, onward movement and integration; and on order, conduct combat operations and redeployment."

Garryowen, Limerick, Ireland
"Garryowen" is an old Irish quick-step that can be traced back to the early 1860s. The Regimental Song "Garryowen" came informally into the Army between 1861 and 1866 as a quickstep, but its use was first documented in 1867 when "Garryowen" was adopted by the 7th US Cavalry Regiment as the official Air (tune) of the Regiment, and the historical nickname given to the 7th Cavalry Regiment and troopers. As it is generally portrayed, George Armstrong Custer did not, himself, bring the song to the regiment, but Brevet Lieutenant Colonel (Captain) Myles W. Keogh and several other officers with ties to the Fifth Royal Irish Lancers and the Papal Guard, two Irish regiments in the British Army, were believed to be instrumental in bringing the air to the regiment.

The geographical area that provided the inspiration and the name of one of the most popular, rollicking folk songs of Ireland is situated on the upward slope of a hill in Limerick County, near the City of Limerick. Local traditions and folk lore have preserved the historical significance of the area and the origin of its name "Garryowen", a compounded word composed of two Irish words, which means "Garden of Owen".

King John's Castle - Limerick
The terrain features of Garryowen gave the loyal patrons of the garden a broad, commanding view of the richly cultivated surrounding countryside, the old town of Limerick and the valley of the Shannon River which gently washes the battered, fortified towers of King John's castle which was constructed in the late 1180's to control traffic along the river. The cottage of Owen and surrounding plot of ground soon became a favorite holiday resort with the near-by citizens of Limerick because the atmosphere and accommodations were somewhat similar to those offered to the London mechanic by the Battersea tea-gardens.

A review of Irish literature reveals that "Owen's garden was a general rendezvous for those who sought simple pleasure and amusement. The elderly drank together under the shade of trees and the young played at ball, goal, or other athletic activities on the green; while a few lingered in the near-by hedge-rows with their fair acquaintances. Owen's garden was soon to became as famous for scenes of strife as it was for mirth and humor; and broken arms, legs and heads became a staple article of manufacture in the neighborhood."

"These new diversions were encouraged by a number of young people having a greater supply of animal spirits than wisdom to control themselves. The young gentlemen being fond of wit, amused themselves by having parties at night to wring the heads off all the geese, and tearing knockers off the doors in the neighborhood. They sometimes suffered their genius to soar as high as the breaking of a street lamp, and even resorting to the physical violence of a watchman. But, this type of joking was found a little too serious to be repeated very frequently, for few achievements of so daring a violence were documented in the records. They were obliged to content themselves with less ambitious distinction of destroying the door knockers and store-locks, annoying the peace of the neighborhood, with long continued assaults on the front doors, terrifying the quiet onlookers with every species of insult and provocation, and indulging their fratricidal propensities against all the geese in Garryowen."

"The fame of the 'Garryowen Boys' soon spread far and wide. Their deeds were celebrated by some inglorious minstrel of the day in that melody which has, since, resounded over the world; and even symbolically competed for national popularity with 'St. Patrick's Day'. A string of verses were appended to the tune which soon enjoyed equal notoriety. The name of Garryowen was as well known as that of the city of Limerick, itself, and Owen's garden became almost a synonym for Ireland."

"Garryowen" is known to have been used by Irish regiments as a drinking song. As the story goes, one of the Irish "melting pot" troopers of the 7th Cavalry, under the influence of "spirits", was singing the song. By chance Custer heard the melody, liked the cadence, and soon began to hum the tune himself. The tune has a lively beat, that accentuates the cadence of marching horses, and for that reason was adopted as the regimental song soon after Custer arrived at Ft. Riley, Kansas to take over command of the 7th Cavalry Regiment. It was the last song played for Custer's men as they left General Terry's column at the Powder River and rode into history.

The 3rd Recon Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regimental Band, Ledward Barracks

Over its history, continuing the Regimental legacy, the 7th Cavalry Regiment has formed 3 Garryowen Bagpipe and drum bands.

  • 1954 - The 7th Cavalry Regiment BagPipe & Drum Band organized by SSG. Robert J. Scroggie at Camp Haugen, Japan. The Tartan had 7 colors: Dark Blue and Yellow of the US Cavalry; Light Blue to signify the present day infantry role in the cavalry; Red for action; and White for honor along with Green and Lavender.
  • 1959 - 2nd Reconnaissance Squadron 7th Cavalry formed a BagPipe and Drum Band, under the guidance of LTC Roger Rawley and Capt John L. Lindgren. The original members were sent to a British regiment, the 1st Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers at Wuppertal, where they were given preliminary training by Irish pipers and drummers.
  • 1963 - The 3rd Reconnaissance Squadron, 7th Cavalry at Ledward Barracks, Schweinfurt West Germany.
  • Today units of the 7th Cavalry still use Bagpipers, which are Divisional Band members. As they march and play, we think of all of those glorious memories of the past.

The 1st Cavalry Division Band
"Garryowen" has become undoubtedly the most famous of all the regimental marches in the Army. It became the Official Song of the 1st Cavalry Division in 1981. During "First Team" ceremonies, at Cooper Field, Ft. Hood. the song is not sung; however, it is customary for the song to be played at the conclusion of the ceremonial activities and the guests stand and clap.

In closing out of the Gulf War and returning home to the United States, in 1991, the 1st Cavalry Division the band joined in leading the whirlwind celebrations by parading down a dozen avenues of Atlanta, Houston, Dallas, Washington, DC and New York.

The visit to New York City was a tremendous welcome from the public, press and police. At Battery Park, the parade formation turned into Broadway, which became a wide "red" carpet for the Band to perform. There on Broadway, under a sunlit snowstorm of paper, the 1st Cavalry Division Band, lead by Bandmaster Sgt. First Class Gary Flake, took the Big Apple by storm when they played the swaggering melody of the Division song, "Garryowen".

Lyrics of the song, unchanged over the years, are as follows:


[Verse 1]

Let Bacchus's sons be not dismayed,
but join with me each jovial blade,
come booze and sing and lend your aid,
to help me with the chorus:


Instead of spa we'll drink down ale
and pay the reckoning on the nail,
for debt no man shall go to jail
from Garry Owen in glory.

[Verse 2]

We are the boys who take delight
in smashing Limerick lamps at night,
and through the street like sportsters fight,
tearing all before us. (Chorus)

[Verse 3]

We'll break windows, we'll break doors,
the watch knock down by threes and fours,
then let the doctors work their cures,
and tinker up our bruises, (Chorus)

[Verse 4]

We'll beat the bailiffs out of fun,
we'll make the mayor and sheriffs run,
we are the boys no man dare dun,
if he regards a whole skin. (Chorus)

[Verse 5]

Our hearts so stout have got us fame,
for soon 'tis known from whence we came,
where're we go they dread the name,
of Garry Owen in glory. (Chorus)

There was a special set of lyrics written for the 7th Cavalry Regiment in 1905. For those special troopers of the 7th:

[Verse 1]

We are the pride of the Army
and a regiment of great renown,
Our name's on the pages of history.
From sixty-six on down.
If you think we stop or falter
While into the fray we're going
Just watch the steps with our heads erect,
While our band plays Garryowen. (Chorus)


In the Fighting Seventh's the place for me,
Its the cream of all the Cavalry;
No other regiment ever can claim
Its pride, honor, glory and undying fame.

[Verse 2]

We know fear when stern duty
Calls us far away from home,
Our country's flag shall safely o'er us wave,
No matter where we roam.
"Tis the gallant 7th Cavalry
It matters not where we are going"
Such you'll surely say as we march away;
And our band plays Garryowen. (Chorus)

[Verse 3]

Then hurrah for our brave commanders!
Who led us into the fight.
We'll do or die in our country's cause,
And battle for the right.
And when the war is o'er,
And to our home we're goin
Just watch your step, with our heads erect,
When our band plays Garryowen. (Chorus)

Reference: "From Custer to MacArthur, the 7th US Cavalry"

Garryowen - General Custer's Song
The song "Garryowen" was highlighted in "They Died with Their Boots On", a 1941 western movie directed by Raoul Walsh and starring Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland. Despite being rife with historical inaccuracies, the film was one of the top-grossing movies of the year.

The theme of the movie follows the life of George Armstrong Custer (played by Errol Flynn) from attending West Point, wooing of Elizabeth Bacon (played by Olivia de Havilland) who becomes his loving wife, the American Civil War, and the Battle of Little Big Horn. In the film, the battle is blamed on a group of unscrupulous corporations and politicians craving the land of Crazy Horse (played by Anthony Quinn) and his people.

Custer is portrayed as a fun-loving, dashing figure who chooses honor and glory over money and corruption. Though his "Last Stand" is probably treated as more significant and dramatic than it may have actually been, Custer follows through on his promise to teach his men "to endure and die with their boots on." In the movie's version of Custer's story, a few corrupt white politicians goad the Western tribes into war, threatening the survival of all white settlers in the West. Custer and his men give their lives at Little Bighorn to delay the Indians and prevent this slaughter. A letter left behind by Custer absolves the Indians of all responsibility.

Rough Riders Depart For Cuba
There are only a handful of war movies and/or historical films that portray the men that fight battles realistically. One of them, starring Theodore Roosevelt (Rough Riders) was directed by John Milius. "Rough Riders", released in 1997, is an unforgettable film on the events of the Spanish-American War.

In this brilliant outtake that shows the pathos of the departure to the front, the troops of Teddy Roosevelt's (Tom Berenger's) 1st United States Volunteer Cavalry that was formed in 1898. In the departure scene for the train ride east across the South to Florida for embarkation to Cuba, the troops fall in under the orders of Captain Bucky O'Neill (Sam Elliott). In preparing for the departure, it was discovered that many of the wounds of the Civil War (or the War Between the States, to make everybody happy) have started to heal. Heard in the background of the departure, was the tune of Garryowen, stunningly sung by Elan Oberon (who happens to be the wife of John Miliu).

Author's Note:

"Garryowen" was also the Regimental March of another famous fighting unit, The Royal Irish Regiment, that was organized in 1684 from Irish Pikemen and Musketeers by the Earl of Granard to fight for King William. This Regiment has seen service in all parts of the world. For their outstanding valor at the Battle of Namur, they received the title of "The Royal Regiment of Foot of Ireland". In addition, in recognition of its deeds on this occasion, King William conferred the right of displaying the badge of the Harp and Crown, and that of the Lion of Nassau, with the explanatory legend.

The Royal Irish showed noble courage and performed gallant service throughout the Crimean War. On their colors are inscribed "Egypt"; "China"; "Blenheim"; "Ramillies"; "Oudenarde"; "Malpaquet"; "Pegu"; "Savastopol"; "New Zealand"; "Afghanistan, 1879-80"; "Egypt, 1882"; "Tel-el-Kebir"; "Nile, 1884-85"; "South Africa, 1900-02"; "Flanders, 1914" and "Gallipoli, 1915." The Royal Irish Regiment was disbanded in 1922 on the formation of the Irish Free State.

One cannot wonder how many of the former members of the Royal Irish Regiment emigrated to the United States and enlisted as troopers of the US Cavalry Units. Could this have been how Custer heard this song?

Part of the mystery may be solved. The history of the 69th New York Infantry reflects the history and progress of the Irish in America. From unwelcome immigrants escaping famine and persecution, they were assimilated and integrated into the society of America. Its ranks were filled with heroes, priests, poets, politicians, laborers, lawyers, in short a cross section of the Ireland's greatest export - her sons.

The Fighting 69th
"The Fighting 69th" a 1940 war movie directed by William Keighley and starring James Cagney (Jerry Plunkett), Pat O'Brien (Father Duffy), George Brent (Wild Bill Donovan), Jeffery Lynn (Joyce Kilmer) and Alan Hale (Sgt. Big Mike Wilson). The plot is based upon the actual exploits of New York's 69th Infantry Regiment during World War - I. The regiment was first given that nickname by opposing General Robert E. Lee during the Civil War.

"The Fighting 69th" had its origin in early 1851, when the Irish citizens in New York City formed a militia regiment known locally as the Second Regiment of Irish Volunteers. Unanimously, the group selected "Garryowen" as their official regimental marching song. On 12 October 1851, the Regiment was officially accepted as part of the New York Militia and designated as the Sixty-Ninth Regiment. In 1858, the Regiment would have its first call to duty. Their many subsequent calls to duty included the Civil War, Spanish American War, the Mexican War, World War I and World War II.

Today, the 69th is now officially the 1st Battalion, 69th Infantry (Mechanized), and is part of the 42nd Infantry Division. The 42nd Infantry Division received the name "Rainbow Division" in 1917 during its organization at Camp Mills, Long Island, New York. The Chief of Staff of the Division, at that time, was Colonel Douglas MacArthur. While discussing the organization of the Division and reviewing the National Guard units from 26 states that would make up the Division, MacArthur commented "The 42nd Division stretches like a Rainbow from one end of America to the other." The comment caught the interest of those present and they decided to call it the "Rainbow Division".

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Copyright © 1996, Cavalry Outpost Publications ® and Trooper Wm. H. Boudreau, "F" Troop, 8th Cavalry Regiment (1946 - 1947). All rights to this body of work are reserved and are not in the public domain, or as noted in the bibliography. Reproduction, or transfer by electronic means, of the History of the 1st Cavalry Division, the subordinate units or any internal element, is not permitted without prior authorization. Readers are encouraged to link to any of the pages of this Web site, provided that proper acknowledgment attributing to the source of the data is made. The information or content of the material contained herein is subject to change without notice.

Revised 12 Jan '13 SpellChecked