Gary Owen is actually Garryowen…all one word…
Who is he? Well… it’s actually not a he… or even a person. Garryowen comes from two different gaelic words (Garrai and Oein) that translate roughly to Owen’s garden. Garryowen is a town in County Limerick, Ireland. Thanks to a reputation as a rowdy, wild place it was immortalized in an Irish quickstep in around 1860.
As the story goes, Irish troopers were singing the song while having a wee bit o’ spirits one night around the fire. The song is a natural for the cavalry as the beat translates well to the rhythm of galloping horses. I’ve edted the words to better fit it for our purpose.
Let Texas' sons be not dismayed Instead of spa, we'll drink brown ale
But join with me, each jovial blade And pay the reckoning on the nail;
Come, drink and sing and lend your aide No man for debt shall go to jail
And help me with the chorus: From Garryowen in glory
We beat the enemy just for fun
We make their soldiers and generals run
We are the boys no man dares dun
If he regards his whole skin
We'll break their ranks and break their fours
And knock them down by ten and more
Then let the surgeons do their chores
And tinker up our bruises
Our hearts so stout have got us fame
And soon 'tis known from whence we came
Where'er we go they fear our name
Of Garryowen in glory
The Texas Cav’s the place for me
We’re the cream of all the cavalry
No e’er Brigade can ever claim
our honor and undying fame
Fiddler's Green is an afterlife imagined by sailors, and later adopted by the U.S. Cavalry. It describes a place where there is perpetual mirth, a fiddle that never stops playing, and dancers who never tire. There is some evidence to support that the major propagators of this belief were pirates who, knowing they would never meet the criteria for entry into heaven, simply created an afterlife of their own.
The original verses come from an old Irish legend that a sailor can only find the paradisaical village by walking inland with an oar over his shoulder until he finds a place where people ask him what he's carrying. This legend may have some of its origin in Tiresias' prophecy in Homer's Odyssey, in which he tells Odysseus that the only way to appease the sea god Poseidon and find happiness is to take an oar and walk until he finds a land where he is asked what he is carrying, and there make his sacrifice.
Halfway down the trail to Hell
In a shady meadow green
Are the Souls of all dead Troopers camped
Near a good old-time canteen,
And this eternal resting place is
known as Fiddlers' Green
Marching past straight through to Hell
The Infantry are seen
Accompanied by the Engineers,
Artillery and Marines,
For none but the shades of Cavalrymen
Dismount at Fiddlers' Green
Though some go curving down the trail
To seek a warmer scene,
No Trooper ever gets to Hell
Ere he's emptied his canteen.
And so rides back to drink again
With friends at Fiddlers' Green
And so when man and horse go down
Beneath a sabre keen,
Or on roaring charge of fierce melee
You stop a bullet clean.
Or the hostiles come to get your scalp
Just empty your canteen,
Put your pistol to your head
And go to Fiddlers' Green.