Comrades! Fill No Glass for Me!

Words & Music by Stephen Foster

“For if I drank, the toast should be to blighted fortune, health and fame….”

Noah Brooks

A hopeless alcoholic by 1855, Stephen Foster wrote “Comrades, Fill No Glass for Me” to satisfy the public’s appetite for temperance songs.

When the morally unassailable General George McClellan took command of the Union forces and created the Army of the Potomac, he found hordes of undisciplined volunteers, devastated after the defeat at Bull Run, loitering in the bars and whorehouses of the capital. He pushed for the prohibition of drinking and ordered squads of Provost Guards to arrest officers found doing business in brothels with names like The Wolf’s Den and Madame Russell’s Bake Oven. Organizations like the U.S. Christian Commission, while accomplishing some very real improvements in the soldier’s life, also tried to “elevate” the moral tone of the army with wholesome songs like this.

In Reunion, “Comrades, Fill No Glass for Me!” is sung in an impromptu campground temperence meeting, as a deeply hung-over soldier is convinced to step up and take the pledge. His resolution doesn’t make it to the end of the song–with lyrics like the following example, it’s not all that surprising.


Oh comrades! fill no glass for me,
To fill my soul with liquid flame!
For if I drank, the toast should be
To blighted fortune, health and fame.

Yet though I long to quell the strife
That passion holds against my life,
Still, boon companions ye may be,
But comrades, fill no glass for me!

Then by a mother’s sacred tear,
By all that memory should revere,
Though boon companions ye may be–
Oh! comrades, fill no glass for me!