’HEADERS HISTORY: Set to song, Mason’s poem soothed Civil War soldiers

Caroline Briggs Mason was born in Marblehead in 1823, the daughter of physician Dr. Calvin Briggs and Rebecca Briggs. In the 1830s, Caroline’s father sent her and her sisters to The Bradford Academy, a boarding school in Haverhill. Shortly after graduating from the Bradford Academy, all three sisters ran a private school for girls in Marblehead.

Caroline Briggs Mason


Caroline’s poem “Do They Miss Me at Home?” was set to music by composer Sidney Martin Grannis in the 1850s and became very popular with the public. Although the poem was originally written about a young girl who missed her family, soldiers fighting in the American Civil War later adopted it as they also missed their families back home.

“Do They Miss Me at Home?”

Do they miss me at home, do they miss me?

‘Twould be an assurance most dear

To know that this moment some loved one

Was saying, “Oh, were she but here!”

To know that the group at the fireside

Were thinking of me as I roam,

Oh, yes, ‘twould be joy beyond measure

To know that they missed me at home!

When twilight approaches, the season

That ever was sacred to song,

Does someone repeat my name over,

And sigh that I tarry so long?

And is there a chord in the music

That’s missed when my voice is away?

And a chord in each heart that awaketh

Regret at my wearisome stay?

Do they place me a chair near the table

When evening’s home-pleasures are nigh,

And candles are lit in the parlor,

And stars in the calm azure sky?

And when the good-nights are repeated,

Does each the dear memory keep,

And think of the absent, and waft me

A whispered “Good-night” ’ere they sleep?

Do they miss me at home, do they miss me,

At morning, at noon and at night?

And lingers one gloomy shade round them

That only my presence can light?

Are joys less invitingly welcomed,

And pleasures less dear than before,

Because one is missed from the circle,

Because I am with them no more?

Oh, yes — they do miss me! Kind voices

Are calling me back as I roam,

And eyes have grown weary with weeping,

And watch but to welcome me home!

Sweet friends, ye shall wait me no longer,

No longer I’ll linger behind;

For how can I tarry, while followed

By watchings and pleadings so kind?

In her poem “For the Poor,” she writes about a child’s fear of losing their father to the sea.

“For the Poor”

“We cannot sleep,” said they,

“Father is out on the stormy bay,

And the night is dark and the sea is deep;

Would God that it were day!”

What more the little children said,

I cannot say,

For I stopped my ears and whirled away

To pray in this instead:

For a little space,

A little slackening in the race,

Returning with the morning’s ray

Back from the Stormy Bay.

She also wrote about the loss of her sister to illness in a poem entitled “A Sister’s Grave.”

“A Sister’s Grave”

“She sleeps beneath a glorious sky,

The blue dome of the palmy east;

Above her troops of stars go by,

And when their wondrous dance has ceased,

The first, warm kisses of the sun

Fall gently on our sleeping one.

Afar from noise, remote from strife,

She lies who was our love and pride;

Meek, gentle, quiet in her life,

Like peace in death is not denied;

And her last sleep is undisturbed;

By tumult from the noisy herd.”

She made significant contributions to the hymnology of the Unitarian church, and her poetry generally exhibits a strong didactic element.

Caroline Briggs and her family left Marblehead for Fitchburg in the 1850s. It was in Fitchburg where Caroline met and later married Charles Mason. She died in 1890 and is buried in Laurel Hill Cemetery in Fitchburg.

Mark Hurwitz
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