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John Minear Lyr Add: 'Shenandoah' in the U.S. army (9) RE: Lyr Add: 'Shenandoah' in the U.S. army 01 Jun 15


Hi Lighter. Way back in the old "SF to Sydney" thread I stumbled across an enigma that I never did solve. It had to do with the two versions of "Shenandoah" in the Lomax book, AMERICAN BALLADS AND FOLK SONGS, and how these also managed to show up in a WPA collection of ex-slave narratives. I'm having no luck getting Muscat to bring those posts up on the original thread so I have copied this one from back in April 12, 2010:
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I made it into the library today and was able to check out the reference to "Shenandoah" in the WPA ex-slave narratives. It is pretty interesting. First of all, here is the reference information: THE AMERICAN SLAVE: A COMPOSITE AUTOBIOGRAPHY, Supplement, Series 2, Volume 8, Texas Narratives, Part 7, George P. Rawick, General Editor, p3153. This was taken down by a Miss Effie Cowan, McLennan County, Texas, in 1937, from a Mr. Allen Price, R.F.D. Mart, Texas. The synopsis says:

       "This story of a slave born during the war [Civil War] tells of the history handed down by his Master, one of the decendents (sic) of General Price of the Confederate Army, dates back to the emigration of the Price family from Virginia to Missouri when the pioneers were forcing their way against almost insurmountable hardships to the new state of Missouri." (p. 3149)

Mr. Price begins:

       "I wuz born in Fannin County Texas in a covered wagon, in 1862, when my parents wuz on dey way wid their Master's, John an Jim Price from Misourri ter Texas ter make their home." (p. 3149)

Mr. Price tells the story of the immigrants going across the Mississippi River on a steamboat and being attacked by Indians. He is passing on the stories that he has been told, since he hadn't been born yet. He says some of the group stopped in St. Louis, and some went on to Kansas City, and some went up the Missouri River, and some went out across Missouri on what he thinks was the Santa Fe Trail. His parents would have been in this last group. Then he interrupts his story to make this comment:

       "In de early days dey had de river boat songs, but dey has been changed until dey are de ones dat wuz sun w'en de rebels an' de Yankees fought but dey cum down from de song's of de early days, one went like dis,

       "I'm drinkin of rum an chawin terbacco,
       Hi! Oh! the rollin' river,
       I'm drinkin of rum an chawin terbacco,
       H! Ha! I'm bound away fer de wild Miz-zou-rye.

and another dat goes like dis, jes a little different,

       "Missouri she's a mighty river,
       Away-ay, you rollin' river,
       De Indians camp along hits borders,
       Ha! Ha! I'm bound away across de wide Missouri." (p. 3153)

Mr. Price goes on from there to talk about the involvement of the "Master's" family in the Civil War, and also that of his father. There is no further mention of these songs.

Now, the next to last verse in the "Old Cavalry Song" given by Major Isaac Spalding, to John Lomax and found in Lomax's AMERICAN BALLADS AND FOLK SONGS, (1934), on pp. 543-546, is exactly the same as the first version from Mr. Price. The only difference is that "terbacco" is "tobacco", and "fer de wild" is "for the wild". (p. 546)

But what is really weird, and I mentioned this earlier in the thread when I was looking at this is that the second version that Mr. Price gives, matches exactly the first verse of Lomax's second version of "Shenandoah", which follows immediately upon his "Calvary" version. Again, the only changes are to make "de" into "the", and "hits" into "its". And, "Ha! Ha! I'm bound away across" becomes "Aha, I'm bound away, 'Cross..." (p. 546)

For me, this is still just too much of a coincidence. Lomax's book was available after 1934. The WPA account was recorded in 1937. Lomax gives two complete songs. The "Cavalry" version has nine verses! And the other version, which he says was sent to him by "Captain A.E. Dingle, Cove Cottage, West Bermuda," has seven verses. Mr. Price, by his own account, is very interested in history. His mention of these two songs is an aside in his narrative. I would have to suppose that he had seen Lomax's book.

I really don't want to come to that conclusion, because the alternative would be that we have an ex-slave born in the early 1860's who has received the stories of his family's move to the frontier and is accurately recalling the use of a version of "Shenandoah" as a river song, prior to the Civil War. I'm not suggesting that his historical recollections are faulty. But he may have added to them. It's a bit of a mystery, and we no longer have either Mr. Price or Mr. Lomax, or Major Spalding or Captain Dingle to consult on these matters.
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The earlier post was on April 2, 2010 in the SF to Sydney thread. Lomax was the only other place I found a reference to a "Cavalry" version, other than Sandburg's comment. I was never able to finally sort out the WPA/Lomax situation.


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