The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #81820 Message #2964676
Posted By: JeffB
13-Aug-10 - 06:14 PM
Thread Name: Origins: Roll, Alabama Roll
Subject: RE: Origins: Roll, Alabama Roll
My version, which is entirely from oral sources, seems to be the English "standard", except for the first verse which I have heard only once. It makes a good finishing verse too. The last verse here is usually - Off the three-mile limit in '65 / the Alabama went to her grave, but I've changed that as the year is wrong. Perhaps I should do something about the claim that she was in Cherbourg to pick up prize money as well.
Let us build the Alabama they said
and she'll be a vessel all men will dread.
Oh the Alabama's keel was laid
in the Atlantic yard of Jonathan Laird.
Down the Merseyway she sailed and then
Liverpool fitted her with guns and men.
To the Western Isles she then set forth
to destroy the commerce of the North.
And to Cherbourg town she came one day
to collect her count of prize money.
But those sailor boys they met their doom
when the Kearsage sailed in view.
For a cannonball that fateful day
shot the Alabama's stern away.
Off the three-mile limit in '64
she sank and never did rise no more.
The Western Isles are the Azores, where Semmes took on water and stores.
Some years ago I came across a digitalised book written by one of the Alabama's officers about her career, which took her as far as the East Indies. I've had a look but can't find it now (no doubt it's still somewhere on the Net; I believe it was done by an Ivy League University) but among many interesting details he mentioned that about a third of her crew were British.
The British Government turned a blind eye to her construction and was generally pro-Confederate because the Union blockade of the southern cotton ports was damaging the valuable English textile industry. During the war the Manchester mills had to import Indian cotton which was much inferior.
In the duel in the Channel the Kearsage enjoyed two distinct advantages. One was that Winslow had prudently fitted her with chain armour which prevented a lot of damage; in fact Semmes later said that if he had known this he would have refused to fight. A second was that the Alabama's explosive ammunition had deteriorated. I saw somewhere a photo of the Kearsage's sternpost, which is preserved somewhere with an unexploded shell embedded in it. Once the Alabama's steering was hit her outside chance dwindled to zero.
I notice that the earliest date of collection is 1925. Would that be Hugill's version?