The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #120638   Message #4022106
Posted By: Rapparee
03-Dec-19 - 02:38 PM
Thread Name: Origin: Old Abner's Shoes - What's the story?
Subject: RE: Origin: Old Abner's Shoes - What's the story?
"I CAN WHIP THE SCOUNDREL. A Civil War story, possibly more colorful than accurate, tells of the Southern girl who wrote a letter to her cousin, a prisoner of war at Camp Morton, Indianapolis:

I will be for Jeffdavise till the tenisee river freeses over, and then be for him and scratch on the ice--
             Jeffdavise rides a white horse,
             Lincoln rides a mule,
             Jeffdavise is a gentleman,
             And Lincoln is a fule.

"True or not, there is no doubt of the widespread usage of the four-line verse. It turns up in dozens of Southern folk songs, sometimes as an added stanza to some other ballad, as if a distant folk memory cannot erase the image and must constantly bring it out and fit it to a melody.

"The persistent little quatrain appears as one of the two stanzas found in Florida from which I have borrwed the title for this song. Folk singer Hermes Nye, in a ballad about General Patterson, sings about the white horse and the mule, and Mrs. Emma Dusenberry of Arkansas found it a favorite stanza to fit with other songs.

""I Can Whip The Scoundrel" is obviously a close first cousin (if not a more familiar relative) to a North Carolina prisoner of war song, "As I Went Down to Newbern":

         As I went down to Newbern
         I went down there on the tide;
         I just got there in time
         To be taken by old Burnside.

         Old Burnside tuck me prisoner;
         He used me rough, 'tis true;
         He stole the knapsack off my back,
         And he did my blanket, too.

         And we'll lay five dollars down,
         Count them one by one,
         And every time we fight them
         The Yankees they will run.

"The first verse is a reference to the Union's ill-fated Florida campaign of February, 1864. Baldwin represented the peak of the Yankee advance in the unsuccessful attempt to sever Florida from the Confederacy. Interestingly enough, the Fifty-Fourth Massachusetts Regiment (Colored), whose song "Give Us A Flag," appears in another section [of the cited work], below, was also involved in this engagement."

         --Silber, Irwin, comp. and ed. Songs of the Civil War, New York: Columbia University Press, 1960. pp. 179-180.

(So I'm nine years late doing this....)