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Origin: Old Abner's Shoes - What's the story?

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Origins: I Can Whip the Scoundrel (10)


jacqui.c 06 May 09 - 11:47 AM
Bill D 06 May 09 - 01:12 PM
jacqui.c 06 May 09 - 02:34 PM
SINSULL 06 May 09 - 02:34 PM
Rapparee 06 May 09 - 02:55 PM
Jim Dixon 21 May 09 - 10:51 AM
Jim Dixon 21 May 09 - 11:12 AM
GUEST,a visitor 26 Jun 10 - 05:02 PM
GUEST,Carolyn Wright 04 Aug 12 - 08:01 PM
GUEST,george 16 Aug 17 - 11:32 AM
Lighter 16 Aug 17 - 09:31 PM
GUEST,Reb 03 Jun 18 - 09:58 PM
GUEST,Reb 03 Jun 18 - 10:00 PM
Lighter 04 Jun 18 - 09:42 AM
GUEST,Some guy 29 Nov 19 - 12:17 PM
GUEST,Starship 01 Dec 19 - 08:48 AM
Rapparee 03 Dec 19 - 02:38 PM
GUEST,John Braden 13 May 20 - 04:31 AM
cnd 13 May 20 - 01:21 PM
Lighter 13 May 20 - 05:02 PM
Lighter 13 May 20 - 07:04 PM
GUEST,cnd 14 May 20 - 01:55 AM
Lighter 14 May 20 - 12:48 PM
cnd 14 May 20 - 03:07 PM
Lighter 14 May 20 - 07:10 PM
cnd 15 May 20 - 12:36 AM
Lighter 15 May 20 - 12:44 PM
cnd 19 May 20 - 11:13 AM
cnd 20 May 20 - 09:51 PM
GUEST,Starship 20 May 20 - 10:33 PM
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Subject: Abner's shoes - What's the story?
From: jacqui.c
Date: 06 May 09 - 11:47 AM

The song title is either 'Abner's Shoes' or 'For I can whip the scoundrel, that stole old Abner's shoes'.

Does anybody have any idea about the origins of this song - was it based on a real incident?


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Subject: RE: Abner's shoes - What's the story?
From: Bill D
Date: 06 May 09 - 01:12 PM

I have Tennesee Ernie Ford singing it, but I have no information about it's history. It 'sounds' like it could easily have been composed based on some real remark.


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Subject: RE: Abner's shoes - What's the story?
From: jacqui.c
Date: 06 May 09 - 02:34 PM

Just so Bill - I had a trawl through the internet but couldn't find much about it at all.

We've just gone for Mr Ford's 'Songs of the Civil War' on Amazon. This is a CD collection of his rendition of the songs of both North and South. There's some good stuff on there.


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Subject: RE: Abner's shoes - What's the story?
From: SINSULL
Date: 06 May 09 - 02:34 PM

I have a book at home that I think has some hsitory. Post when I get home.
M


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Subject: RE: Abner's shoes - What's the story?
From: Rapparee
Date: 06 May 09 - 02:55 PM

Me too.


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Subject: Lyr Add: I CAN WHIP THE SCOUNDREL / ABNER'S SHOES
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 21 May 09 - 10:51 AM

I pieced these lyrics together from several sources.


I CAN WHIP THE SCOUNDREL a.k.a. OLD ABNER'S SHOES

1. The Yankees came to Baldwin; They came up in the rear;
They thought they'd find old Abner, But old Abner was not there.

CHORUS: So lay ten dollars down, Or twenty if you choose,
For I can whip the scoundrel That stole old Abner's shoes.

2. The Yankees took me prisoner, They used me rough 'tis true.
They took from me my knapsack and stole my blankets too.

3. The Yankees took me prisoner, but if I could get parole,
I'd go right back and fight them, I will, upon my soul.

4. Jeff Davis was a gentleman; Abe Lincoln was a fool.
Jeff Davis rode a dapple gray; Abe Lincoln rode a mule.


[The last verse is probably a "floater".]

From: Florida in Poetry: A History of the Imagination by Jane Anderson Jones and Maurice O'Sullivan (Sarasota, Fla: Pineapple Press, 1995), page 46:
    "This Civil War ballad refers to a February 9, 1864 raid by the Fortieth Massachusetts Infantry on Confederate supplies at Baldwin, a railroad junction
    town twenty miles west of Jacksonville."
These books also contain versions of the song, but none of them can be fully viewed with Google Books:

A History of Music & Dance in Florida, 1565-1865 by Wiley L. Housewright (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1991)

Songs of the Civil War by Irwin Silber (New York: Dover, 1995)

Palmetto Country by Stetson Kennedy (New York: Duell, Sloan & Pearce, 1942), page 86


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Subject: RE: Origin: Old Abner's Shoes - What's the story?
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 21 May 09 - 11:12 AM

From a report by The Joint Committee on the Conduct and Expenditures of the War, April 11, 1864, in Reports of Committees by the Senate of the United States, 1864:


Baldwin, Florida, February 9, 1864.

GENERAL: I have the honor to report that a portion of my command, under Brigadier General T. Seymour, convoyed by the gunboat Norwich, Captain Merriam, ascended the St. John's river on the 7th instant, and landed at Jacksonville on the afternoon of that day.

The advance, under Colonel Guy V. Henry, comprising the 40th Massachusetts infantry, the independent battalion Massachusetts cavalry, under Major Stevens, and Elder's horse battery, (B, 1st artillery,) pushed forward into the interior on the night of the 8th, passed by the enemy, drawn up in line of battle, at Camp Finnegan, seven miles from Jacksonville, surprised and captured a battery, three miles in the rear of the camp, about midnight, and reached this place about sunrise this morning.

At our approach the enemy abandoned and sunk the steamer St. Mary's and burned two hundred and seventy bales of cotton a few miles above Jacksonville. We have taken, without the loss of a man, about one hundred prisoners, eight pieces of excellent field artillery, in serviceable condition and well supplied with ammunition, and other valuable property to a large amount.

I shall have a train of cars running on the road from Jacksonville in three or four days.

The command will advance to-morrow morning.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Q. A. GILLMORE,
Major General, Commanding.

Major General H. W. Halleck,
General-in-Chief United States Army, Washington, D. C.


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Subject: RE: Origin: Old Abner's Shoes - What's the story?
From: GUEST,a visitor
Date: 26 Jun 10 - 05:02 PM

In regard to Jim Dixon's reply about the last verse being a "floater":

Jeff Davis was a gentleman; Abe Lincoln was a fool.
Jeff Davis rode a dapple gray; Abe Lincoln rode a mule.


I recognize that verse from a song called "OLD ABE LIES SICK".

Old Abe lies sick, Old Abe lies sick, Old Abe lies sick in bed. He's a lying dog, he's a crying dog *[and I wish he was dead].

Jeff Davis rides a big white horse, Abe Lincoln rides a mule.
Jeff Davis is a gentleman, Abe Lincoln is fool.

*Another version adopted after Lincoln's assassination replaces "and I wish he was dead" with "with murder in his head".


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Subject: RE: Origin: Old Abner's Shoes - What's the story?
From: GUEST,Carolyn Wright
Date: 04 Aug 12 - 08:01 PM

I'm wondering if the song is referring to the Abner McGehee locomotive?


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Subject: RE: Origin: Old Abner's Shoes - What's the story?
From: GUEST,george
Date: 16 Aug 17 - 11:32 AM


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Subject: RE: Origin: Old Abner's Shoes - What's the story?
From: Lighter
Date: 16 Aug 17 - 09:31 PM

Maybe this is too obvious to mention, but "Ol' Abner" is presumably the singer/versifier.


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Subject: RE: Origin: Old Abner's Shoes - What's the story?
From: GUEST,Reb
Date: 03 Jun 18 - 09:58 PM

Abner is probably Abner McCormick, who commanded the 2nd Florida Cavalry (Confederate) at Olustee.


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Subject: RE: Origin: Old Abner's Shoes - What's the story?
From: GUEST,Reb
Date: 03 Jun 18 - 10:00 PM

McCormick was also in the area of Baldwin when the raid occurred.


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Subject: RE: Origin: Old Abner's Shoes - What's the story?
From: Lighter
Date: 04 Jun 18 - 09:42 AM

Maybe, but did somebody steal his shoes or anything?

I wonder if there were any other Abners around.


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Subject: RE: Origin: Old Abner's Shoes - What's the story?
From: GUEST,Some guy
Date: 29 Nov 19 - 12:17 PM

Could also be Abner Monroe Perrin, who was a general who died at the battle of the wilderness, during a counter attack trying to retake the "mule shoe".

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abner_Monroe_Perrin 11/29/19 12:15pm est.


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Subject: RE: Origin: Old Abner's Shoes - What's the story?
From: GUEST,Starship
Date: 01 Dec 19 - 08:48 AM

Here's the song on YouTube:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R-bGCxY6CUI


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Subject: RE: Origin: Old Abner's Shoes - What's the story?
From: Rapparee
Date: 03 Dec 19 - 02:38 PM

"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....)


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Subject: RE: Origin: Old Abner's Shoes - What's the story?
From: GUEST,John Braden
Date: 13 May 20 - 04:31 AM

I speculate that "Old Abner's shoes" refers to the narrator of the song: an infantryman belonging to Abner's command (hence "Abner's shoes") who was stolen (i.e., captured) by the Yankees.
Treating Abner as the narrator of the song contradicts the verse that says that Abner was not there when the Yankees arrived. If the narrator was not there, then how could he become a prisoner?


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Subject: RE: Origin: Old Abner's Shoes - What's the story?
From: cnd
Date: 13 May 20 - 01:21 PM

I have both Tennessee Ernie Ford's "Civil War Songs of the South" which has I Can Whip the Scoundrel and Hermes Nye's "Civil War Ballads" related recording, General Patterson, and neither singer offers any concrete insight into who Abner is.

The folks at Fresno State were unable to ascertain with any certainty who Abner was (link). Though Hermes Nye includes verses about Abner in General Patterson, that doesn't *appear* to be a standard part of the song (Fresno link for that song as well.

Another name I've heard suggested is Gen. Abner Doubleday, a Union leader at the Battle of Gettysburg. A long-standing myth is that the battle was fought over a shipment of shoes, a supply which both armies needed, however, that doesn't sit well with me for a few reasons, namely that that explanation fails to get at the meaning of Baldwin in that case.

The Abner Perrin argument is enticing since his name is Abner and he died while trying to re-take the Mule Shoe salient, but to me that still doesn't explain Baldwin.

I have to second "Reb's" opinion that the most likely Abner was Col. Abner H. McCormick of the CSA. I have found the following passage:

"Brigadier General George H. Gordon, USA, commanding District of Florida, commanding Union expedition on the St. Johns River, reconnoitered the vicinity of Palatka, reported no Confederates at Camp Finegan, and Southern forces in East Florida were: "At Camp Milton, the Second Florida Cavalry, Colonel Abner H. McCormick, CSA, 600 men; Camp Milton and McGirt's Creek strongly fortified. At Baldwin, no troops, strong fortifications, two pieces of artillery." (Source, PDF page 346)

Haven't found anything specifically tying Abner McCormick to shoes, but to me that to me makes the most sense.


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Subject: RE: Origin: Old Abner's Shoes - What's the story?
From: Lighter
Date: 13 May 20 - 05:02 PM

Baldwin is about twelve miles from Camp Milton. When the Yankees got to Baldwin, they found it ungarrisoned.

So Old Abner was not there.

The singer seems to be in prison ("If I can get parole"), or at least on his way. But the paroling and exchange of prisoners essentially ended in 1863, and the reconnaissance to Baldwin was carried out on May 25,1864.

It may be that the prisoner/parole stanzas are older than the Baldwin stanza. (As the Ballad Index observes, "General Patterson" was in Virginia in 1861 and retired after First Bull Run.) Or that the singer didn't know that prisoner exchange had been suspended.

The lines about Longstreet, Magruder, and Jackson seem to refer to the battle of Seven Pines, Va., in 1862.

The long version of the song may be an amalgam of two or more songs. To speculate wildly (and I do mean wildly) maybe the lines about Baldwin were added after the war by a singer who'd learned the Patterson part from a Virginia veteran. The song was not collected till 1950.

The tune, by the way, is essentially "Cindy, Cindy," without the "Get along home" refrain.


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Subject: RE: Origin: Old Abner's Shoes - What's the story?
From: Lighter
Date: 13 May 20 - 07:04 PM

Or maybe Hermes Nye is responsible.

Can anyone post the 1950 source text from "Folk Songs of Florida"?


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Subject: RE: Origin: Old Abner's Shoes - What's the story?
From: GUEST,cnd
Date: 14 May 20 - 01:55 AM

I can't say much definitively without the book in front of me (and I don't have a copy either) but searches using HathiTrust's simple search function and the online table of contents seem to indicate to me that Alton Morris had Generally Patterson and I Can Whip the Scoundrel as two separate songs, with the phrase "Abner's Shoes" appearing only under the Scoundrel song.

I've got some pretty good research into the origins of the song itself that I'll type up nicely I'm a day or two, though I'm hoping a copy of Morris's texts may surface.

I could be wrong in saying this but I couldn't find an authoritative or amateur attempt to trace the song's history and origins. I may make a new thread for it or try to find an applicable one based on source songs, but that's a bridge I'll cross when I get there. If I make a new thread, though, I'll link it


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Subject: RE: Origin: Old Abner's Shoes - What's the story?
From: Lighter
Date: 14 May 20 - 12:48 PM

Thans, cnd. I'm looking forward to your findings.

By 1864, $20 in Confederate money was worth only a few cents in gold.

Looks like "Folk Songs of Florida" may be the key to it all.

ISTR that Ernie Ford's version has an inauthentic "I can take the hide off the yankee" instead of "I can whip the scoundrel."


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Subject: RE: Origin: Old Abner's Shoes - What's the story?
From: cnd
Date: 14 May 20 - 03:07 PM

You're partly correct, Lighter, in that he does use that verse, but only once, the rest of the time sticking to the traditional version.

Though if my research is correct, the part about laying money down stems from earlier songs and was probably used to indicate his confidence that no one would be found.


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Subject: RE: Origin: Old Abner's Shoes - What's the story?
From: Lighter
Date: 14 May 20 - 07:10 PM

> used to indicate his confidence that no one would be found.

Have to disagree. It seems clear (to me anyway) that he's offering a bet that he can whip that scoundrel.


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Subject: RE: Origin: Old Abner's Shoes - What's the story?
From: cnd
Date: 15 May 20 - 12:36 AM

Sorry Lighter, I mis-spoke there. I meant to say the person the speaker is making the bet with is certain the speaker can't whip the scoundrel. In other words, the singer is certain he will win the 20 dollars from whomever is betting against him, while the person on the other end of the bet is not.

The phrase originated in this song's context in 1860, before the Confederacy existed; $20 in 1860s (USA and not CSA) money is equivalent to over $600 today.

I have reached out to some friends to see if any have a copy of the Folk Songs of Florida book. I'll wait a few days and see if any of them get back to me. If not, I'll go ahead and get the history made.


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Subject: RE: Origin: Old Abner's Shoes - What's the story?
From: Lighter
Date: 15 May 20 - 12:44 PM

Great!


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Subject: RE: Origin: Old Abner's Shoes - What's the story?
From: cnd
Date: 19 May 20 - 11:13 AM

Good news -- I was about to give up and write it without the versions in Folk Songs of Florida, but just this afternoon I managed to get a copy of the relevant text. I'll type up what I've got in a separate post and link it here.


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Subject: RE: Origin: Old Abner's Shoes - What's the story?
From: cnd
Date: 20 May 20 - 09:51 PM

Here it is: https://mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=167902&messages=4


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Subject: RE: Origin: Old Abner's Shoes - What's the story?
From: GUEST,Starship
Date: 20 May 20 - 10:33 PM

Excellent it is, too.


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