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Origins: The Southern Soldier

GUEST,# 10 Jun 21 - 03:16 PM
GUEST,# 10 Jun 21 - 10:06 PM
Joe Offer 10 Jun 21 - 11:09 PM
Lighter 11 Jun 21 - 07:48 AM
Lighter 11 Jun 21 - 07:49 AM
GUEST,# 11 Jun 21 - 08:08 AM
Lighter 11 Jun 21 - 09:55 AM
GUEST,# 11 Jun 21 - 10:14 AM
GUEST,# 11 Jun 21 - 10:26 AM
Joe Offer 11 Jun 21 - 02:27 PM
GUEST,cnd 11 Jun 21 - 02:54 PM
Lighter 11 Jun 21 - 05:42 PM
GUEST,# 11 Jun 21 - 06:56 PM
cnd 11 Jun 21 - 09:53 PM
cnd 11 Jun 21 - 10:03 PM
GUEST,# 11 Jun 21 - 10:15 PM
GUEST,# 11 Jun 21 - 10:21 PM
cnd 11 Jun 21 - 11:30 PM
cnd 11 Jun 21 - 11:41 PM
Lighter 12 Jun 21 - 09:19 AM
GUEST,# 12 Jun 21 - 04:23 PM
Lighter 12 Jun 21 - 07:08 PM
GUEST,# 12 Jun 21 - 07:25 PM
Lighter 12 Jun 21 - 07:36 PM
GUEST,# 12 Jun 21 - 08:11 PM
cnd 12 Jun 21 - 09:08 PM
cnd 12 Jun 21 - 09:45 PM
Lighter 13 Jun 21 - 07:25 AM
GUEST,# 13 Jun 21 - 09:57 AM
Lighter 13 Jun 21 - 10:20 AM
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Subject: ADD: The Southern Soldier
From: GUEST,#
Date: 10 Jun 21 - 03:16 PM

The following song came up on another thread, and because I wasn't able to locate it elsewhere on Mudcat I am posting this.

The following link is to the LOC (1937)

https://www.loc.gov/item/ihas.200197129/

A more recent recording with lyrics and some history are at the following link.

https://balladofamerica.org/southern-soldier/

I read somewhere that the original song on which this one is based comes from the 1840s, so I'm wondering about when the first set of lyrics for THIS song were written, and how they compare with the pre-Civil War song.

SOUTHERN SOLDIER

I’ll place my knapsack on my back
My rifle on my shoulder
I’ll march away to the firing line
And kill that Yankee soldier
And kill that Yankee soldier
I’ll march away to the firing line
And kill that Yankee soldier

I’ll bid farewell to my wife and child
Farewell to my aged mother
And go and join in the bloody strife
Till this cruel war is over
Till this cruel war is over
I’ll go and join in the bloody strife
Till this cruel war is over

If I am shot on the battlefield
And I should not recover
Oh, who will protect my wife and child
And care for my aged mother
And care for my aged mother
Oh, who will protect my wife and child
And care for my aged mother

And if our Southern cause is lost
And Southern rights denied us
We’ll be ground beneath the tyrant’s heel
For our demands of justice
For our demands of justice
We’ll be ground beneath the tyrant’s heel
For our demands of justice

Before the South shall bow her head
Before the tyrants harm us
I’ll give my all to the Southern cause
And die in the Southern army
And die in the Southern army
I’ll give my all to the Southern cause
And die in the Southern army

If I must die for my home and land
My spirit will not falter
Oh, here’s my heart and here’s my hand
Upon my country’s altar
Upon my country’s altar
Oh, here’s my heart and here’s my hand
Upon my country’s altar

Then Heaven be with us in the strife
Be with the Southern soldier
We’ll drive the mercenary horde
Beyond our Southern border
Beyond our Southern border
We’ll drive the mercenary horde
Beyond our Southern border



    Note from Joe Offer: These exact lyrics are on PP 411-412 of Folklore on the American Land, by Duncan Emrich (Little, Brown & Company, 1972). The original source was the John Lomax recording of Mrs. Minta Morgan at Bells, Texas, 1937. The Emrich book contains notation for the melody used in this recording:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qmVG9t3EvPY&t=5s
    Southern Soldier · Matthew Sabatella and the Rambling String Band

    And a re-enactment: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YI16zDNFLec


The Minta Morgan lyrics are also in Songs of the Civil War, compiled and edited by Irwin Silber (pp 217-218) (Columbia University Press, 1960) Notes from Silber:
    This pro-Southern folk song would seem to have a literary forebear somewhere in the past, but so far none has been found.


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Southern Soldier
From: GUEST,#
Date: 10 Jun 21 - 10:06 PM

I'm wrong about the 1840s date. But I'd certainly like to find references to the song before Minta Morgan's rendition recorded by Lomax.


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Southern Soldier
From: Joe Offer
Date: 10 Jun 21 - 11:09 PM

Apparently it's not particularly common, maybe because it was a song from the losing side of the Civil War and has a somewhat seditious tone to it. According to the four citations in Roud #4770, Mrs. Minta Morgan is the only original source for this song.

The 1937 John Lomax recording of Minta Morgan: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oZx5DLMRSOo

Here's the entry from the Traditional Ballad Index:

Southern Soldier, The

DESCRIPTION: "I'll place my knapsack on my back, My rifle on my shoulder, I'll march away to the firing line...." He bids goodbye to wife and baby. He wonders who will care for his family if he is killed. But he hopes for the success of the southern cause
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1937 (field recording from Mrs. Minta Morgan)
KEYWORDS: soldier patriotic Civilwar
FOUND IN: US(So)
REFERENCES (2 citations):
Spurgeon-WaltzTheHall-AmericanPlayParty, pp. 95-96, "Down to New Orleans" (1 short text, 1 tune)
Silber-SongsOfTheCivilWar, pp. 217-218, "The Southern Soldier" (1 text, 1 tune)

Roud #4770
File: SCWF217

Go to the Ballad Search form
Go to the Ballad Index Song List

Go to the Ballad Index Instructions
Go to the Ballad Index Bibliography or Discography

The Ballad Index Copyright 2021 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.


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Subject: ADD: Going to the Mexican War
From: Lighter
Date: 11 Jun 21 - 07:48 AM

A. P. Hudson's "Folksongs of Mississippi" has:

GOING TO THE MEXICAN WAR

I'll take my knapsack on my back,
My rifle on my shoulder,
I'm going away to the Mexican war,
I'm going to be a soldier.

The streets are lined with $10 bills,
The girls are sweet as candy,
Coffee grows on white-oak trees,
And the rivers run with brandy.

Kind of like the Big Rock Candy Mountains.

Jean Ritchie's "Singing Family of the Cumberlands" has nearly identical verses as part of a play-party version of "Old King Cole."

And see this thread:

https://mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=31537

In fact, most versions have "Mexican war," "Mexico," "New Orleans," or "the old Rio Grande." Joh Hartford sang a verse (learned, possibly, from a recording of W. Va. fiddler Ed Haley [1885-1951]) that said, "I'm going down to Shiloh."


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Southern Soldier
From: Lighter
Date: 11 Jun 21 - 07:49 AM

Hartford called the tune, "The Secesh."


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Southern Soldier
From: GUEST,#
Date: 11 Jun 21 - 08:08 AM

Thank you both very much. What you've posted between the two of you will keep me out of trouble for a while. Thanks also for making my first post look scholarly. Much appreciated.


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Southern Soldier
From: Lighter
Date: 11 Jun 21 - 09:55 AM

There's a terrific, almost authentic, performance of "The Southern Soldier" by a re-enactor group, the 2nd South Carolina String Band, on YouTube.

Followed by "Dixie." A must-see.


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Southern Soldier
From: GUEST,#
Date: 11 Jun 21 - 10:14 AM

Lighter, 2nd South Carolina String Band's rendition was the first one I heard. I have a few 'feelings' about some of the lyrics, but the melody is fantastic. Here's a link to the take you've suggested.

***************************************

SOUTHERN SOLDIER & DIXIE at GETTYSBURG 150th CAMP DANCE

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YI16zDNFLec


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Southern Soldier
From: GUEST,#
Date: 11 Jun 21 - 10:26 AM

Lighter, A. P. Hudson's "Folksongs of Mississippi" was published in 1936. If you have the book available, would you be kind enough to see if there are other stanzas printed in it?


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Subject: ADD: Going to the Mexican War
From: Joe Offer
Date: 11 Jun 21 - 02:27 PM

Nope, Lighter posted the entire song from Hudson - it's only two verses.

Here are the only notes in Hudson:
    Communicated by Professor D. H. Bishop, University.

    A part of the second stanza appears in a game song known in Mississippi.
    See “Coffee Grows on White-Oak Trees,” p. 301.


    #85, page 212, Folksongs of Mississippi and their background, by Arthur Palmer Hudson, Folklorica Press, 1981


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Southern Soldier
From: GUEST,cnd
Date: 11 Jun 21 - 02:54 PM

Thanks for making a separate thread for this

Joe, while the suggestion that this song is uncommon because it comes from the losing side doesn't fully explain it. Every one of these songs from the Civil War era could easily have their sides change depending on the wont of the singer; Yankee and Rebel have about the same syllabaic weight, as do South and North. The vast majority of the songs can be found on either side. And while several verses in it are floating (the ones about coffee and brandy in particular can be found, as you said, in play songs and versions of Shady Grove), you are right in suggesting that the pessimistic tone of several stanzas would make it less popular at the time.

I've found a (nearly?) period reference in a historic newspaper that I'll post later that confirms the song is likely as old as the civil war, but most of the references are more recent


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Southern Soldier
From: Lighter
Date: 11 Jun 21 - 05:42 PM

Richmond Dispatch (Feb. 2, 1902), p. 8:

"               MARCH AWAY TO MEXICO

"...The following are the three stanzas of the song as I used to hear it sung now more than thirty years ago:

"My pretty little Pink, I once did think,
That you and I would marry;
But now I've lost all earthly hope;
With you I cannot tarry.

I'll take my knapsack on my back,
My rifle on my shoulder,
And march away to the Mexican war,
To be a valiant soldier.

There coffee grows on white-oak trees,,
And rivers flow with brandy;
The rocks all shine with glittering gold
And the girls are sweet as candy.

"Whether there were ever more than these three stanzas of the song, I am unable to say. My old friend, Colonel Samuel J. Lamden, formerly of Worcester Co., Md., but now residing at Onancock, on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, who served through the Mexican war, informed me that the three stanzas given above are all that he recollects having heard. He told me that the song was very popular just after the Mexican war, and that it was frequently sung at country frolics by young people as they marched, arm in arm, around the room. By the way, Colonel Lamden, I believe, is the only Mexican veteran now living on the Atlantic-Coast plain between Philadelphia and the capes of Virginia. He enlisted in Colonel Doniphan's regiment, marched across the plains, helped to conquer New Mexico, and joined General Taylor at Buena Vista, travelling in all, more than 6,000 miles."


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Southern Soldier
From: GUEST,#
Date: 11 Jun 21 - 06:56 PM

Interesting. The following link leads to some 'song cognates' with stanzas that appear in songs with different titles but shared stanzas

'Pretty Little Pink- Version 5 James Mooney' from

http://bluegrassmessengers.com/pretty-little-pink--version-5-james-mooney-1889.aspx


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Southern Soldier
From: cnd
Date: 11 Jun 21 - 09:53 PM

Here's a pretty clear reference to the song from 1861:
The volunteers are all in fine spirits this evening, though most of us are a little weary. "With my knapsack on my back and my rifle on my shoulder" sounds romantic enough in print; but we confess our back does'nt [sic] feel very romantic
-- OUR CORPORAL
The above reference comes from a soldier stationed in Camp Calhoun, Columbia, SC and is dated April 13th, 1861, just days after the start of the Civil War.


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Southern Soldier
From: cnd
Date: 11 Jun 21 - 10:03 PM

Apologies, here's the link for the previous reference: The Yorkville Enquirer, April 18th, 1861, p. 2

Another article by M. M. Folson reminiscing on the songs of "twenty years ago" [1865] wrote that "one of a more martial character" went:
I'll take my knapsack on my back
  My rifle on my shoulder;
Put on the gray, and march away,
  For I'm bound to be a soldier.
The Constitution [Atlanta], May 23rd, 1885, p. 5


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Southern Soldier
From: GUEST,#
Date: 11 Jun 21 - 10:15 PM

Good work, cnd.

I'm still curious about the four stanzas that aren't 'floating'. Anyone got any ideas as to how I could go about looking for that info?


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Southern Soldier
From: GUEST,#
Date: 11 Jun 21 - 10:21 PM

I may be confusing myself. I think what I'll do is tackle the seven stanza song from 1937 one stanza at a time. Two or three are covered already, and I'm grateful for that.


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Southern Soldier
From: cnd
Date: 11 Jun 21 - 11:30 PM

Mrs. Morgan's version is very elegant; I wasn't able to find any match for any of the unique phrases of hers in either newspapers.com or archive.org.

Especially odd to me is the 7-line stanzas. I've found very few songs which match it in that way. The melody is reminiscent to the Sacred Harp song "New Harmony"/"I Want To Live A Christian Here"/"I Want To Die A-Shouting." A version collected as an "old plantation hymn" (link) shares a few lines, and the melody (listen) is very close, but it doesn't match the 7-line stanzas.

I've found a song which is passingly similar but not enough for me to think much of it yet. Just in case, I'll link it here: If You Belong To Dixie's Land.

There is sheet music in Silber's book which Joe referenced earlier. It's not exactly the same as the singing of the 2nd SC SB but it's pretty close.


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Southern Soldier
From: cnd
Date: 11 Jun 21 - 11:41 PM

Drifting back to the more common amalgamation of this song, the Frank C. Brown collection has the following intro, as well as 9 versions of the song:
COFFEE GROWS ON WHITE OAK TREES

A favorite play-party song pretty much everywhere that play-parties are—or have been—in vogue is made up of three elements: a stanza beginning with the line here chosen as title, another beginning "pretty little pink" (sometimes "my blue-eyed gal") and another beginning "I'll put my knapsack on my back." It goes back to the Mexican War. As Sandburg remarks (ASb 166 [link]) : "a dance song known in Kentucky, Indiana, and Illinois became a knapsack and marching tune with Mexican War references." ... Sometimes only two of the elements appear, and sometimes only one. Sometimes New Orleans or Quebec appears in place of Mexico, carrying the reference back to the War of 1812.


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Southern Soldier
From: Lighter
Date: 12 Jun 21 - 09:19 AM

Nice work, guys.

Many troops in the Mexican War embarked from New Orleans.

And "Quebec" is just as likely to refer to the Seven Years' War and the battle of Quebec as to the War of 1812.

In no case is the appearance of the place name a guarantee that it was in the original, or, if it was, that the original dated as far back as the reference.

The clear predominance of Mexico, New Orleans, and the Rio Grande in the traditional versions strongly suggests that the verses came about during or just after the war of 1846-48.


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Southern Soldier
From: GUEST,#
Date: 12 Jun 21 - 04:23 PM

The phrase, firing line, wasn't used in print until the Civil War had been over for fifteen years. Cambridge puts the phrase dates between 1880-5, and MW puts it at 1881. However, that's one phrase from one verse in one stanza, and because it seems the seven-stanza song has been cobbled together partly from then-existing lines, verses or stanzas and then-newer material, then the question that really needs an answer is where did Mrs Morgan get it from ??


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Southern Soldier
From: Lighter
Date: 12 Jun 21 - 07:08 PM

The "earliest appearance in print" is simply the earliest date that someone working for Oxford or Merriam has noticed, and a fifteen or twenty year discrepancy isn't too remarkable.

I quickly found the following in a newspaper database, eleven years before the Civil War:

"Christian Freeman and Family Visitor" (Boston, Mass.), Oct. 11, 1850:

"Their manner of drill, and their patriotic explosion of gunfire reminded us of the good old military times of our boyhood. The boys ran an opposition to the company in the firing line, by the burning of powder in a hole in a blacksmith's anvil....It was quite a fete."

In any case, the song itself is so evidently a Civil War product ("We'll be ground beneath the tyrant's heel,/ For our demands of justice") that the question of just when a single word or phrase first appeared in it seems like a quibble.

A less likely point of origin would be some long forgotten, postwar stage performance. But there's no evidence for that, and apparently nothing in the song we have casts doubt on its existence during the Civil War - if only, perhaps, in Bells, Texas.


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Southern Soldier
From: GUEST,#
Date: 12 Jun 21 - 07:25 PM

Fair enough. I'm finding little (aside from reiterations of Lomax's remarks) about Mrs. Minta Morgan or Tom Wells (from Bells) who was also recorded in 1937. The question that nags me is where did Minta Morgan get it from? Gonna be a tough nut to crack it looks like.


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Southern Soldier
From: Lighter
Date: 12 Jun 21 - 07:36 PM

Uncrackable, I'd say, unless an early newspaper text or something similar turns up.

Of course, I've looked as best I can and found nothing. But not all newspapers broadsides, or handwritten manuscripts survive.

By the way, the very latest online revision of Oxford, from 2019, gives an example of "firing line" from 1854 and another from 1859.

(But mine's still earlier. Heh heh.)

More seriously it's the sort of arcane term that would most likely have been used by someone with some kind of military background, even if it was only drilling on the town square with a local militia.

Which isn't terribly helpful.


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Southern Soldier
From: GUEST,#
Date: 12 Jun 21 - 08:11 PM

"By the way, the very latest online revision of Oxford, from 2019, gives an example of "firing line" from 1854 and another from 1859."

Thanks for that (and of course your excellent research about the song). I fully intend to let Messrs. Cambridge and MW know. ;-)

Have a good weekend, and thanks again.


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Southern Soldier
From: cnd
Date: 12 Jun 21 - 09:08 PM

Here's a short biography on Minta Morgan: via Texas's The Whitewright Sun, June 29th, 1939, p. 5 (you do not need a newspapers.com account to view). My summary is below:

Minta Wells Morgan was born September 1st, 1875 somewhere in Tennessee. In 1878, her parents moved to Texas. Her youth is not described, but she was educated in Grayson College. She taught at rural Texas schools from graduation (circa 1896?) until 1901, when she married W. R. Morgan.

So notably, whatever the source from her song, it was likely in Texas, as she lived in that state all of her memorable life.

Another article remembered her as "one of the great cowgirl singers... from Grayson County." The article also read: "If you know anything at all about Minta Morgan, you know she meant it. She was as liberated as she was a part of the past, and could ride and rope with the best, while defying anyone's brand upon her. ... Minta married, but it was with who damned well pleased her." (Austin American-Statesman, December 3rd, 1992, p. B3). Not sure how much of that is over-glorified folklore or not, but it at least gives evidence she was a singer.

Here's a list of recordings she made for the Library of Congress
- Answer to the Red River shore (link)
- Barbara Allen (link)
- Billy boy (link)
- Buffalo girls (link)
- Captain Jinks of the horse marines (link) – play-party song
- Carry me back to my childhood home (link)
- Dan Tucker (link)
- Froggy went a-courtin' (link)
- Hog drivers (link)
- Home came a good man (link)
- I'll be a good boy (link)
- I'll be an old maid (link)
- In the state of Arkansas (link)
- Jennie, get the hoecake on (link)
- Jew tang (link) – play-party song
- Juniper tree (link) – play-party song
- Little brass wagon (link) – play-party song
- Oh, come with me (link)
- Old Joe Clark (link)
- Old John Tyler (link)
- Old Quebec (
link) – play-party song
- Paddy on the turnpike (link)
- Poor Nora (link)
- Red River shore (link)
- Ring around the border (link)
- Run, nigger, run (link)
- Shake that wooden leg, Dinah-o (link)
- Shoot the buffalo (link) – play-party song
- Skip to my Lou (link) – play-party song
- Sweetheart hunting (link) – play-party song
- The Texas pioneer (link)
- The bachelor's lay (link)
- The banks of Arkansas (link)
- The black sheep (link) spoken contributions
- The boss of the section gang (link)
- The bumblebee (link)
- The close of the day (link)
- The cowboy's ride (link)
- The farmer’s boy (link)
- The greenback dollar (link)
- The little Mohee girl (link)
- The lovers' quarrel (link)
- The old red fox (link) – play-party song
- The play goes on till morning (link)
- The southern soldier (link)
- The waltz 'n' swing (link) – play-party song
- Too- ri- ru- ra (link)
- Warren and Fuller (link)
- Washington the great (link)
- Way down in Alabam' (link)
- We're marching round the levee (link)
- Weevily wheat (link) – play-party song
- When I die I want to go to heaven (link)
- Will he never come again? (link)

As you can see, she was a pretty prodigious singer! She also had several play songs in her repertoire. Notably, one titled "Old Quebec" mentions having an introductory note by the singer -- could it be related?


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Southern Soldier
From: cnd
Date: 12 Jun 21 - 09:45 PM

Alternatively, could the references to Mexico be to something other than the Mexican American War? I've found no references from before 1861, and while that doesn't necessarily mean anything, it seems telling that no source even mentioned the song as being older than the Civil War. Additionally, while some sources say "Mexican War" others just say "march away to Mexico." Consider:
There is strongly corroborative proof of General Shelby's statement that the western Confederates were to be allowed to march away to Mexico. When Lee surrendered, the trans-Mississippi army numbered about 50,000 men. The commander was Kirby Smith. The officers held a council at Marshall, Texas, and decided to march to Mexico. Kirby Smith was to resign and Buckner was to command. But Smith declined to resign and Buckner didn't want to go. Division after division was called to Shreveport and disarmed. Shelby called for volunteers and led 1,000 men to Mexico. At the close of the Civil war, Sheridan was hurried to the Mexican border. Juarez was given moral and material support from the United States side. The French were warned away; Maximilian was defeated, captured, condemned to death and executed on the hill of Queretaro. (via The Missouri Historical Review, Vol. X No. 2 (Jan 1916): "Lincoln and Missouri" by Walter B. Stevens, p. 118)
This would help explain why Minta Morgan's version is only found in Texas, as well as explaining the lack of any references to pre-Civil War.

I admit that it's a farfetched theory, but it all does make sense: references to Mexico refer to the Second French Intervention In Mexico (US involvement 1865-1867), references to New Orleans refer to the divisions dismissed in Shreveport(?). It's all supposition, but I have to admit I'm fond of the idea.


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Southern Soldier
From: Lighter
Date: 13 Jun 21 - 07:25 AM

Carter, I think the War of 1812 is the most likely point of origin for the stanzas, with "modernizations" later.

Here's a 1954 article by David S. McIntosh that compares several versions of the play-party song:

https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=inu.30000116558085&view=1up&seq=154&q1=%22knapsack%20on%20my%20back%22%20%22rifle%20on%20

And don't you think the tune of Morgan's tune is much like that of "Black Jack Davy"?


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Southern Soldier
From: GUEST,#
Date: 13 Jun 21 - 09:57 AM

In the parlance, you dudes be awesome. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I wonder now if Tom Wells (mentioned earlier) was kin to her. Maybe a brother?


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Southern Soldier
From: Lighter
Date: 13 Jun 21 - 10:20 AM

You're welcome!


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Southern Soldier
From: GUEST,#
Date: 13 Jun 21 - 01:46 PM

I'm parking this here until I can look into it/digest it.

https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Wells-9768

(re Minta Morgan--extended family)


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