Goose Hangs High, The
DESCRIPTION: "Im June of '63, I suppose you all know, General Lee he had a plan into Washington to go." Stuart loses a battle, but Lee invades Pennsylvania; Meade replaces Hooker; the Union wins: "You cannot whip the Yankee boys while the goose hangs high"
EARLIEST DATE: before 1863 (see NOTES)
KEYWORDS: Civilwar battle
June 9, 1863 - Battle of Brandy Station. Union cavalry attack Stuart's rebel horse, but are driven off
July 1-3, 1863 - Battle of Gettysburg. George Gordon Meade's Army of the Potomac holds off Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia
FOUND IN: US(So)
REFERENCES (2 citations):
Belden, pp. 372-373, "The Goose Hangs High" (1 text plus mention of 1 more)
cf. WolfAmericanSongSheets, #794, p. 53, "The Goose Hangs High" (1 reference); also #795, "The Goose Hangs High #2," and #796, "The Goose Hangs High #3," plus perhaps #797, "Der Goose Hangs High"
NOTES [536 words]: Belden admits that this song may not have been traditional; both texts were copies sold as pamphlets, probably by the same blind man, Jasper Kinder. There was, however, some sort of transmission involved. Page 8 of Edwin Wolf 2nd, American Song Sheets, Slip Ballads, and Political Broadsides 1850-1870, Library Company of Philadelphia, 1963, has as its item 100 a broadside entitled "The Battle of Gettysburg," which has as its first line "In June of '63, I suppose you all know." It is listed as by G. P. Hardwick, who also published it; it is said to have seven verses, and to use the tune "Where eveyrhing is lovely and the Goose hangs high." Presumably that is this song, and it implies an even earlier "Goose hangs high" song. This seems to be listed on p. 53 of Wolf, which has a #794 "The Goose Hangs High" ("7 verses, beginning 'Now good folks I will sing you a song," said to be "Composed and Sung by Mat. Gebler with unbounded applause"), which inspired "The Goose Hangs High No. 2" ("Come, listen to my rhyming, and I'll not detain you long"), and "No. 3" ("The sights, in New-York City, you'll find, are strange and queer"), and even "Der Goose Hangs High" ("Come, all yer gallus fellers, and listen unter me").
I cannot for the life of my guess what the significance of a goose hanging high might be. I would note that a "Goose Hangs High Songster" was published in 1866 -- but I haven't seen it.
After the Battle of Chancellorsville, northern Virginia was largely denuded of supplies, which made it hard for Lee to provision his army. In addition, the North's Army of the Potomac was, for nearly the only time in the war, shrinking; a number of regiments had volunteered in early 1861 for two years, and now were mustering out. With the Union forces weak and defeated, it seemed like time to invade the North.
The Union had a bit of a surprise waiting: Until this time, Jeb Stuart's cavalry had been much superior to the Federal forces. But Joe Hooker, the Union commander, had reorganized the union horse as a single corps (as opposed to un-unified brigades and divisions). For the first time in the war, they came looking for Stuart at Brandy Station -- and fought on fairly even terms.
In the end, contrary to the song, the Union troopers were driven off, and took more casualties. But they had shown they could stand up to the Confederates -- which would stand them in good stead at Gettysburg, where they beat off an attack by Stuart. Plus they had learned a lot about Rebel movements.
As the rebel forces moved north, Lincoln and his cabinet became more and more worried about Joe Hooker, the loser of Chancellorsville, who was still in command. Finally, on June 28, they induced Hooker to resign, replacing him with George Gordon Meade (1815-1872). It was Meade who held off Lee's attack at Gettysburg. The song is again too optimistic about the aftermath, though; while Lee failed to drive Meade off his position, Lee was not routed, and Meade pursued very slowly, inflicting very little additional damage on Lee's forces.
The day after the end of the Battle of Gettysburg, July 4, 1863, Grant captured the city of Vicksburg. It was the single best week for Union arms in the entire war. - RBW
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