Ol' Gen'ral Bragg's a-Mowin' Down de Yankees
DESCRIPTION: The master (?) tells the slaves that Bragg is defeating the Yankees, and warns them to behave. But then the southern troops appear to be running. Master runs off to the swamps, "while Dinah, Pomp, an' Pete dey look As if dey mighty pleas'."
EARLIEST DATE: 1952 (Brown)
KEYWORDS: Civilwar slave battle freedom
FOUND IN: US(MW,SE)
REFERENCES (2 citations):
BrownII 233, "Ol' Gen'ral Bragg's a-Mowin' Down de Yankees" (1 text)
Greenway-AFP, pp. 104-105, "Old Massa He Come Dancin' Out" (1 text)
NOTES: It is difficult to correlate this song with any particular Civil War battle. Braxton Bragg (1817-1876) commanded at four major conflicts: Perryville (Oct. 8, 1862), Murfreesboro/Stones River (Dec. 31, 1862-Jan. 2, 1863), Chickamauga (Sept. 19-20, 1862), and Chattanooga (Nov. 23-25, 1863).
None of these battles fit the song. Perryville ended with Bragg retreating, but it was a voluntary retreat -- and it was in Kentucky anyway, where the slaves were not freed by the Emancipation Proclamation.
Stones River also ended with Bragg retreating, but again, his forces retreated in good order; there was no running.
Chickamauga was an overwhelming Confederate victory; only the Yankees fled.
The best fit, then, is Chattanooga, where Bragg at first held the Federals easily -- he held an overwhelmingly strong position on the ridges above the town) but then saw his troops fall apart. (He was relieved afterward.) -- But the area through which the Confederates fled had been in Union hands previously, and was not good planting country; there were few slaves in the area.
According to Greenway, the mother of collector Merton Knowles learned the song after the Civil War. - RBW
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