We're Off to the Wars (Arkansas War Song)
DESCRIPTION: "Come along, boys, we'll off to the wars... Yo ho, yo ho, in Dixie!" The singer promises to fight for "the 'Federate states," intends to talk about the girls, and lists his leaders who will "bring Montgomery and Lane to taw."
EARLIEST DATE: 1931 (Allsopp)
KEYWORDS: soldier Civilwar
FOUND IN: US(So)
REFERENCES (1 citation):
ADDITIONAL: Fred W. Allsopp, Folklore of Romantic Arkansas, Volume II (1931), pp. 224-225
ST FORA224 (Partial)
NOTES [312 words]: The references in this piece are, at best, confusing. The Confederate officers are clear: McCulloch is Ben McCulloch (1811-1862), who assembled the Arkansas troops which fought at the battle of Wilson's Creek (August 10, 1861); he would later be killed at Pea Ridge. One of the Confederate batteries at that battle was commanded by an officer named Woodruff.
But who are "Montgomery and Lane"? There were two Union generals named Montgomery; neither could have fought McCulloch. Neither was there a suitable Union officer named Lane, though James Henry Lane (1814-1866) was a fiery Kansas politician.
My guess is that there are two errors here. One is an error of hearing: "Lane" is actually "Lyon," i.e. Nathaniel Lyon, the Union captain hastily promoted Brigadier General who ran the Union forces in Missouri. He cleared northern Missouri of Confederate forces, then turned south. Finding himself trapped by superior forces, he tried a spoiling attack at Wilson's Creek and was killed.
"Montgomery" is even trickier. My shot in the dark is that this is a confusion of the two Blair brothers. Montgomery Blair, the older brother, became Lincoln's Postmaster General. Francis P. Blair, based in Missouri, was sort of Lyon's co-conspirator in saving Missouri for the Union: He raised the money and troops which Lyon used. Since Montgomery was the better-known Blair (among other things, he had argued Dred Scott's side in the famous slavery case), the southern poet might have thought it was Montgomery Blair, not Frank, who was operating in Missouri.
In any case, this song sounds very much like something one of McCulloch's volunteers might have sung before Wilson's Creek. Were it of later date, we would presumably hear more of Earl Van Down, McCulloch's superior, and of Union commander Samuel R. Curtis, who won the Battle of Pea Ridge at which McCulloch was killed. - RBW
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