Victory Won at Richmond, The
DESCRIPTION: "The southern boys may longer lie On the first and fourth of sweet July, Our General Beauregard resound For his southern boys at Richmond." In a bloody battle, the southerners save Richmond while the Yankees run
EARLIEST DATE: 1917 (Cox)
KEYWORDS: battle Civilwar
FOUND IN: US(Ap)
REFERENCES (2 citations):
JHCox 66, "The Victory Won at Richmond" (1 text)
ST JHCox066 (Full)
cf. "The Heights of Alma (I)" [Laws J10] (meter, lyrics)
NOTES [626 words]: This song is item dA37 in Laws's Appendix II. Laws lists two texts in Cox, but this is a typographical error.
This song is truly a curiosity. The form and lyrics are straight from "The Heights of Alma" (with this clearly being a rewrite) -- yet "The Heights of Alma" was about an event of the Crimean War; what was it doing being parodied in the American South in the 1860s? I suppose there could be an earlier song which inspired both (Alma was hardly the sort of battle to produce a brilliant broadside), but I hadn't found it.
The history here is also confused. The only general named on either side is Beauregard. But Beauregard never commanded at Richmond. He could be treated as the Confederate commander at First Bull Run/Manasses (though the actual field commander was Joseph E. Johnston), but that was a long way from Richmond (McPherson, pp. 339-346, especially p. 340). Beauregard did command the defenses of Petersburg (south of Richmond) in 1864, and fought the Yankees in the Bermuda Hundred campaign (Boatner, p. 55) -- but this was as a subordinate of Lee's.
It seems likely that this line is an interpolation, as it does not fit the stanza form. But that just leaves things more murky. So do the initial dates: The first and fourth of July. No significant battles happened on those days -- except the Battle of Gettysburg (July 1-3, 1863) and the surrender of Vicksburg (given up on July 4, 1863; for the dates of battles, see Phisterer, pp. 83-220), neither of which a Confederate would celebrate.
The description of the battle also fails to match any actual battle. The casualty ratios are reminiscent of two fights (Fredericksburg, where according to Boatner, p. 313, the Union lost 12,700, compared to 5200 Confederates; and Cold Harbor, where Boatner, p. 163, makes the ratio of casualties 7000:1500), but again, these were Lee's battles, and neither was fought near Richmond. In any case, the Confederates fought all of the above battles on the strict defensive; nowhere did they capture a height.
If one were to list one battle as a "Victory at Richmond," it would probably be the Seven Days' Battles, but this was Lee's fight, with an army recently Johnston's; Confederate losses *exceeded* Union casualties (McPherson, p. 470), and at no point did the Confederates take a ridge (they in fact signally failed to take one in the Battle of Malvern Hill).
I think the only possible conclusion is that this is a localized version of "The Heights of Alma," not based on an actual battle but rather on a few names the writer had heard. It may even be conflation of northern and southern versions (that would explain a lot of the confusions).
Alternately, it may be that it conflates battles. Second Bull Run was fought August 29-30, 1862 (Phisterer, p. 112; Boatner, pp. 104-105), with an afterthought at Chantilly on 1 September, 1862. Maybe the author heard the news on 1 or 4 September, confused the date with July -- and then confused Second Bull Run, where Lee commanded, with First Bull Run, where Beauregard sort of commanded. In any case, the result is a mess.
It's too bad, in a way; the version of "Heights of Alma" I know is incredibly energetic, and could use a solid American version.
As a footnote, there was a "Battle of Richmond" in Civil War annals. And it was a clear Confederate victory -- "as near to a battle of annihilation as any had been seen so far in this war" (Anders, p. 216) But it was a small conflict fought near Richmond, Kentucky in August 1862 (Phisterer, p. 112). Beauregard was not involved, of course; the Confederate commander was Edmund Kirby Smith. It is interesting to note that it took place on the same day as the Second Battle of Bll Run. Maybe that added to the confusion of the songwriter. - RBW
Last updated in version 3.2
- Anders: Curt Anders, Hearts in Conflict: a One-Volume History of the Civil War, 1994 (I use the 1999 Barnes & Noble edition)
- Boatner: Mark M. Boatner III, The Civil War Dictionary, 1959 (there are many editions of this very popular work; mine is a Knopf hardcover)
- McPherson: James M. McPherson, The Battle Cry of Freedom (The Oxford History of the United States: The Civil War Era), Oxford, 1988
- Phisterer: Frederick Phisterer, Campaigns of the Civil War: Statistical Record of the Armies of the United States, 1883 (I use the 2002 Castle Books reprint)
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