Hold On, Abraham
DESCRIPTION: "We're going down to Dixie, to Dixie, to Dixie... To fight for the dear old flag.... Hold on, Abraham... Uncle Sam's boys are coming right along." The song catalogs soldiers and generals who are fighting to recover the South for the Union
EARLIEST DATE: 1915
KEYWORDS: Civilwar battle nonballad
FOUND IN: US
REFERENCES (1 citation):
Lomax-ABFS, pp. 529-530, "Hold On, Abraham" (1 text)
cf. "We Are Coming, Father Abraham"
NOTES: The chorus of this song implies kinship with "We Are Coming, Father Abraham," but the verses are completely different.
The mention of 600,000 enlistees does not exactly match any of Lincoln's calls for enlistments (the closest was the 1861 authorization of a 500,000 man army; Phisterer, p. 4), but two levies in the summer of 1862 (one for 300,000 three year volunteers and one for 300,000 nine month volunteers; Phisterer, pp. 4-5) totalled 600,000 men.
A date of late 1862 also fits the list of generals mentioned in the song, all of whom were in senior posts in 1862 (but often replaced by 1863). Among those listed:
"General Grant": Ulysses S. Grant, eventual Union high commander, who by late 1862 had already captured Fort Henry and Fort Donelson as well fought as the bloody battle of Shiloh (Jameson, p. 274).
"Our Halleck": Henry W. Halleck, who never actually fought a battle as a Union general, but was Grant's theatre commander and received credit for all victories in the west. A good organizer, the one time he led armies in the field (Corinth campaign, late spring 1862), he showed so little initiative that he took almost a month to cover 20 miles in the face of slight resistance (Catton, p. 291). Despite this, he was promoted to command of all Union armies in July 1862 (McPherson, p. 488). He held the post until 1864, when Grant took over the job (Boatner, p. 367).
"Bold Kenney": There was no Union General Kenney (the index in Phisterer, p. 332, lists Kennedy, Kennett, Kent, no Kenney). The reference is probably to General Philip Kearny, who although only a division commander was probably the most aggressive and competent officer in the Army of the Potomac (Catton, p. 401; Freeman, volume II, p. 133). He was killed at Chantilly on Sept. 1, 1862 (Boatner, p. 449).
"General Burnside": Ambrose Burnside, commander of the Army of the Potomac in the final months of 1862. A complete incompetent, he lost the Battle of Fredericksburg and was returned to subordinate roles for the rest of the war (Jameson, p. 94).
"Picayune Butler": Benjamin F. Butler, called "Old Picayune" (apparently a reference to a female character, "Picayune Butler," in the minstrel song of that title;there was also a banjo player named John Picayune Butler).
Butler was a complete incompetent, but he managed to remain a general for years because of his political connections. In late 1862 he was commander of occupied New Orleans, and so brutal and corrupt that the southerners called him "Beast Butler" (Catton, p. 341) and accused him of stealing spoons with his own hands (Boatner, p. 109). - RBW
Last updated in version 2.5
- Boatner: Mark M. Boatner III, The Civil War Dictionary, 1959 (there are many editions of this very popular work; mine is a Knopf hardcover)
- Catton: Bruce Catton, Terrible Swift Sword (being the second volume of The Centennial History of the Civil War), Doubleday, 1963 (I use the 1976 Pocket Books edition)
- Freeman: Douglas Southall Freeman, Lee's Lieutenants, 3 volumes, Scribners, 1942-1945
- Jameson: J. Franklin Jameson's Dictionary of United States History 1492-1895, Puritan Press, 1894
- 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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