General Patterson

DESCRIPTION: "We fought them at Manasses, We fought them at their will, The next time, boys, we fight them, It will be on Richmond Hill." "Show me the man That whipped General Patterson." The singer is a Yankee prisoner but expects Confederate victory
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1950 (Morris)
KEYWORDS: battle Civilwar prison
July 21, 1861 - First battle of Bull Run/Manasses fought between the Union army of McDowell and the Confederates under Johnston and Beauregard. (There was a second Bull Run battle a year later.)
May 31-Jun 1, 1862: Battle of Fair Oaks/Seven Pines
REFERENCES (1 citation):
Morris, #4, "General Patterson" (1 text)
Roud #5021
NOTES: This song is rather a curiosity, in that it is found in Florida but is about events in Virginia. There are a handful of references that supply context: The mention of Manassas, the mention of General Patterson, and references to Longstreet, Magruder, and Jackson.
The mention of Magruder (John Bankhead Magruder, commander of the Department of the Peninsula) shows that the song cannot be talking about Manassas, because Magruder wasn't there; he was in the Peninsula between the James and York Rivers (where he had earlier won the battle of Big Bethel).
But the reference to beating General Patterson shows that the soldier must have served in the Shenandoah Valley in 1861. At the time of First Bull Run, his job was to keep Joseph E. Johnston's four brigades in the Shenandoah Valley. "He was... ordered, in mid-July, to prevent Johnson from reinforcing Beauregard at Bull Run while McDowell advanced. He failed to engage the enemy in battle, explaining that he had not received orders to attack. Much criticized for this, he was mustered out 27 July '61" (Mark M. Boatner III, The Civil War Dictionary, 1959 (there are many editions of this very popular work; mine is a Knopf hardcover), p. 623). Johnston was able to join Beauregard, and their united forces fought off the grass-green Union forces and won the battle of Manasses. Thus no one can be said to have "whipped" Patterson, but Johnston clearly outsmarted him. So the reference to the man who whipped him is surely to Johnston.
And that, plus the mentions of Richmond Hill, Longstreet, Magruder, and Jackson, gives us our setting: The Battle of Fair Oaks/Seven Pines in 1862. General McClellan was advancing his large Union army toward Richmond, and was very close to the city's suburbs (hence "Richmond Hill"). But his forces were divided by a river. General Joseph E. Johnston, commanding the Confederates, tried to attack the forces on one side of the river and defeat them in detail. Among his division commanders were generals Longstreet and Magruder; General Jackson was "in the rear" because he was in command of Johnston's old department of the Shenandoah Valley, where he was conducting the Shenandoah Valley campaign that drove the Union government crazy and became a military classic.
The Battle of Fair Oaks/Seven Pines was not the end of McClellan's Peninsular Campaign -- but it was the end of Johnston's service in the east; he was wounded in the battle (Boatner, pp. 273, 441). Robert E. Lee took charge thereafter. Thus the combination of references points us to a time just before the Battle of Fair Oaks.
This does not explain how the song ended up in Florida. According to the order of battle in JoAnna M. McDonald, We Shall Meet Again: The First Battle of Manassas (Bull Run) July 18-21, 1861, Oxford, 1999, pp. 186-191, there were no Florida infantry units in Johnston's valley army, or even in Beauregard's larger army at Manassas, although there may have been a few odd Floridians around. - RBW
Last updated in version 3.7
File: Morr004

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