Benny Havens

DESCRIPTION: The exploits of Benny (Benjie) Havens at West Point. After some time as a cadet and soldier, he turns to selling whiskey to his comrades. Chorus: "Oh! Benny Havens's, oh! Oh! Benny Havens's, oh! We'll sing our reminiscences of Benny Havens's, oh!"
AUTHOR: "Lt. O'Brien of the 8th Infantry"
EARLIEST DATE: 1838
KEYWORDS: soldier drink
FOUND IN: US(So)
REFERENCES (4 citations):
Randolph 232, "Benjy Havens" (1 text, 1 tune, both fragmentary)
Lomax/Lomax-AmericanBalladsAndFolkSongs, pp. 540-543, "Benny Havens, Oh!" (1 text)
Darling-NewAmericanSongster, pp. 344-345, "Benny Havens, Oh!" (1 text)
DT, BENHAVEN*

Roud #7707
CROSS-REFERENCES:
cf. "The Wearing of the Green (I)" (tune)
SAME TUNE:
Song of the Silver Cup ("Come together, classmates, a little song we'll sing") (Henry Randall Waite, _Carmina Collegensia: A Complete Collection of the Songs of the American Colleges_ first edition 1868, expanded edition, Oliver Ditson, 1876, p.52)
Come, Gaily Shout (by Geo. L. Raymond, [Class of 18]62) (Come, classmates, gather round us here, And join our jovial lay") (Henry Randall Waite, _Carmina Collegensia: A Complete Collection of the Songs of the American Colleges_ first edition 1868, expanded edition, Oliver Ditson, 1876, pp. 116-117)
Our Class (by S. W. Tuttle, [class of 18]62) ("A dear kind mother Hobart is, And we good sons will be") (Henry Randall Waite, _Carmina Collegensia: A Complete Collection of the Songs of the American Colleges_ first edition 1868, expanded edition, Oliver Ditson, 1876, p. 28)
Come, All Ye Jolly Sophomores (Henry Randall Waite, _Carmina Collegensia: A Complete Collection of the Songs of the American Colleges_ first edition 1868, expanded edition, Oliver Ditson, 1876, p. 35)
October's Leaves Are Falling (Henry Randall Waite, _Carmina Collegensia: A Complete Collection of the Songs of the American Colleges_ first edition 1868, expanded edition, Oliver Ditson, 1876, p. 52)
Evening Song ("Weary lessons learned or ponies, Tutors tucked away in bed") (Henry Randall Waite, _Carmina Collegensia: A Complete Collection of the Songs of the American Colleges_ first edition 1868, expanded edition, Oliver Ditson, 1876, p. 52)
Junior Bone Song ("Raise, classmates, raise a joyful strain") (by Frank S. Fosdick, [class of 18]72) (Henry Randall Waite, _Carmina Collegensia: A Complete Collection of the Songs of the American Colleges_ first edition 1868, expanded edition, Oliver Ditson, 1876, p. 95)
NOTES [321 words]: Benny Havens reportedly served in the American military in the War of 1812, then opened a small store near the "cadet hospital." By 1832, he was selling liquor, and was forced off the military reservation as a result. He proceeded to re-open just off the grounds, and established quite a clientele among the officers-to-be.
The existence of his establishment may not have been all bad for West Point, which in its early years served a horrible diet -- little more than boiled potatoes, meat, pudding, and bread, according to Bobrick p. 17. Although Benny's main selling point was alcohol, it offered at least some food as well, and may have saved more than a few cadets from malnutrition.
"The menu at the mess hall drove countless cadets to risk punishment by sneaking off the post to the adjacent village of Highland Falls. There, sine 1824, Benny Havens and his wife operated a tavern that catered to the cadets. Mrs. Havens's specialties of buckwheat cakes and roast turkey, washed down with liquor, lured the young men. They could relax, carouse, listen to Benny's stories, and purchase their meals and drinks on credit. To academy authorities, the tavern was the source of evil, and when [the military academy's first superintendent Sylvanus] Thayer caught Benny smuggling liquor onto the post, he banished him and his wife from the grounds. They were the only citizens in the country specifically banned from West Point. But Benny Havens outlasted Thayer and a number of successors, remaining in business until after the Civil War" (Wert, pp. 27-28).
I find it somewhat ironic to note that Ulysses S. Grant, who later was accused of severe drunkenness, was said to have never visited Benny's tavern in his first year at West Point (Anderson/Anderson, p. 55).
There is apparently a book, "BENNY HAVENS OH! The Man, the Song, the Tavern & Custer," but it is so obscure that I wasn't even able to ascertain the author. - RBW
Bibliography Last updated in version 6.2
File: R232

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