Oh You Who Are Able....
DESCRIPTION: "Oh you who are able go out to the stable And throw down your horses some corn If you don't do it the sergeant will know it And report you to General Van Dorn."
EARLIEST DATE: 1924
KEYWORDS: Civilwar horse
Jan 1862 - Earl Van Dorn appointed to command the Confederate armies in Missouri and Arkansas
Mar 7-8, 1862 - Battle of Pea Ridge/Elkhorn Tavern. Despite superior numbers, Van Dorn cannot dislodge the Federals
Oct 3-4, 1862 - Battle of Corinth. Van Dorn abandons the field after failing to break the Federal line. Although cleared of charges of mismanagement, he is transferred to the cavalry
May 8, 1863 - Murder of Van Dorn, allegedly for seducing the wife of a local resident
FOUND IN: US(So)
REFERENCES (1 citation):
Randolph 250, "Oh You Who Are Able..." (1 fragment)
NOTES: I can't escape the feeling that this song is somehow connected to Earl Van Dorn's reputation as a flashy ladies' man without a great deal of depth or ability (Foote p. 725, quotes an unnamed senator as saying, "He is the source of all our woes, and disaster, it is prophesied, will attend us as long as he is connected with this army. The atmosphere is dense with horrid narratives of his negligence, whoring, and drunkenness, for the truth of which I cannot vouch; but it is so fastened in the public belief that an acquittal by a court-marshal of angels would not relieve him of the charge." Indeed, Van Dorn would later be murdered by an angry husband who accused him of an affair with his wife (Boatner, p. 867). And he lost both of his major battles as an infantry commander, at Pea Ridge and Corinth). But I can't prove the connection based on the fragment I've seen.
Foote also notes, on p. 278, that at one time he had a higher price on his head than General Beauregard, the commander of the attack on Fort Sumter, who was widely regarded as the Great Enemy of the north in late 1861 and early 1862.
Catton, p. 207, describes his better attributes: "a slim, elegant little soldier with curly hair, charming manners, and a strong taste for fighting. A West Pointer in his early forties, Van Dorn had an excellent record. He had been an Indian fighter of note, with four wounds received in action on the western plains, and he had done well in the Mexican War, taking another wound and winning promotion for gallantry." Catton regards him as very unlucky, however (p. 209).
HTIECivilWar observes in its entry on Van Dorn that he faced a charge of drunkenness at a court-martial after Corinth, notes that he was "frequently the center of controversy, both for his military tactics and the conduct of his personal life," and says that he "was killed by an irate husband at his headquarters in Spring Hill, Tenn[essee], 7 May 1863."
There is a fragment in Fred W. Allsopp, Folklore of Romantic Arkansas, Volume II (1931), p. 227, "It was at the battle of Elkhorn, Van Dorn he lost his hat, And for about a half a mile He laid the bushes flat." I can't identify it with anything else; the mention of the Battle of Elkhorn Tavern might connect it with "The Battle of Elkhorn Tavern, or The Pea Ridge Battle [Laws A12]," or perhaps with one of the General Price songs -- but if I had to guess, I'd guess it goes here; the feeling is right. - 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)
- Foote: Shelby Foote, The Civil War: A Narrative (Volume I: Fort Sumter to Perryville) (Random House, 1958)
- HTIECivilWar: Patricia L. Faust, editor, Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War, Harper & Row, 1986 (I use the 1991 Harper Collins edition)
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