I Can Whip the Scoundrel
DESCRIPTION: "The Yankees came to Baldwin, They came up in the rear, They thought they'd find old Abner, But Abner wasn't there." The singer declares he can "whip the scoundrel That stole old Abner's shoes." He is a prisoner but hopes to fight again
EARLIEST DATE: 1950 (Morris)
KEYWORDS: soldier Civilwar clothes floatingverses
FOUND IN: US(MW, SE)
REFERENCES (2 citations):
Morris, #7, "I Can Whip the Scoundrel" (1 text, incomplete, 1 tune)
Silber-CivWarFull, pp. 225-226, "I Can Whip the Scoundrel" (1 text, 1 tune)
cf. "As I Went Down to Newbern" (lyrics, theme, subject?)
NOTES: This song is clearly derived from the same original as "As I Went Down to Newbern." It's not clear which is the original, but "Newburn" almost certainly refers to the earlier event, so it is the more likely to be older.
The question is, what event does this song refer to? Silber suggests the 1864 Florida campaign which tried to divide southern Florida from the rest of the Confederacy -- an attack foiled at Baldwin, near Jacksonville. But this was a very obscure campaign, and the song doesn't have enough detail to really identify it. If correct, the reference is to the Battle of Olustee (Ocean Pond), Florida, February 20, 1864, in which a relatively large Union force commanded by General Truman Seymour attacked piecemeal and was repulsed in the only real battle fought on Florida soil (HTIECivilWar, p. 545); the Union forces are said to have lost 193 killed, 1175 wounded, and 460 missing; the Confederates lost about 500 (Phisterer, p. 215). Seymour had only ten regiments, so a loss of more than 1800 was staggering; one estimate I've seen places his losses at 40%. And one of his regiments (54th Massachusetts) was of "Colored" soldiers, so some of those missing troops would presumably have ended up back in slavery.
The whole business tends to get ignored in Civil War histories; it was a morale-booster for the Confederacy, but it didn't actually improve their position or hurt the Federals.
The reference to "Abner" defeats me; the Confederate commander at Olustee was Joseph Finegan, and his two leading subordinates were Alfred H. Colquitt and George P. Harrison.
Morris also seems to connect the song with the Olustee campaign, saying that part of G. V. Henry's Fortieth Massachusetts Mounted Infantry entered Baldwin, Florida on February 9, 1864. But he offers no explanation for the mention of "Abner." - RBW
Last updated in version 3.7
- HTIECivilWar: Patricia L. Faust, editor, Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War, Harper & Row, 1986 (I use the 1991 Harper Collins edition)
- 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), p. 215)
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