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Lyr Add: 'Shenandoah' in the U.S. army

01 Jun 15 - 03:09 PM (#3713732)
Subject: Lyr Add: 'Shenandoah' in the U.S. army
From: Lighter

There are so many "Shenandoah" threads I thought I'd start a new one with a more specific title.

On April 5, 1924, Mr. Al Wescott sent the lyrics of a number of army folksongs to the collector Robert W. Gordon. One of these he called "Seven Long Years":

For seven long years, I courted Nancy,
Hi! the rolling river,
For seven long years, I courted Nancy,
Ha! ha! We're bound away on the wild Missouri.


She would not have me for her lover....

Because I was a Cavalry soldier....

And then she went to Kansas City....

And there she had a la, la, la....

She must have had another lover....

A drinkin' of rum and chawin' tobacco....

One may easily find something to replace the "la, la, la" expurgation, even without consulting later published versions.

Fairly harmless today, the unexpurgated version would generally have been considered "unprintable" before the 1920s or even '30s.

Sandburg's quite similar version (which begins by addressing "Shannandore") was published in 1927: it suppresses the "la, la, la" stanza entirely. (Sandburg, who enlisted for the Spanish-American War in 1898, implies that he heard the song then and emphasizes the pronunciation "Mizzoura.")

Wescott added an interesting note:

"Do you know anything about the above? Would sure like to get the dope on its history. Is sung in the army but only by real old enlisted men and by field officers (Majors, Lt. Col & Cols.) with quite a few years service. Practically unknown by junior officers & newer enlisted men from which I suspect that it was formerly sung a lot in the old army."

Early printings of the "Shenandoah" chantey often have "Ha ha!" or "Aha!" instead of the now universal "Away."

Compare the story of "Seven Long Years" with some versions of "Sally Brown."

01 Jun 15 - 07:38 PM (#3713782)
Subject: RE: Lyr Add: 'Shenandoah' in the U.S. army
From: John Minear

Hi Lighter. Way back in the old "SF to Sydney" thread I stumbled across an enigma that I never did solve. It had to do with the two versions of "Shenandoah" in the Lomax book, AMERICAN BALLADS AND FOLK SONGS, and how these also managed to show up in a WPA collection of ex-slave narratives. I'm having no luck getting Muscat to bring those posts up on the original thread so I have copied this one from back in April 12, 2010:
I made it into the library today and was able to check out the reference to "Shenandoah" in the WPA ex-slave narratives. It is pretty interesting. First of all, here is the reference information: THE AMERICAN SLAVE: A COMPOSITE AUTOBIOGRAPHY, Supplement, Series 2, Volume 8, Texas Narratives, Part 7, George P. Rawick, General Editor, p3153. This was taken down by a Miss Effie Cowan, McLennan County, Texas, in 1937, from a Mr. Allen Price, R.F.D. Mart, Texas. The synopsis says:

       "This story of a slave born during the war [Civil War] tells of the history handed down by his Master, one of the decendents (sic) of General Price of the Confederate Army, dates back to the emigration of the Price family from Virginia to Missouri when the pioneers were forcing their way against almost insurmountable hardships to the new state of Missouri." (p. 3149)

Mr. Price begins:

       "I wuz born in Fannin County Texas in a covered wagon, in 1862, when my parents wuz on dey way wid their Master's, John an Jim Price from Misourri ter Texas ter make their home." (p. 3149)

Mr. Price tells the story of the immigrants going across the Mississippi River on a steamboat and being attacked by Indians. He is passing on the stories that he has been told, since he hadn't been born yet. He says some of the group stopped in St. Louis, and some went on to Kansas City, and some went up the Missouri River, and some went out across Missouri on what he thinks was the Santa Fe Trail. His parents would have been in this last group. Then he interrupts his story to make this comment:

       "In de early days dey had de river boat songs, but dey has been changed until dey are de ones dat wuz sun w'en de rebels an' de Yankees fought but dey cum down from de song's of de early days, one went like dis,

       "I'm drinkin of rum an chawin terbacco,
       Hi! Oh! the rollin' river,
       I'm drinkin of rum an chawin terbacco,
       H! Ha! I'm bound away fer de wild Miz-zou-rye.

and another dat goes like dis, jes a little different,

       "Missouri she's a mighty river,
       Away-ay, you rollin' river,
       De Indians camp along hits borders,
       Ha! Ha! I'm bound away across de wide Missouri." (p. 3153)

Mr. Price goes on from there to talk about the involvement of the "Master's" family in the Civil War, and also that of his father. There is no further mention of these songs.

Now, the next to last verse in the "Old Cavalry Song" given by Major Isaac Spalding, to John Lomax and found in Lomax's AMERICAN BALLADS AND FOLK SONGS, (1934), on pp. 543-546, is exactly the same as the first version from Mr. Price. The only difference is that "terbacco" is "tobacco", and "fer de wild" is "for the wild". (p. 546)

But what is really weird, and I mentioned this earlier in the thread when I was looking at this is that the second version that Mr. Price gives, matches exactly the first verse of Lomax's second version of "Shenandoah", which follows immediately upon his "Calvary" version. Again, the only changes are to make "de" into "the", and "hits" into "its". And, "Ha! Ha! I'm bound away across" becomes "Aha, I'm bound away, 'Cross..." (p. 546)

For me, this is still just too much of a coincidence. Lomax's book was available after 1934. The WPA account was recorded in 1937. Lomax gives two complete songs. The "Cavalry" version has nine verses! And the other version, which he says was sent to him by "Captain A.E. Dingle, Cove Cottage, West Bermuda," has seven verses. Mr. Price, by his own account, is very interested in history. His mention of these two songs is an aside in his narrative. I would have to suppose that he had seen Lomax's book.

I really don't want to come to that conclusion, because the alternative would be that we have an ex-slave born in the early 1860's who has received the stories of his family's move to the frontier and is accurately recalling the use of a version of "Shenandoah" as a river song, prior to the Civil War. I'm not suggesting that his historical recollections are faulty. But he may have added to them. It's a bit of a mystery, and we no longer have either Mr. Price or Mr. Lomax, or Major Spalding or Captain Dingle to consult on these matters.
The earlier post was on April 2, 2010 in the SF to Sydney thread. Lomax was the only other place I found a reference to a "Cavalry" version, other than Sandburg's comment. I was never able to finally sort out the WPA/Lomax situation.

01 Jun 15 - 09:00 PM (#3713808)
Subject: RE: Lyr Add: 'Shenandoah' in the U.S. army
From: Lighter

Hi, John. You seem to have uncovered a real conundrum. While there's nothing especially unlikely about "Shenandoah"/ "Seven Long Years" being sung in Texas in 1862, the near identity between Price's (reported) lyrics and Spalding's, plus the order the songs appear in, is surprising.

I suppose, though, that stranger coincidences have happened. After all, versions of "Seven Long Years" and "Across the Wide Missouri" do tend to be similar. And there's nothing unlikely about remembering the first stanza of a song. Another possibility is that Cowan, to make a more interesting story, inserted the lyrics from Lomax & Lomax. I certainly think it more likely that the WPA interviewer was the one with access to "American Ballads and Folk Songs." Or perhaps Price mentioned a line or two and she filled them out from the "authoritative" book.

It's hard to forget songs learned in childhood, and it must have been harder without radio, TV, etc., to distract you. All one can say is that Price seems to have recollected the songs from his childhood. That in itself would not be surprising.

Captain Whall in his book (1909) also recalled the chantey "Shenandoah" from the 1860s.

02 Jun 15 - 09:16 AM (#3713953)
Subject: RE: Lyr Add: 'Shenandoah' in the U.S. army
From: GUEST,Uncle_DaveO

I don't see (hear) Shenandoah as a
shanty. Too slow, and the lines too long to serve
work-timing purpose of shanties, in my opinion.

Dave Oesterreich

02 Jun 15 - 10:05 AM (#3713975)
Subject: RE: Lyr Add: 'Shenandoah' in the U.S. army
From: Keith A of Hertford

It was though.
I think shanties were slower when accompanying work than we sing them now.

02 Jun 15 - 10:09 AM (#3713977)
Subject: RE: Lyr Add: 'Shenandoah' in the U.S. army
From: Lighter

Yeah, but sailors didn't croon it like we do. It went at a "Santy Anna" clip.

Remember when Ken Burns's "Civil War" played "Dixie" as a lament?

Same principle in reverse. Most of the lines of "Shenandoah" aren't especially sentimental, and it sounds fine, albeit unusual to us, sung faster.

Compare "Oh, Shannadore, I long to see you!" with "Blow, my boys, for I long to hear you!" in that unsentimental halliard chantey.

02 Jun 15 - 12:58 PM (#3714018)
Subject: RE: Lyr Add: 'Shenandoah' in the U.S. army
From: Lighter

Keith, it depends on whom you mean by "we."

The average sing-along folkie act does sing them way too fast. The speed of singing on shipboard depended to some extent on the difficulty of the task, who was hung over, how hot and humid was the weather, etc.

But on a brisk sunny day, homeward bound with everybody sober and healthy, the pace would likely have been a moderate one or, depending on the song, a little quicker than usual.

Thirty years ago I saw chanteying demonstrations at the capstan at Mystic. It was a cool day, and the pace of heaving round the capstan was neither fast nor sluggish.

02 Jun 15 - 02:28 PM (#3714033)
Subject: RE: Lyr Add: 'Shenandoah' in the U.S. army
From: Gibb Sahib

Thirty years ago I saw chanteying demonstrations at the capstan at Mystic. It was a cool day, and the pace of heaving round the capstan was neither fast nor sluggish.

And yet there they never (i.e. that I know of) sing "Shenandoah" (Rolling River) at the capstan, nor do they in capstan demos elsewhere (SF's Balclutha is what I have in mind) because the demo does note allow participant to work slowly enough! (Due to the light load, you'd feel funny trying to sing it.)

Not aiming to take this thread off track, but here is an example of Rolling River/Seven Long Years at a working speed -- as the St. Vincent whaler men sang it for rowing whaleboats. I (from the audience) specifically requested that they gesture to show the place/speed of rowing. A sharp observer will notice that there are other interesting issues/problems with rowing to this chanty -- problems from the theoretical point of view, but not problems from a practical place. I got to row a whaleboat while singing this later on, and it worked out.

04 Jun 15 - 08:06 AM (#3714398)
Subject: RE: Lyr Add: 'Shenandoah' in the U.S. army
From: Lighter

This may be the earliest complete text of "Shenandoah" - from the 1860s.

It includes lines about seven years of courting, plus rum and chewing tobacco - and in the same order as above. Not only that, it already contains elements of "Sally Brown" and "Blow, Boys, Blow."

Anon., "Sailors' Songs," The Riverside Magazine for Young People (Apr.,1868), p.185:

"Man the capstan bars! Old Dave is our 'chanty-man.'* Tune up, David!
"Oh, Shannydore, I long to hear you!                
Chorus.-- Away, you rollin' river!                                                                O, Shannydore, I long to hear you!
Full Chorus.--Ah ha! I'm bound awAY
On the wild Atlantic!
Oh, a Yankee ship came down the river:…
And who do you think was skipper of her?…

Oh, Jim-along-Joe was skipper of her:…
Oh, Jim-along-Joe was skipper of her!…

An' what do you think she had for cargo?…
She had rum and sugar, an' monkeys' liver!…

Then seven year I courted Sally:
An' seven more I could not get her….

Because I was a tarry sailor,--
For I loved rum, an' chewed terbaccy:…

*Chanter (French), to sing. The words to the songs given here were from the lips of a veritable 'old Dave,' during the writer's recent voyage across the Atlantic."

02 May 21 - 09:10 PM (#4104403)
Subject: RE: Lyr Add: 'Shenandoah' in the U.S. army
From: Lighter


03 May 21 - 03:08 PM (#4104538)
Subject: RE: Lyr Add: 'Shenandoah' in the U.S. army
From: cnd

Aside from the version you posted above from April 1868, the only version I've found remotely cracking that date was from August 1868 in Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Aug. 14 1868, p. 4:
"Rio Grande," is perhaps the greatest favorite of this description of songs [shanties with an "air of romance"], but all the beauty lies in her mournful air:--
 To Rio Grande we're bound away, away to Rio;
 Then fare you well, my pretty young girls,
  We're bound for the Rio Grande."
Though I should note that at this point in time "Shanandore" and "Rio Grande"/"Rollin' Rio" were considered two different songs, as reported in several journal's reprinted "Songs of the Sea":
The meter [of windlass songs] is apt to be shorter, as the motions are quicker. "Shanandore" is a famous one:

 "You Shanandore,
 I long to hear you."
   Chorus--"Hurrah! you rollin' river."
 Yon Shanandore, I long to hear you."
   Chorus--"Ah, ha! you Shenandore."

Another is "Rolling Rio," and a true favorite is this:

 "For seven long years I courted Sally."
   Chorus--"Hurrah, you rollin' river!"
 "I courted Sally down in yon valley."
   Chorus--"Ah, ha! I'm bound away on the wild Missouri."
(A second article attests to this separation in 1892).

The first place I found the two songs tied as having a common origin, The San Francisco Call, June 4th, 1911, wrote that they were not said to have originated "The negro roustabout on the Mississippi river [sic]" rather than the armed forces. That version does have a rather lengthy and flowery version of Shenandoah which mentions a "Yankee clipper," but the implication here seems to be the American Yankee rather than the Northern.

All this to say, I think we can rule out the song originating in the Civil War. You write it could have been from the Mexican-American War above, which remains in the realm of possibility.

The earliest reference to the song's association with the armed forces I've found comes in 1915, in a story about the training of the 1st Cavalry of the Illinois National Guard, via Floyd P. Gibbons for Chicago Tribune. He implicated the song was sung "by the Seventh United States Cavalry during the years that it was in Indian service along the Missouri river." Here, the lyrics are:
For seven long years, I courted Nancy.
Hi-oh, the rolling river.
She wouldn't have me for a sweetheart.
Ha, ha. We're bound away for the wild Missouri.
Because I was a cavalry soldier.
Hi-oh, the rolling river.

A drinkin' rum and chaw terbacker.
Ha ha. We're bound away for the wild Missouri.
And then she went to Kansas City.
Hi-Oh, the rolling river.
She must have had another sweetheart.
She wouldn't have me for a sweetheart.
Ha, ha. We're bound away for the wild Missouri.
Because I was a cavalry soldier.
Hi-oh, the rolling river.
This version matches closely the rendition in American Folksongs from John Minear's post, but precedes it by nearly 2 decades.

The American Indian Wars mostly precede the Mexican American War, but without specific battles, it's difficult to date just how long the 7th Cavalry reportedly was singing this before the Mexican-American War. The 7th formed in 1866, immediately following the Civil War; the bulk of the Indian fighting west of the Mississippi ended in the 1880s, giving us a probably date of the 1870s, but skirmishes persisted until the early 1900s.

03 May 21 - 03:28 PM (#4104542)
Subject: RE: Lyr Add: 'Shenandoah' in the U.S. army
From: Lighter

Nice find, Carter. Pretty certainly poorly proofread by the Tribune.

The Mexican War is probably irrelevant, since the 7th Cavalry was not formed till after the Civil War, in 1866.

The regiment was not moved from Kansas to Fort Abraham Lincoln, on the Missouri, until 1873.

By this time, of course, "Shenandoah" was already recognized as a chantey.

My guess is still that the song was brought into the army by someone who'd heard it sung as a chantey - or at least sung by a sailor.

03 May 21 - 03:38 PM (#4104544)
Subject: RE: Lyr Add: 'Shenandoah' in the U.S. army
From: cnd

Thanks; it definitely was poorly proofread. That does further help with the date. I'm starting to think it was more likely transplanted as you suggest as well.

I had meant to include a direct link to for ease of finding, but forgot to. So here's the Chicago Tribune link, though I assume you've already seen it:

03 May 21 - 06:32 PM (#4104573)
Subject: RE: Lyr Add: 'Shenandoah' in the U.S. army
From: Lighter

Thanks for the link!

But there's one more stanza:

"We learned this song from Tommy Tompkins,
Hi-Oh, the rolling river.
Tompkins of the Fifth cavalree.
Ha, ha. We're bound away
For the wild Missouri.

The 5th Cavalry was organized in 1856 and served during the Civil War. Its postbellum service was in Arizona until 1876 when, after the Battle of the Little Big Horn, it was moved north to assist the 7th.

If the 5th Cavalry reference in the song means anything (and maybe it doesn't), 1876 would seem to be its earliest possible date - at least for that stanza.

"Tommy Tompkins" reappears in the longer version the Lomaxes credit to Major Isaac Spalding Of the office of the Army Chief of Staff, but without the 5th Cavalry.

03 May 21 - 06:48 PM (#4104576)
Subject: RE: Lyr Add: 'Shenandoah' in the U.S. army
From: cnd

Thanks for that, my mistake -- I had assumed that the typesetter had mistakenly mixed up some of the lines of the final chorus with their intended credit of the song, not realizing those were actual verses.

04 May 21 - 02:05 PM (#4104727)
Subject: RE: Lyr Add: 'Shenandoah' in the U.S. army
From: Rex

I am not totally green to the ways of Mudcat and did a search for subjects on Shenandoah. But I missed this thread started by Lighter and am thankful to cnd for pointing it out. I searched once again and find this thread quite a ways down the list. Having already found some very helpful information here I will end my thread and hitch it to this one.

I thank Gibb for directing interest to Shenandoah. I have been looking for any evidence of Shenandoah actually being sung by the U.S. Cavalry in the 1800s. I keep finding second hand references that the song was a favorite of the cavalry, the 6th and 7th
regiments in particular. But I find little to support this. The military is very good at keeping records and there should be something out there. I've reviewed several songbooks relating to the time period that mention it being a cavalry song, nothing more. It has been stated as such by John Lomax and Carl Sandburg who both refer to it as "The Wild Miz-zou-rye". Very specific. That may be to avoid confusion with another song, "Shenandoah
A Trooper's Song". I have the 1896 sheet music for that and it resembles in no way the song about crossing the wild Missouri. I have looked carefully through "Sound Off: Soldier Songs" by Edward Arthur Dolph and found nothing there. I also contacted the curator for the 1st Cavalry Division Museum at Fort Hood. He had no information available to him. Has anyone in Mudcat found anything to connect Shenandoah to the U.S. Cavalry?

04 May 21 - 02:23 PM (#4104729)
Subject: RE: Lyr Add: 'Shenandoah' in the U.S. army
From: Rex

I am grateful to find these links to the 1st and 5th Cavalry.
Here is a link to the 7th.

from the Army and Navy Register Oct. 19, 1907
"...The officers assembled then sang an old regimental
song of the 7th cavalry, "The Wild Missouri. ..."

04 May 21 - 04:10 PM (#4104744)
Subject: RE: Lyr Add: 'Shenandoah' in the U.S. army
From: cnd

No worries about difficulties finding it, Rex, the 'cat can be wily sometimes.

Link to the book Rex mentioned: Army and Navy Journal Vol 45, p. 167

Here's another link to the cavalry: via Journal of the U.S. Cavalry Association July 1910, pp. 204-205. The article as a whole talks of Lomax's work of preserving the ballads and inquires readers to send in copies of old folk songs they may have, alluding that "Wild Missouri" may be one that could be lost soon. (as an aside, it also refers to a song "that was about, or referred to 'Aransas Bay' " that had not been heard since the 1880s ... any clues what song that could be?)

07 May 21 - 12:40 PM (#4105170)
Subject: RE: Lyr Add: 'Shenandoah' in the U.S. army
From: Rex

Many thanks to cnd for this gem from the U.S. Cavalry. There is much in here besides the music. I followed up on this by contacting fellow 'Catter Stephen at the Library of Congress and folks at the Texas Humanities Council. Alas no easy pickin's popped up. I'll keep on with the search.

07 May 21 - 01:01 PM (#4105174)
Subject: RE: Lyr Add: 'Shenandoah' in the U.S. army
From: RTim

The boat - Shenandoah - was also a Confederate ship that plagued the Yankees in the American Civil War - see the story in a great song by Mike Campbell and also a wiki link to the story..

Tim Radford
Shenandoah Roll On Home
by Mike Campbell 2004

I am a Confederate sailor man,
Roll on Shenandoah.
I'll fight them Yankees wherever I can,
Roll on Shenandoah.
In eighteen hundred and sixty-four,
We bought from England a ship of war,
We named our ship the Shenandoah,
Shenandoah roll on home.
Roll on, roll on, Shenandoah roll on home.

Around Good Hope to Australian shores,
Roll on Shenandoah.
We've burned their ships and we'll burn some more,
Roll on Shenandoah.
To Alaska where ice and the sea are one,
Where Yankee whaling songs are sung,
They are no match for this ship's guns.
Shenandoah roll on home.
Roll on, roll on, Shenandoah roll on home.

Our Captain Waddell, he is brave and true,
Roll on Shenandoah.
He fought not knowing that the war was through,
Roll on Shenandoah.
Thirty-eight ships as war trophies,
A thousand prisoners taken at sea,
But the war is lost now our ship must flee.
Shenandoah roll on home.
Roll on, roll on, Shenandoah roll on home.

We sailed with speed around Cape Horn,
Roll on Shenandoah.
It's death for us all if we try for home,
Roll on Shenandoah.
For too many months we have not touched sand,
Our duty called and we made our stand,
But it's England's shore where we must land.
Shenandoah roll on home.
Roll on, roll on, Shenandoah roll on home. 

There are Union ships searching high and low,
Roll on Shenandoah.
Their merchants rail that our ship must go,
Roll on Shenandoah.
They call us pirates and they scream,
If we get caught we'll be hung it seems,
But they'll only catch us in their dreams,
Shenandoah roll on home.
Roll on, roll on, Shenandoah roll on home.
Roll on, roll on, Shenandoah roll on home.

07 May 21 - 01:05 PM (#4105176)
Subject: RE: Lyr Add: 'Shenandoah' in the U.S. army
From: RTim

Here is Mike singing his own song......Mike gave me the song several years ago, and I have been meaning to learn it - but alas - not as yet!!

Tim Radford

19 Aug 21 - 03:52 PM (#4117122)
Subject: RE: Lyr Add: 'Shenandoah' in the U.S. army
From: Rex

This thread says that Lomax got The Wild Miz-zou-rye from Major Spalding. Other sources agree but how do we know that? The only link in American Ballads & Folk Songs is that Major and Mrs. Spalding are listed in the Acknowledgment chapter. You would think there would be some mention of their friendship in Adventures of a Ballad Hunter but it isn't there. Alan Lomax speaks of being guests at the Spalding residence in Alan Lomax - The Man who Recorded the World. That's all I can find. This may seem like splitting hairs but it would be good to be able to verify this source.

20 Aug 21 - 12:31 PM (#4117227)
Subject: RE: Lyr Add: 'Shenandoah' in the U.S. army
From: GUEST,#

The following has little to do with the song specifically, but if the would-be suitor had wanted to marry Shenandoah's daughter he should have asked the mother. The Iroquois are a matrilineal society. Aside from that, this is a very interesting thread.