“The Victory Won at Richmond”

Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1917 (Cox)
Keywords: battle Civilwar
Found in: US(Ap)

Description

"The southern boys may longer lie On the first and fourth of sweet July, Our General Beauregard resound For his southern boys at Richmond." In a bloody battle, the southerners save Richmond while the Yankees run

Supplemental text

Victory Won at Richmond, The
  Complete text(s)

          *** A ***

From J. H. Cox, Folk-Songs of the South, #66, pp. 266-267

Supplied by Nancy McAtee; collected by 1917

Compare "The Heights of Alma" (Laws J10), of which this is
almost certainly a parody. The collected text appears damaged;
some conjectural emendations are listed at the end.

The southern boys may longer lie
On the first and fourth of sweet July
Our General Beauregard resound
For his southern boys at Richmond. [1]
That night we lay on the cold ground
No tents or shelter could be found,
With rain and hail was nearly drowned
To cheer our hearts at Richmond.

Next morn the burning sun did rise
Beneath the cloudy eastern skies;
Our general viewed the forts and cried,
"We'll have hot work at Richmond."
As soon as the height we strove to gain,
Our balls did fly as thick as rain,
I m sure the plains they did run red
With the blood that was shed at Richmond. [2]

As soon as the heights we did command,
We fought the Yankees hand to hand,
And many a hero then was slain
Upon the heights at Richmond. [3]
And many a pretty fair maid will mourn
For her lover who will never return,
And parents mourn beyond control
For their sons they lost at Richmond [4]

Thirty thousand Yankees, I heard say,
Was slain all on that fatal day,
And seven thousand Southerners lay
In the bloody gore at Richmond.
Their guns and knapsacks they threw down
And ran like hares before the hound;
I m sure the plains they did run red
With the blood that was shed at Richmond [5]

Cease, you Southerner, from your hand,
Which from the Yankees we cannot stand;
Go spread the news throughout the land
Of the victory won at Richmond.

Possible emendations:
[1] For the Yankees did come nigh
    Our southern boys at Richmond.

[2] And many a hero then was slain
    On the plains at Richmond.

[3] But the Yankees they could not withstand
    Our southern boys at Richmond.

[4] And parents many years will yearn
    For their sons they lost at Richmond

[5] So let the glorious news resound
    Of the vict ry won at Richmond.

Notes

This song is item dA37 in Laws's Appendix II. Laws lists two texts in Cox, but this is a typographical error.

This song is truly a curiosity. The form and lyrics are straight from "The Heights of Alma" (with this clearly being a rewrite) -- yet "The Heights of Alma" was about an event of the Crimean War; what was it doing being parodied in the American South in the 1860s? I suppose there could be an earlier song which inspired both (Alma was hardly the sort of battle to produce a brilliant broadside), but I hadn't found it.

The history here is also confused. The only general named on either side is Beauregard. But Beauregard never commanded at Richmond. He could be treated as the Confederate commander at First Bull Run/Manasses (though the actual field commander was Joseph E. Johnston), but that was a long way from Richmond. Beauregard did command the defenses of Petersburg (south of Richmond) in 1864, and fought the Yankees in the Bermuda Hundred campaign -- but this was as a subordinate of Lee's.

It seems likely that this line is an interpolation, as it does not fit the stanza form. But that just leaves things more murky. So do the initial dates: The first and fourth of July. No significant battles happened on those days -- except the Battle of Gettysburg and the surrender of Vicksburg, neither of which a Confederate would celebrate.

The description of the battle also fails to match any actual battle. The casualty ratios are reminiscent of two fights (Fredericksburg and Cold Harbor), but again, these were Lee's battles, and neither was fought near Richmond. In any case, the Confederates fought all of the above battles on the strict defensive; nowhere did they capture a height.

If one were to list one battle as a "Victory at Richmond," it would probably be the Seven Days' Battles, but this was Lee's fight, with an army recently Johnston's; Confederate losses *exceeded* Union casualties, and at no point did the Confederates take a ridge (they in fact signally failed to take one in the Battle of Malvern Hill).

I think the only possible conclusion is that this is a localized version of "The Heights of Alma," not based on an actual battle but rather on a few names the writer had heard. It may even be conflation of northern and southern versions (that would explain a lot of the confusions). It's too bad, in a way; the version of "Heights of Alma" I know is incredibly energetic, and could use a solid American version.

As a footnote, there was a "Battle of Richmond" in Civil War annals. But it was a small conflict fought near Richmond, Kentucky in August 1862. Beauregard was not involved, of course. - RBW

Cross references

References

  1. JHCox 66, "The Victory Won at Richmond" (1 text)
  2. DT, VRCHMND
  3. ST JHCox066 (Full)
  4. Roud #3629
  5. BI, JHCox066