“David Dodd”


"Drums were beating, troops were marching." "Captured by the Federal minions, As a hated Rebel spy," Dodd is asked to name his informant. The boy answers that he is prepared to die. "In the grave in old Mount Holly Lie the bones of David Dodd."

Supplemental text

David Dodd
  Partial text(s)

          *** A ***

(No title)

From Fred W. Allsopp, Folklore of Romantic Arkansas, Volume II,
pp. 231-232. Source not listed.

Drums were beating, troops were marching,
  'Mid grim war's tempestuous scenes,
Outposts coming to headquarters,
  Met a youth still in his teens.

Captured by the Federal minions
  As a hated Rebel spy,
He was brought before the General,
  To be heard -- mayhap to die.

"Tell me, boy, whom these notes come from,
  And you gain a prompt release;
Give the name of your informant,
  Then you go your way in peace."

(6 additional stanzas)


Allsopp lists this under the heading "The Nathan Hale of Arkansas," and says that a school was dedicated in 1927 to the memory of David Dodd.

The story Allsopp tells is a little confused. His age is given as 17 when he was executed in 1864 -- yet he is called "too young to enlist." This is simply false -- by the end of the war, the Confederates were taking 15-year-olds. Either his age is wrong or he had avoided military service.

If Allsopp's account is true, he not only was serving as a courier but was spying on Union positions. It also sounds as if he could have told everything he knew without it doing the Confederates any harm; the Union army command was just too slow to react. But the kid seems to have been a romantic.

Allsopp's account gives few substantial details except that Dodd was executed in Little Rock.

Allsopp's account is in error in at least one particular: The Federal general in charge of the Department of Arkansas in 1864 was not General "Steel" but Major General Frederick Steele, 1819-1868. The fact that Steele was opposed by General Fagan seems to date the the incident to the Arkansas campaign of 1864; the general involved is James Fleming Fagan (1828-1893), a cavalry division commander. Dodd must therefore have been active some time between March 23 (when Steele set out) and April 30 (when Steele was forced to retreat largely as a result of Fagan's actions); the likeliest date would appear to be around April 20-25; it was on the latter date that Fagan hit Steele's supply line.

Steele's campaign is of course mentioned in most major Civil War histories (though usually only in connection with the Red River expedition of Banks, which it was supposed to support). I haven't found any mentions of Dodd, though.

I don't know whether this poem is a traditional song or not. But Allsopp lists no author, and the tale is very folkloric, so I have very hesitantly indexed the piece. - RBW


  1. ADDITIONAL: Fred W. Allsopp, Folklore of Romantic Arkansas, Volume II (1931), pp. 231-232, (no title) (1 text)
  2. ST FORA231 (Partial)
  3. BI, FORA231


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1931 (Allsopp)
Found in: US(So)