“Harding's Defeat”


Fragment: "Come all you good people the truth I'll relate/Concerning of Harding's most cruel defeat/Concerning bad conduct was used, they say/That caused us to be defeated on that very day"


Making even an educated guess about the subject of this song is difficult, given that we have only one stanza. The collection date obviously precludes World War I and all later wars, as well as references to Warren G. Harding. I'd say the Spanish-American War is also out, because the informant would have remembered more.

The Civil War is an obvious possibility, but this is a Southern song, and there were no Confederate generals named Harding. There were a couple of Union general officers, but neither suffered an obvious defeat.

There is the confusing case of the American ship _Defence_ in the Revolutionary War. Samuel W. Bryant's_The Sea and the States_, p. 83, mentions an American ship _Defence_, commanded by a Captain Harding -- but Bryant describes only a victory won by this ship. The Revolutionary War also featured a privateer _Defence_ which suffered was sunk in 1779. Privateers of course had notoriously bad discipline. But if the data in Lincoln P. Paine's _Ships of the World_ is correct, these two ships named _Defence_ cannot have been the same vessel.

I'm stumped. My guess is that "Harding" is an error for some other name. Hardee, maybe -- confederate Lt. General William J. Hardee was a competent officer whose ineffective forces made it impossible to interfere with Sheman's March to the Sea. Alternately, there is John Hardin, 1753-1792, a Virginian who moved to Kentucky and was heavily involved in Indian fighting until killed in 1792. This may be the best bet. - RBW


  1. SharpAp 204, "Harding's Defeat" (1 fragment, 1 tune)
  2. Roud #3603
  3. BI, ShAp2204


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1918 (Cecil Sharp collection)
Keywords: army battle fight war
Found in: US(SE)