“Hold On, Abraham”


"We're going down to Dixie, to Dixie, to Dixie... To fight for the dear old flag.... Hold on, Abraham... Uncle Sam's boys are coming right along." The song catalogs soldiers and generals who are fighting to recover the South for the Union


The chorus of this song implies kinship with "We Are Coming, Father Abraham," but the verses are completely different.

The mention of 600,000 enlistees does not exactly match any of Lincoln's calls for enlistments (the closest was the 1861 authorization of a 500,000 man army), but two levies in the summer of 1862 totalled 600,000 men.

A date of late 1862 also fits the list of generals mentioned in the song, all of whom were in senior posts in 1862 (but often replaced by 1863). Among those listed:

"General Grant": Ulysses S. Grant, eventual Union high commander, who by late 1862 had already captured Fort Henry and Fort Donelson as well as the bloody battle of Shiloh.

"Our Halleck": Henry W. Halleck, who never actually fought a battle as a Union general, but was Grant's theatre commander and received credit for all victories in the west. A good organizer, the one time he led armies in the field (Corinth campaign, late spring 1862), he showed so little initiative that he took a month to cover 20 miles in the face of slight resistance. Despite this, he was promoted to command of all Union armies in July 1862. He held the post until 1864, when Grant took over the job.

"Bold Kenney": There was no Union General Kenney. The reference is probably to General Philip Kearny, probably the most aggressive and competent officer in the Army of the Potomac (though he was only a division commander). He was killed at Chantilly on Sept. 1, 1862.

"General Burnside": Ambrose Burnside, commander of the Army of the Potomac in the final months of 1862. A complete incompetent, he lost the Battle of Fredericksburg and was returned to subordinate roles for the rest of the war.

"Picayune Butler": Benjamin F. Butler, called "Old Picayune" (apparently a reference to a female character, "Picayune Butler," in the minstrel song of that title).

Butler was a complete incompetent, but he managed to remain a general for years because of his political connections. In late 1862 he was commander of occupied New Orleans, and so brutal and corrupt that the southerners called him "Beast Butler" and accused him of stealing spoons with his own hands. - RBW

Cross references


  1. Lomax-ABFS, pp. 529-530, "Hold On, Abraham" (1 text)
  2. Roud #15567
  3. BI, LxA529


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1915
Found in: US