“Marching Song of the First Arkansas”


"Oh, we're the bully soldiers of the 'First of Arkansas,' We're fighting for the Union, we are fighting for the law, We can hit a Rebel further than a white man ever saw..." The soldiers tell how they will show their prowess by defeating the Rebels


The Union first began enlisting Black troops (informally) in 1862. By the end of that year, four regiments were raised, only to have Lincoln shut them down. After the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation, however, Lincoln allowed the formation of (segregated) "colored" regiments.

In the end, over a hundred and fifty such regiments were raised. Their performance was mixed -- but this was probably the fault of the (white) officers rather than the Black troops. A large fraction of the officers in the "Colored" regiments were soldiers who had given up on promotion in the white army, and shifted to the "Colored" troops to get ahead.

The "Colored" troops had other reasons for bad morale; their pay was much lower than their white counterparts, and their equipment less good. And soldiers from both sides looked down on them.

A large fraction of the "Colored" regiments were raised from free Northern blacks, but some were taken from freed slaves. If anything, the soldiers of these regiments fought better than their free kindred. - RBW

Historical references

  • Jan 1, 1863 - Effectiveness date of the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed all slaves in the portions of the U.S. not then in Federal hands

Cross references


  • Pete Seeger, "Marching Song of the First Arkansas" (on PeteSeeger28)


  1. Silber-CivWar, p. 38, "Marching Song of the First Arkansas (Negro) Regiment" (1 text, tune referenced)
  3. BI, SCW38


Author: Words: Capt. Lindley Miller?
Earliest date: 1960