“On the Shores of Havana”


"Many hearts were filled with sorrow and with sadness, Many hearts were torn with anguish and pain... for the heroes of our battleship, the 'Maine.'" A brief account of the destruction of the Maine, with comments about the lives of the sailors killed

Supplemental text

On the Shores of Havana
  Partial text(s)

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From Norman Cazden, Herbert Haufrecht, Norman Studer, Folk Songs
of the Catskills, #21, pp. 102-103. From the singing of George Edwards.

Many homes were filled with sorrow and with sadness,
Many hearts were torn with anguish and with pain.
And our nation were drooped in deepest mourning
For the heroes of our battleship, the "Maine."
Some were sleeping in the waters of the harbor,
Some were sleeping in a bed of Spanish clay;
And our spirits, they cry aloud for vengeance
On the shores of Havana, far away.

  Oh, the moon shines tonight down on the water
  Where our heroes of the "Maine" silent lay;
  May they rest in peace, where their loved ones are sleeping
  On the shores of Havana, far away.

(1 additional stanza)


When the Cubans rose in revolt against inept Spanish rule, the U.S. government -- spurred on by William Randolph Hearst's newspapers -- took a keen interest. Eventually the U.S.S. _Maine_, a rather rickety coastal defense vessel, was sent to apply pressure to the Spanish. (The _Maine_, it should be noted, was not a battleship; originally designed as an armored cruiser, it lacked the coal capacity for that role and wound up as an unsatisfactory battleship/cruiser hybrid.)

When the _Maine_ blew up with a large loss of life, Hearst and his minions pounced quickly. Never mind that the Spanish had nothing to gain from destroying the ship. Never mind that the most likely cause of the disaster was an internal explosion. Spain had to be punished!

The Spanish did all they could to avoid war; after brief delays to save face, they gave in to every American demand. The Americans would have none of it. On April 11, President McKinley asked for a declaration of war; on April 25, he received it. Americans set out to "free" Cuba and the Philippines. (The Philippines, in particular, were so thoroughly "freed" that they did not achieve independence until 1947.) "Remember the Maine" went the battle cry.

The U.S. army was pitifully small and ill-organized; the vast majority of its losses in the war were caused by disease and supply problems -- but so bad were the Spanish forces that by the end of the summer both the Philippines and Cuba were under U.S. control. In December the humiliated Spanish were forced to accept the equally humiliating Treaty of Paris, and the war ended. The U.S. was now an imperialist power -- and all because of songs like this one and Hearst's headlines. - RBW

Historical references

  • 1895 - Cubans rebel against Spain
  • Feb 15, 1898 - Explosion of the battleship "Maine" in Havana harbor
  • April 25, 1898 - Congress declares war on Spain

Cross references


  1. FSCatskills 21, "On the Shores of Havana" (1 text, 1 tune)
  2. BrownII 235, "The Battleship Maine (I)" (1 text)
  3. ST FSC021 (Partial)
  4. Roud #4615
  5. BI, FSC021


Author: Andrew B. Sterling
Earliest date: 1898 (broadsides & songbooks)
Keywords: sea disaster ship
Found in: US(MA,MW,SE)