“The Backwoodsman (The Green Mountain Boys)”


The singer, a wood-hauler, having gotten drunk, is convinced to go a ball. He spends a riotous night. He hopes that others will not exaggerate what happened.


Laws made rather a botch of this piece, omitting the Cox and Brown texts and causing me to split the song in two for a time. It doesn't help that it's an extremely diverse item; there is hardly a single feature common to all versions. Many versions start with the lines, "I woke up on morning in (1805/1845/1865), (Thought/Found) myself quite (happy/lucky) to find myself alive."

This is not, however, diagnosic. Cox's text, for instance, begins with the line, "When I was one-and-twenty," but is obviously not to be confused with the A. E. Housman poem of the same title.

Many texts say that the young man was able to go on a spree because of a gift from his father. But in Brown's "B" text, he's treated to an election spree (a common technique in nineteenth century elections: Give the voters enough free liquor and they would be expected to vote for you. Though it's rather odd to see an election held in *1845*).

The singer is often a hauler, and may ring in his mule -- but may not.

We often find a description of a wild dance, but this seems to vary also.

And so it goes.

Fowke's text has a curious reference to a fiddle tune "The Bluebells of Ireland." Wonder how the Scots felt about that title. - RBW

Cross references


  • Maynard Britton, "I Came to this Country" (AFS, c. 1937; on KMM; there is probably some mixture in this version)
  • James B. Cornett, "Spring of '65" (on MMOK, MMOKCD)
  • Robert C. Paul, "The Backwoodsman" (on Saskatch01)
  • Vern Smelser, "The Morning of 1845" (on FineTimes)
  • Emerson Woodcock, "The Backwoodsman" (on Lumber01)


  1. Laws C19, "The Backwoodsman (The Green Mountain Boys)"
  2. Rickaby 35, "The Backwoodsman" (1 text)
  3. Gardner/Chickering 168, "The Backwoodsman" (1 text)
  4. JHCox 132, "When I Was One-and-Twenty" (1 text)
  5. BrownIII 340, "The Wood Hauler" (2 texts)
  6. FSCatskills 119, "The Cordwood Cutter" (2 texts, 2 tunes)
  7. Fowke-Lumbering #49, "The Backwoodsman" (1 text, 1 tune)
  8. Fowke/MacMillan 30, "The Backwoodsman" (1 text, 1 tune)
  9. Flanders/Brown, pp. 43-45, "The Green Mountain Boys" (1 text)
  11. Roud #641
  12. BI, LC19


Alternate titles: “The Cordwood Cutter”
Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1920 (Cox)
Keywords: drink hardtimes
Found in: US(Ap,MA,MW,NE,SE) Canada(Ont,West)