“The Good Old Rebel (The Song of the Rebel Soldier)”


"I'm a good old Rebel soldier, and that's just what I am, And for this Yankee nation I do not give a damn!" The rebel tells of his history in the Confederate army. He scorns the Reconstruction governments, and proclaims, "I won't be reconstructed!"


Cox lists several early printers and claimed authors. The most common attribution is to Major Innes Randolph (CSV), but is from a book published by Randolph's son in 1892. An 1890 text is attributed to J.R.T.; another, printed 1903, dedicates it to "Thad. Stevens, 1862" and claims it was sung by "Harry Allen, Washington Artillery, New Orleans, LA."

A dedication to Stevens makes a perverse sort of sense; Stevens was a humorless anti-Southern abolitionist. The 1862 date makes little sense, however. Still, something caused the song to go into oral tradition. I think we must simply regard the matter as uncertain.

"Marse Robert" is, of course, the soldiers' nickname for Robert E. Lee.

Point Lookout was a Federal prison camp in Maryland. It was an unpleasant place (the prisoners were housed in tents, and water was sometimes scarce), but the army that produced the Andersonville prison camp had no grounds for complaint!

The "darkies dressed in blue" were Blacks who joined the Federal army; their performance was not spectacular, but this was mostly the fault of bad officers. Needless to say, the Confederates hated them above all -- but at the end of the war they too were putting Blacks in uniform!

The Warner text "An Old Unreconstructed" appears to belong with this piece; the lyrics are different, but the spirit and the meter are the same.

In that song, the rebels claim that their cavalry was always superior to the Federals'. This was certainly true in the early years of the war, but by the time of Brandy Station (June 9, 1863), the two forces were equally competent (the Confederates had better officers, but the Federals had better weapons), and by 1864, with Southern horses running out and Sheridan in charge of the Federal cavalry, the Union horse was probably superior.

The "cowardly blockade" refers to the Federal blockade that largely cut off the Confederates from the outside world. It was not "cowardly"; blockade was already recognized under international law. Nor did it automatically cut off the Confederates from munitions; the blockade did not really begin to bite until 1863, by which time the Confederates were fairly well equipped with weapons (often captured from the Unionists). More important was the complete Confederate failure to industrialize.

The "German immigrants" referred to are probably the Federal XI corps, composed primarily of German refugees, which suffered the worst casualties at Chancellorsville and was routed at Gettysburg. These troops were held in very low esteem by both sides. Except for some Irish formations (none larger than a brigade), I know of no other Federal forces composed entirely of "furriners." - RBW

Historical references

  • July 21, 1861 - First Battle of Bull Run/Manassas. Confederates under Beauregard and Johnston rout an inexperienced Federal force under McDowell.
  • Aug 29-30, 1862 - Second Battle of Bull Run/Manassas. Lee's army takes Pope's force in flank and rolls it up.
  • Apr 7 and Sept 8, 1863 - Federal attempts to retake Fort Sumter and Charleston Harbor. Both failed.
  • May 1-4, 1863 - Battle of Chancellorsville (which would appear to be the "Battle of the Wilderness" referred to in some texts, since Stonewall Jackson is mentioned in the immediate context). Lee defeats Hooker, but Jackson is killed
  • May 5-7, 1864 - Battle of the Wilderness. Lee's army mauls the Federal force under Grant and Meade, but the Federals refuse to retreat
  • May 11, 1864 - Battle of Yellow Tavern. Confederate cavalry commander J.E.B. Stuart mortally wounded (he died May 12).
  • 1865-1872 - The era of the Freedmen's Bureau. Its purpose was to help former slaves to make the transition to freedom, and to give them as many opportunities as possible. Most Southerners fought it tooth and nail, and finally the Radical Republicans abandoned it in 1872


  • Harry "Haywire Mac" McClintock, "Uncle Jim's Rebel Soldier" (on McClintock01); "Reconstructed Rebel Soldier" (on McClintock02) [The two McClintock recordings are listed tentatively, awaiting audition. - PJS]


  1. Randolph 231, "I'm a Good Old Rebel" (3 texts, 3 tunes)
  2. Randolph/Cohen, pp. 216-217, "I'm a Good Old Rebel" (1 text, 1 tune -- Randolph's 231C)
  3. Warner 193, "The Song of the Rebel Soldier"; 194, "An Old Unreconstructed" (2 traditional texts plus assorted floating stanzas and a copy of a printed text plus mention of 6(?) more, 1 tune)
  4. BrownIII 391, "The Good Old Rebel" (2 texts plus a fragment and mention of 1 more)
  5. Hudson 118, pp. 259-260, "I'm a Good Old Rebel" (1 text)
  6. JHCox 77, "I'm a Good Old Rebel" (1 text)
  7. Silber-CivWar, pp. 88-89, "Oh, I'm a Good Old Rebel" (1 text, 1 tune)
  8. Lomax-ABFS, pp. 535-540, "Good Old Rebel" (2 texts, 2 tunes)
  9. Lomax-FSNA 133, "The Good Old Rebel" (1 text, 1 tune)
  10. Botkin-SoFolklr, p. 716, "I'm a Good Old Rebel" (1 text, 1 tune)
  11. Darling-NAS, pp. 351-353, "I'm a Good Old Rebel" (1 text)
  12. Silber-FSWB, p. 290, "The Good Old Rebel" (1 text)
  14. Roud #823
  15. BI, Wa193


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1866?
Found in: US(SE,So)