“The New Ballad of Lord Lovell (Mansfield Lovell)”


"Lord Lovell he sat in St. Charles Hotel... A-cutting as big a rebel swell... As you'd ever wish to see." His thirty thousand soldiers dwindle away to a bare handful, and "gallant old Ben sailed in with his men And captured their great citee..."


Although the song provides few precise details, it clearly refers to the Federal capture of New Orleans in 1862. The Confederate commander was Mansfield Lovell (1822-1884). According to Shelby Foote, _The Civil War: A Narrative (Volume I: Fort Sumter to Perryville)_ (Random House, 1958), pp. 360, Lovell was a "Maryland-born West Pointer who had resigned as New York Deputy Street Commissioner to join the Confederacy in September. Impressed with the Chapultepec-brevetted artilleryman's record as an administrator, [Jefferson] Davis made him a major general and sent him to... New Orleans."

By the time New Orleans was attacked, the regular garrison of New Orleans had been stripped to reinforce Albert Sydney Johnston; most of them would fight at Shiloh. Lovell's remaining forces consisted primarily of 3000 militiamen, most with no weapons other than shotguns (Foote, p. 361); they had little mobility or ability to fight in the field. The real defenses of New Orleans consisted of river forts and a few small ships. The Confederate attempts to build better, ironclad, ships faltered under their limited industrial capacity; the ships just weren't ready in time. The Federals failed to destroy the river forts with mortars, but Admiral Farragut was able to run his ships past them and deal with the small Confederate fleet (Foote, pp. 364-369), and that left New Orleans undefended under his guns. Rather than risk the destruction of the city, Lovell retreated with such mobile forces as he had. The garrisons of the river forts then collapsed (Foote, p. 370), and Federal troops were able to come up-river and occupy New Orleans even though the city didn't exactly surrender.

After New Orleans, Lovell briefly held corps command in the west, and demonstrated real skill as a commander. But he was relieved soon after due to political pressure.

"Gallant old Ben" is Benjamin F. Butler, the most-hated man in the Confederacy and possibly the worst general ever to serve under the American flag. Butler occupied New Orleans (and subjected it to something close to a reign of terror), but the military skill was all Farragut's. - RBW

Cross references

  • cf. "Lord Lovel [Child 75]" and references there


  1. Belden, pp. 52-54, "Lord Lovel" (3 texts, of which the Ga text is this piece)
  2. JHCoxIIA, #8A-C, pp. 32-37, "Lord Lovell," "Lord Lovell" (3 texts, 1 tune, but the "C" fragment is this piece)
  3. Darling-NAS, p. 48, "The New Ballad of Lord Lovell" (1 text)
  4. Roud #7942; also 48
  5. BI, DarNS047


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1925 (Cox)
Found in: US(Ap,So)