“The Yankee Retreat”


"The very next morning we marched very slow" and attacked the Yankees through brush and thorn. "General Averil" tries to encourage the troops, but "Jackson" pushes on


With only two stanzas to work with, and no actual plot surviving, it's hard to tell what this song is about. Its connection with the Battle of Chancellorsville seems certain, however. In the first stanza, the singer reports "Fighting through briers, fighting through thorn, Such fighting I never saw since I was born."

The above description largely restricts the context to the "Wilderness" battles of Chancellorsville and the Wilderness. (The western battle of Chickamauga was also fought in a forest, but it doesn't fit the generals.) "Stonewall"Jackson was killed at the former (where he led the grand outflanking march which gave the Confederates victory), so it must be the battle involved.

"General Averil" is presumably William Woods Averell (1832-1900), who led a Union cavalry division. His troops had been expected to go on a raid before Chancellorsville, but bad weather held him up. As a result, he was placed in charge of scouting the Union right wing. Averell reported to Union commander Joseph Hooker that the Federal right flank was impassable. Jackson proved Averell wrong, and Hooker relieved him (though, in the grand Union tradition, Averell was reinstated and promoted -- only to be relieved by Sheridan in 1864 for lack of aggressiveness). - RBW

Historical references

  • May 1-4, 1863 - Battle of Chancellorsville


  1. JHCox 67, "The Yankee Retreat" (1 text)
  2. Roud #5458
  3. BI, JHCox067


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1917 (Cox)
Keywords: Civilwar battle
Found in: US(Ap)