“We'll Fight for Uncle Abe”


"Way down in old Virginny, I suppose you all do know, They have tried to bust the Union, But they find it is no go... We're going down to Washington To fight for Uncle Abe." The song describes the various attacks being made on the rebel cause


The historical references in this song are rather confused. The second stanza refers to Grant and his Vicksburg campaign, which was in full swing in 1863. It also refers to his move to the East to command the armies against Richmond; this took place in 1864.

Finally, it mentions Grant being opposed by "General Johnson." There was no important Confederate general named Johnson. The commander at Vicksburg was Pemberton. General J.E. Johnston (with a t) did command a force in central Mississippi, and Grant had fought general A.S. Johnston at Shiloh.

The third verse refers to events BEFORE Grant made a name for himself, when George McClellan commanded the Army of the Potomac in the Peninsular Campaign. As it happened, McClellan was beaten back in the Peninsula. He fought the Confederates to a bruising draw at Antietam, but hardly "ma[de] the Rebels fly."

The third verse refers to the possibility of England and France recognizing the Confederacy. This might have happened in early 1862; both had use for southern cotton. But Antietam allowed Lincoln to issue the Emancipation Proclamation, which made the war into a crusade against slavery (to a limited extent). England could not recognize a country devoted to the preservation of slavery, and France could not go it alone.

In summary, there is no time of the war which fits all the references in the song. - RBW


  1. Silber-CivWar, pp. 34-35, "We'll Fight for Uncle Abe" (1 text, 1 tune)
  2. BI, SCW34


Author: Words: C.E. Pratt / Music: Frederick Buckley