“We'll Roll the Old Chariot Along”


Chorus: "And we'll roll the (old/golden/omit) chariot along (x3), and we'll all hang on behind." Sometimes sung as a shanty, with the sailors describing what they would want on shore; alternately, "If the devil's in the way, we will roll it over him..."


This song has seen very diverse use; sailors used it as a "stamp and go" shanty; Sandburg had it from Salvation Army singers, and in another form it was quoted by Laura Ingalls Wilder in chapter 11 of _The Long Winter_. I wonder what she would have done if someone told her that sailors often sang, "Oh, a night with a woman wouldn't do me any harm...." - RBW

Not to mention the next verse, "Oh, a trip to the doctor wouldn't do me any harm...." - PJS

Some versions refer to "Nelson's Blood"; since Nelson's body was preserved in a vat of liquor after Trafalgar, alcoholic beverages came to be called "Nelson's Blood."

The Union adaption quoted by Greenway was a deliberate adaption (said to have been made up "in 1937 by a Negro woman in Little Rock"), but this song has so little plot that the versions cannot properly be separated. - RBW

Sorry, but this isn't the same tune as any version of , "Roll the Union On " I've ever heard, although they may be related. "Roll the Union On, " is, I think, derived from another, separate hymn. - PJS

It doesn't fit the tune I know for "Roll the Old Chariot" either, but it's the tune cited by Greenway. - RBW

I think Greenway may be wrong; see the notes to "Roll the Union On". - PJS

Same tune

  • Roll the Union On (various authors cited) (Greenway-AFP, p. 223; DT, ROLUNION)


  • Paul Robeson, "Roll the Chariot Along" (HMV [UK] B-4421, 1933)


  1. BrownIII 650, "We'll Roll the Old Chariot Along" (1 text)
  2. Doerflinger, pp. 49-50, "We'll Roll the Golden Chariot Along" (1 text, 1 tune)
  3. Gardner/Chickering 117, "Roll the Old Chariot Along" (1 text)
  4. Sandburg, pp. 196-197, "Roll the Chariot" (1 text, 1 tune)
  5. Hugill, pp. 151, "Roll the Old Chariot" (1 text, 1 tune) [AbEd, pp. 122-123]
  6. Thomas-Makin', pp. 215-216, (no title) (1 text)
  8. Roud #3632
  9. BI, Doe049


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1927 (Sandburg)
Keywords: shanty religious Devil
Found in: US(Ap,MA,MW,SE)