O’, I’m a Good Old Rebel

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Something for the weekend.  O’, I’m a Good Old Rebel by Major James Randolph.  This rendition is sung by Bobby Horton, who has fought a one man crusade to bring Civil War music to modern audiences.  It is the most moving rendition I have heard of this song, with Horton conveying well the bitterness and despair felt by almost all Confederates after the conclusion of the War.  The author served on the staff of General J.E.B. Stuart.  The song has always been popular in the South and was a favorite of Queen Victoria’s son, the future Edward VII, who referred to it as “that fine American song with cuss words in it.”

O, I’m a good old Rebel,
Now that’s just what I am,
For this “Fair Land of Freedom”
I do not care a damn;

I’m glad I fit against it –
I only wish we’d won,
And I don’t want no pardon
For anything I done.

I hates the Constitution,
This Great Republic too,
I hates the Freedman’s Buro,
In uniforms of blue;

I hates the nasty eagle,
With all his brags and fuss,
The lyin’, thievin’ Yankees,
I hates ‘em wuss and wuss.

I hates the Yankee nation
And everything they do,
I hates the Declaration
Of Independence too;

I hates the glorious Union –
‘Tis dripping with our blood –
I hates their striped banner,
I fit it all I could.

I followed old mass’ Robert
For four year, near about,
Got wounded in three places
And starved at Pint Lookout;

I cotch the rheumatism
A campin’ in the snow,
But I killed a chance of Yankees,
I’d like to kill some mo’.

Three hundred thousand Yankees
Is stiff in Southern dust;
We got three hundred thousand
Before they conquered us;

They died of Southern fever
And Southern steel and shot,
I wish they was three million
Instead of what we got.

I can’t take up my musket
And fight ‘em now no more,
But I ain’t going to love ‘em,
Now that is sarten sure;

And I don’t want no pardon
For what I was and am,
I won’t be reconstructed
And I don’t care a damn.

17 Responses to O’, I’m a Good Old Rebel

  • G-Veg says:

    The text is curious in it’s distaste of even Revolutionary principles, all the more so for having been written by one of Lee’s aids.

    When I joined the Navy I was surprised by the high percentage of Southerners I served with and embarrassed by how few of my fellow Pennsylvanians served. My Senior Chief was a Virginian from Richmond. One O-dark hundred shift he told me that he preferred Southerners on his ship because, “Officers or men,” Southerners were more loyal and reliable.

    It is a point of pride to me that he considered me almost a Southerner.

    Connecting my rambling back to your post, there are only four or so generations between 1865 and 1988. What a difference a hundred years makes.

  • The song was written as a cry of the heart to indicate the depth of hatred for the Yankees. Certain elements, specifically hating even the Declaration of Independence, serve to underline the disaffection from the United States of America, even if the Declaration was written by a Virginian, and the efforts of the South were key to victory in the American Revolution.

    The profession of arms has been held in high esteem in the South long before the Civil War. But for most of the appointments to all the service academies, except the Coast Guard, requiring nominations from local Congressmen and Senators, I suspect the Officer corps would be around 80% Southern. There is a beautiful scene in an old John Wayne film set in World War II when he is speaking to a seaman from Tennessee. Wayne expresses surprise since Tennessee doesn’t seem like “Navy country”. The seaman corrects Wayne noting that his great grandfather served on the Merrimac in “the War Between the States”, his grandfather served at Manila Bay under Dewey and his father served in the Atlantic in World War I chasing U-boats, He finishes by saying that Tennessee is sure “Navy country”.

  • T. Shaw says:

    “Strong hatred defender of peoples.” Iliad, Book XXI

    Similar (Scots-Irish) mindset in the Highlands after Culloden, when the people shepherded Prince Charles out of the country despite a huge reward and the certainty they’d be hanged if they were discovered.

    Was it loyalty trumping common sense or common spleen?

  • Elaine Krewer says:

    I’m sure the depth of bitterness over the Civil War was one reason why Lincoln didn’t really become the revered, iconic figure most people know today until the mid-20th century — after the majority of people who had lived through the Civil War were dead. Up until the 1920s or so Lincoln was still a rather controversial figure.

    I recall reading a story about Harry Truman’s mother, Martha Young Truman — who lived to age 94, long enough to see him become president — having a VERY strong lifelong grudge against Lincoln because her family had been displaced from their farm in Missouri by General Thomas Ewing’s infamous General Order No. 11. (She was about 10 or 11 years old when this happened.) When her son invited her to stay at the White House for the first time, she let him know in no uncertain terms that she’d rather sleep on the floor than spend the night in the Lincoln Bedroom. She even chided him once for laying a wreath at the Lincoln Memorial.

  • Hank says:

    Don

    Histroy needs felt to be understood. This song teachs more about the post civil war era than a few thousand pages of well researched data could hope.

    I’ve heard this befere except shortened and toned down, that was a crime.

  • Elaine, I would say that Lincoln after the War was revered as a near Saint in the North and reviled as a near Demon in the South. Time has mellowed both interpretations to a degree, but only to a degree, as I am sure Neo-Confederates would hotly agree!

  • Agreed Hank. Period songs when sung convey the passion of a historical period in a way that a bloodless chronicle of events simply can’t. A well-researched historical novel, “The Horse Soldiers” for example, or a well-done movie, Gettysburg, can perform a similar service.

  • Elaine Krewer says:

    “Period songs when sung convey the passion of a historical period in a way that a bloodless chronicle of events simply can’t.”

    Just based on this song alone, it’s obvious that the political passions of the 1860s make the political passions of the 1960s look like a walk in the park.

  • Quite right Elaine. I am always vastly amused when some historically illiterate talking head on tv says something to the effect that Americans are more divided today than at any point in our history. Those who will not learn their history are doomed to having people like me point out their errors! :)

  • Tom McKenna says:

    Yes, this is an interesting song that illustrates the two strands of Southern reaction to the reality of losing the war. The one, portrayed in this song, maintained that despite the war’s outcome, there would be perpetual hatred between the former foes.

    The other, and ultimately victorious view, was embodied in men such as R. E. Lee and James Longstreet, who counselled swift and complete re-integration into the Union– although it must be said that when Lee saw the ravages of Reconstruction and the depredations carried out against the south by the radical Republicans, he is said to have regretted surrending rather than fighting to the bitter end.

    Longstreet went on, after the war, as did many former Confederates, to have long and fruitful lives in harmony with the “conquerors.”

    In short, this song, is after all, just a song. (I do like the part about wishing “they was 3 million instead of what we got.” ;–)

  • Elaine Krewer says:

    “When Lee saw the ravages of Reconstruction and the depredations carried out against the South by the radical Republicans, he is said to have regretted surrendering rather than fighting to the bitter end.”

    Even so, it was his decision NOT to “fight to the bitter end” through guerilla warfare that helped prevent “perpetual hatred” between North and South. He and other Confederates considered it, but in the end chose not to, mainly because they had already seen the results of years of guerrilla warfare/terrorism in “Bleeding Kansas” and Missouri, and did not want to spread that to the entire nation.

    If you haven’t done so already, I heartily recommend reading “April 1865: The Month that Saved America” by Jay Winik, which explains these points better than I can.

  • One has to be careful with post war Lee quotes. In defeat Lee was viewed with the same sort of awe in the South that George Washington was viewed with in the entire nation after the American Revolution. Much that is said second or third hand about what he said in that period is none too reliable. I usually trust only things that Lee wrote down in public and in private correspondence to give a true assessment of what Lee thought. This sentence that Lee wrote down to a newspaper editor in 1865 was something that he also wrote many times in private correspondence until his death in 1870: “It should be the object of all to avoid controversy, to allay passion, give full scope to reason and to every kindly feeling. By doing this and encouraging our citizens to engage in the duties of life with all their heart and mind, with a determination not to be turned aside by thoughts of the past and fears of the future, our country will not only be restored in material prosperity, but will be advanced in science, in virtue and in religion.”

    Lee thought that much of Reconstruction, although not all, was wrongheaded. He also thought that the way to address it was through the political process, something he repeated time and again.

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