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Civil War Trust

Cumberland’s Crew

The Cumberland was the first Union warship rammed by the Confederate’s new ironclad, the Virginia.  After sinking the wooden Cumberland, during the Battle of Hampton Roads, Virginia, on March 8, 1862, the Virginia went on to a duel with the new Union ironclad, the Monitor the following day.

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By Starbuck and Vaughn

The lyrics are:

Oh, shipmates come gather and join in my ditty
Of a terrible battle that happened of late.
Let each Union tar shed a tear of sad pity
When he things of the once-gallant Cumberland’s fate.
The eighth day of March told a terrible story
When many a brave tar to this world bid adieu.
Our flag, it was wrapped in a mantle of glory
By the heroic deeds of the Cumberland’s crew.

On that ill-fated day, about ten in the morning,
the sky it was clear, bright shone the sun.
The drums of the Cumberland sounded a warning
That told every seaman to stand by his gun.
For an ironclad frigate down on us came bearing
And high in the air her base Rebel flag flew.
A banner of treason, she proudly was nearing,
Determined to conquer the Cumberland’s crew.

Then up spoke the Captain with stern resolution,
Saying, “Boys, of this monster, now, don’t be dismayed.
We are sworn to maintain our beloved constitution,
And to die for our country we are not afraid.
We’ll fight for the Union. Our cause, it is glorious.
By the stars and the stripes we shall stand ever true.
We’ll sink at our quarters or conquer victorious.”
He was answered by cheers from the Cumberland’s crew.

Our noble ship fired, Huge guns, Dreadful thunder,
Our broadsides like hail on the Rebels did pour.
The people gazed on, struck by terror and wonder,
As the shot struck her side and glanced harmessly o’er.
But the pride of our navy could never be daunted,
Though the decks with the dead and the wounded did strew.
The star-spangled banner, how proudly she flaunted.
It was nailed to the mast by the Cumberland’s crew.

They fought us three hours, with stern resolution,
’til the Rebels found cannon could never decide.
The flag of secession had no power to quell them,
Though the blood from our scuppers did crimson the tide.
She struck us amidships. Our flank she did sever.
Her sharp iron prow pierced our noble ship through.
And they cried as they sank in that dark rolling river.
“We’ll die at our guns,” cried the Cumberland’s crew.

Well slowly they sank in those dark rolling waters.
Their voices on earth shall be hard nevermore.
They’ll be wept by Columbia’s brave sons and fair daughters.
May their blood be avenged on Virginia’s old shore.
And if ever our sailors in battle assemble,
God bless our dear banner, the red, white, and blue.
Beneath her proud folds we’ll cause tyrants to tremble,
Or sink at our guns like the Cumberland’s crew.

(Courtesy of Jerry Vaughn and Greg Starbuck from the series “Songs of the Civil War and Before,”
Virginia Beach, Virginia.)

The Monitor and the Merrimack

This song, by Charles A. Clark tells of the famous duel of the ironclads between the USS Monitor and the CSS Virginia (formerly the USS Merrimack) from a Union perspective. Despite the song’s lyrics, the Monitor did not “beat your Merrimack quite handy-o.” The March 9, 1862 duel was effectively a draw and it was the Union ship that first withdrew from combat.

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By Starbuck and Vaughn

The lyrics are:

I’m going to sing a song, I won’t detain you long, if you listen I will tell you how so handy-o,
How the Monitor went smack up into the Merrimack and upon her sides played Yankee Doodle Dandy-o.

Then give a doodle doo, Jeff Davis how are you? Our Monitor beat your Merrimack quite handy-o.
And Ericsson he’s around, in the world there can’t be found a people like the Yankee Doodle Dandy-o.

T’was on the eighth of March, the Merrimack, she slipped out from Norfolk for to take a cruise handy-o.
And she didn’t think she’d meet anything in our fleet able to give her a Yankee Doodle Dandy-o.

Then give a doodle doo, Jeff Davis how are you? Our Monitor beat your Merrimack quite handy-o.
And Ericsson he’s around, in the world there can’t be found a people like the Yankee Doodle Dandy-o.

She went rushing round, smashing everything she found, ’til the Monitor came sailing in so handy-o.
And Worden stopped her fun, soon made her cut and run, while the shells they whistled Yankee Doodle Dandy-o.

Then give a doodle doo, Jeff Davis how are you? Our Monitor beat your Merrimack quite handy-o.
And Ericsson he’s around, in the world there can’t be found a people like the Yankee Doodle Dandy-o.

(Courtesy of Jerry Vaughn and Greg Starbuck, from the series “Songs of the Civil War and Before,” Virginia Beach, Virginia.)

Roll, Alabama, Roll

The CSS Alabama was a Confederate raider purchased in England. In a cruise of 21 months under Captain Raphael Semmes, the ship captured 64 Union merchant vessels worth more than $6.5 million. In 1864, the Alabama was finally sunk by the USS Kearsarge three miles off the coast near Cherbourg just outside of France’s neutral waters.

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By Starbuck and Vaughn

The lyrics are:

When the Alabama’s keel was laid.
Roll, Alabama, roll.
‘T’was laid in the yard of Johnathon Laird.
Oh, roll, Alabama, roll.

‘T’was laid in the yard of Johnathon Laird.
Roll, Alabama, roll.
‘T’was laid in the town of Birkenhead.
Oh, roll, Alabama, roll.

Down the Mersey Way she rolled then.
Roll, Alabama, roll.
Liverpool fitted her with guns and men.
Oh, roll, Alabama, roll.

From the Western Isle she sailed forth.
Roll, Alabama, roll.
To destroy the commerce of the North.
Oh, roll, Alabama, roll.

To Cherbourg port she sailed one day.
Roll, Alabama, roll.
To take her count of prize money.
Oh, roll, Alabama, roll.

Many a sailor lad foresaw his doom.
Roll, Alabama, roll.
When the Kearsarge hoved into view.
Oh, roll, Alabama, roll.

‘Til a ball from the forward pivot that day.
Roll, Alabama, roll.
Shot the Alabama’s stern away.
Oh, roll, Alabama, roll.

Off the three-mile limit in ’64.
Roll, Alabama, roll.
The Alabama sank to the ocean floor.
Oh, roll, Alabama, roll.

(Courtesy of Jerry Vaughn and Greg Starbuck, from the series “Songs of the Civil War and Before,” Virginia Beach, Virginia.)

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