The Cumberland And The Merrimac
(Kenneth Peacock) video
#2384: YouTube video by Tom Roush
©2017 ~ Used with permission ~

Come all ye jolly sailors,
And all ye landsmen too,
Come listen to the story
That I'll unfold to you;
It's all about the Cumberland,
That ship so true and brave,
And also of her loyal crew
Who met with a watery grave.

Early in the morning
Just at the break of day,
The good ship Cumberland
At anchor she did lay;
The man upon the look-out
To those below did cry:
"I think I see a house-top
To the starboard it do lie."

Our captain seized his telescope
And gazed far over the blue,
And turning spoke as follows
To his brave and hardy crew:
"That thing that floats down yonder
Just like a turtle's back,
Is that infernal steamer
Which they call the Merrimac."

Our decks were cleared for action,
Every gun was pointed through,
While the Merrimac came steaming
Across the waters blue;
On and on she kept coming
Till no distance from us part,
Then she sent a ball a-humming,
Stilled the beat of many a heart.

At last we bored her broadside
Into her ribs of steel,
But still no breach made in her,
No damage did she feel;
Then that rebel pirate
To her bold commander spoke,
"Haul down your flying colors
Or I'll sink your Yankee boat!"

Our captain's eyes did glisten,
His cheeks grew white with rage,
And in a voice like thunder
To the rebel pirate said:
"My men are brave and loyal,
My flag shall ever stand,
Before I'll strike my colors
You can sink us and be hanged!"

Then that steel-clad monster
From one hundred yards or more,
With her whistle screaming
Our wooden side she bore;
She struck us right at midship,
And the ram came crushing through,
And the water it came rushing in
Upon our gallant crew.

Turning to his gallant crew
Our brave commander says,
"I'll never strike my colors
While our vessel rides the waves;
I'll go down with flags flying
Into a watery grave,
But you, my loyal comrades,
May seek your lives to save.

They swore they'd never leave him
But would man their guns without rest,
Fire broadside after broadside
Till the waters reached their breast;
She sank far down, far down
Into the briny deep,
And the Stars and Stripes were flying
From her maintop's highest peak.

####.... Author unknown. Variant of a traditional American Civil War ballad, The Cumberland [Laws A26] Native American Balladry, G Malcolm Laws (1964/1950) ....####

Collected in 1952 by Kenneth Peacock from Ronald Hoven [1899-1980] and his wife Mrs Johanna Hoven [1907-1986] of Fogo, NL, and published in Songs Of The Newfoundland Outports, Vol 3, pp.909-910, by the National Museum of Canada (1965) Crown Copyrights Reserved.

Note: The US wooden frigate Cumberland was sunk by the iron-clad CSS Virginia (formerly the Merrimac) on March 8, 1862. Kenneth Peacock noted that casualties on the Cumberland were high because she was transporting more than one hundred sick and wounded men who could not be removed before she sank.

The video above features a variant arranged and performed by Tom Roush of Barboursville, WV and Germanton, NC. Most of Tom's videos feature music from 19th century America.


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