Roll, Alabama, Roll (1864)

This sea shanty provides dates & names from the first & final days of the CSS Alabama, most famous of the Confederate privateers:

Oh, in eighteen hundred and sixty one,
        Roll, Alabama, roll!
This ship her building was begun,
        Oh roll, Alabama, roll!

When the Alabama’s keel was laid,
This ship her building was begun.

Oh, she was built in Birkenhead,
Built in the yard of Johnathan Laird.

And down the Mersey she rolled one day,
An’ across western she ploughed her way …

With British guns, oh, she was stocked,
She sailed from Fayal – in Cherbourg she docked.

To fight the North, Semmes did employ,
Any method to kill an’ destroy.

But off Cherbourg the Kearsarge lay tight,
Awaiting was Winslow to start a good fight (spoiling to fight])

Outside the three-mile limit they fought,
An’ Semmes escaped on a fine British yacht.

The Kearsarge won – Alabama so brave,
Sank to the bottom to a watery grave.

SOURCE = Hugill: Shanties from the Seven Seas (1961) p.126-7 >>


Hugill classifies this as a halyard shanty related to “Roll the Cotton Down,” recounting how: 

I had my version from an elderly New Zealand lady whose husband had been a seaman in the Alabama.  I met her in Gisborne, New Zealand, in 1925.

Other versions of this shanty:

Featured Image = “USS Kearsarge in Battle” (1936), by Jo Davidson, Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library1864-Kearsarge_and_Alabama(1887)

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