Abraham’s Daughter

Words & Music by Septimus Winner

“One country and one flag, I say, whoe’er the war may slaughter….”

Noah Brooks

Best known for “Listen to the Mockingbird,” Septimus Winner of Philadelphia wrote this catchy tune in 1861, while public sentiment in the North still ran high. It’s the story of an eager young recruit in one of the flashy northern Zouave regiments–an early example of the upbeat “On to Richmond” songs pouring out of the music halls and minstrel stages in the early stages.

Many of these regiments were made up of brawling kids from the fire departments of big cities like New York, Philadelphia and Chicago, and these high-spirited troops often taxed Washington city’s limited law enforcement personnel as they awaited action while stationed there. But they quickly earned the public’s special affection, particularly after their quick action and skill saved the city from a potentially devastating fire.

At this stage of the war, most of the North seemed indifferent to slavery as a factor in the war and expected it all to be over quickly–simply waiting to see which side would blink first.

In Reunion, “Abraham’s Daughter” is performed on the eve of the Union disaster at Bull Run as a music hall number led by a young woman in a flashy Zouave uniform.

There is an interesting historical precedent for this approach to the song. Pauline Cushman, the beautiful northern actress who claimed to have come within an eyelash of being hanged by the Confederacy for her work as a Union spy in Tennessee, had a major success in New York during the war playing a girl masquerading as a Zouave so she could follow her sweetheart to the front.

Lyrics

Oh! kind folks, listen to my song,
It is no idle story,
It’s all about a volunteer
Who’s goin’ to fight for glory!
Now don’t you think that I am right?
For I am nothing shorter!
And I belong to the Fire Zouaves,
And don’t you think I oughter?
I’m goin’ down to Washington
To fight for Abraham’s Daughter!Oh! should you ask me who she am,
Columbia is her name, sir!
She is the child of Abraham
Or Uncle Sam–the same, sir!
Now if I fight, why ain’t I right?
And don’t you think I oughter?
The volunteers are pouring in
From every loyal quarter–
I’m goin’ down to Washington
To fight for Abraham’s Daughter!

But let us lay all jokes aside,
It is a sorry question–
The man who would these states divide
Should hang for his suggestion!
One country and one flag, I say,
Whoe’er the war may slaughter?
So I’m goin’ as a Fire Zouave,
And don’t you think I oughter?
I’m goin’ down to Washington
To fight for Abraham’s Daughter!

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