Daniel Martin

There are at least four versions of this song: one collected by Vance Randolph (Ozark Folksongs, Vol. II) in 1928, entitled “The Pea Ridge Battle;” one collected by H.M. Belden (Ballads and Songs) in 1903, entitled “The Battle of Elkhorn Tavern;” one from a privately printed collection (Old Old Folk Songs) put together by Fred High; and one that was passed down through the family of the man in the song. The Martin family version was discovered by James J. Johnston, author of an interesting study of the song (“Will the Real Daniel Martin Please Stand up?”), which appeared in Spring 1993 issue of Mid America Folklore. Randolph's version portrays Daniel Martin as a Confederate soldier. The others (correctly) portray him as a Union soldier.

Johnston's investigation of the song revealed that Daniel Hugh Martin, was an Arkansas farmer born about 1838, who enlisted in a Federal unit of Missouri Infantry volunteers at Rolla (written as “Rollie” in some versions), Mo., in 1861. This unit eventually became Company D, (John C.) Phelps' Regiment. In April of 1862, about a month after the battle of Pea Ridge he was mustered out, then reenlisted in July, but eventually deserted in 1863 and did not return for the remainder of the war. Martin was married at least three times and had a number of children. He died in 1880. Johnston believes Martin, himself, may have composed the version of the song that passed down through his family, and that the other versions represent later variations.

The song mentions several key participants in the Battle of Pea Ridge: Gen. Earl Van Dorn, Confederate commander of the Military District of the Trans-Mississippi; Gen. Ben McCulloch, commander of the Confederate army in Arkansas, who was killed during the battle; Gen. James M. McIntosh, commander of one of McCulloch's cavalry brigade who was killed during the battle; Gen. Sterling Price, commander of the Missouri State Guard, who was wounded in the arm during the battle; Col. William Y. Slack, commander of Price's 2nd Missouri Brigade, who was also killed during the battle; and Gen. James S. Rains, commander of the 3th Division, Missouri State Guard.. Our rendition is primarily taken from the three “Union” variations, and the melody line comes from Randolph, augmented by a choral arrangement done for us by R. Paul Drummond, choral director at Central Methodist College in Fayette, Mo.

My name is Daniel Martin, I was born in Arkansas.
I fled from those bad rebels who fear not God nor law.

I left my aged parents. I left my loving wife.
I was forced to go to Rolla to try and save my life.

I enlisted in Phelps' regiment. I ain't ashamed to tell.
His colonel and his officers, they used us mighty well.

Four months we stayed in Rolla amidst the snow and ice,
Till we received our orders to meet old Sterling Price.

That old Secession traitor he didn't like the fun.
He gathered up his rebel band, and to Arkansas he run.

We followed them to Pea Ridge, and there we stopped our chase.
But that poor frightened Rebel band rolled on in mighty haste.

They joined old Ben McCulloch, old McIntosh and Rains.
They mustered eighteen thousand and back they came again.

They threw themselves around us in the dark shade of the night.
We planted out our batteries and waited till daylight.

Next morning soon we all marched out, eager to meet the strife.
I never shall forget that day as long as I have life.

To see our friends a-fallin' it did us so provoke.
The sun was dim, the sky was hid with clouds of rollin' smoke.

We shot old Ben McCulloch, old Slack and McIntosh.
And shot old Sterling in the arm and sent him in a rush.

Reckon what Secesh will think when we tell 'em of our rhyme
About old Sterling Price, he's a gettin' on quick time.

Van Dorn was taken very sick, and here he could not stay.
He says, “Boys make a swift retreat and I will lead the way.”

And if ever I get through this war you may call me roasted done.
I'll never go to fight again for money, love or fun.

© Big Canoe Records, 1995