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 left my aged parents. I left my loving wife.
I enlisted in Phelps' regiment. I ain't ashamed to tell.
Four months we stayed in Rolla amidst the snow and ice,
That old Secession traitor he didn't like the fun.
We followed them to Pea Ridge, and there we stopped our chase.
They joined old Ben McCulloch, old McIntosh
They threw themselves around us in the dark shade
of the night.
Next morning soon we all marched out, eager to meet the strife.
To see our friends a-fallin' it did us so provoke.
We shot old Ben McCulloch, old Slack and McIntosh.
Reckon what Secesh will think when we tell 'em of our rhyme
Van Dorn was taken very sick, and here he could not stay.
And if ever I get through this war you may call me roasted done.