Rebel in the Woods

This song was in an unidentified newspaper clipping located for us by Marie Concannon of the State Historical Society of Missouri. From the back of the clipping we infer that it was a St. Louis paper, perhaps the Democrat, and probably published in April 1863. The newspaper clipping introduces the poem with the following:

The Union poets must not imagine that they have a monoply of 'the divine afflatus. Such an illusion if it exist, will be instantly dispelled by a perusal of the precious document appended below. It is a veritable 'pome,' contained in a touching epistle from some inspired Missouri bushwacker, to his martyr friend in the St. Louis county jail....

Though the newspaper clipping does not identify the “pome” as a song, the verse structure and most of the chorus are obviously modeled after a romantic English and American folksong known variously as “Home, Dearie, Home,” “Rosemary Lane,” or “The Bell-Bottomed Trousers,” usually about a sailor's seduction of a woman. In one verse of that song the sailor informs his lover that if she bears a boy child he will be a sailor like his father and wear “a little jacket blue.” For a Missouri bushwhacker to put this image into his own song would carry a special irony, as guerrillas were known to wear the blue uniforms taken from their fallen enemies. Like the “Call of Quantrill,” this song also suggests the highly romantic view guerrillas had of themselves.

The original poem contains six other verses we do not sing. Three of them have curious references to Central Missouri, including one to “don Guitar of Columbia, Mo., who commanded a Union home guard unit; another to the “girls of Terrapin,” apparently referring to an area of Boone County, Mo., which borders the Missouri River; and a third to a cryptic bushwhacker, “Capt. Z y K,” who commanded 18 fighting men in the area. The repeated reference to “North Missouri” in the chorus of the song recalls, to us, the actions of Col. Joseph C. Porter, who recruited for the Confederate army in northern Missouri in 1862, and whose exploits were chronicled by one of his men, Joseph A. Mudd in a book entitled With Porter in North Missouri (1909).

We learned this melody of “Home, Dearie, Home” from the singing Boyer family of St. Louis, who in turn learned it from Ed Trickett, of Silver Springs, Md.

The winter is gone and the spring has come once more.
The rebels rejoice that the winter is no more,
For now it is spring and the leaves are growing green,
And the rebels rejoice that they cannot be seen.
Then home, soon home, home they will be;
Home, dearest home, in this our country,
Where the rose is in bud and the blossom's on the tree,
And the Lark is singing home to North Missouri.
We have taken up arms in defense of our farms,
And if the Federals trouble us we'll surely do them harm,
For we have declared that our land shall be free
But if they stay away how quiet we will be.
Then home, soon home, home we will be...
The rebels from their homes are compelled to go
And stay in the woods in the bushes thick and low,
For if they go home and there attempt to stay
The Federals will come and force them away.
Then away from their homes, away they will be...
Away from their sweethearts they have to stay
And lay in the woods by night and by day,
For if by the Federals they should captured be
They will be carried to the penitentiary.
Then away from their homes, away they will be...
Now my song is almost ended, and since it is so,
Back to the wars with all speed I must go.
With my gun in my hand and my jacket all so blueu
Farewell, my dear friends, I must bid you adieu.
Then away from my home, away I will be...
When the war is over I will return to thee,
And we will get married if we can agree,
And when we are joined in wedlock's happy band,
Then we never more will take the parting hand.
And at home, soon home, home we will be...

© Big Canoe Records, 1995