“Oh You Who Are Able....”

Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1924
Keywords: Civilwar horse
Found in: US(So)


"Oh you who are able go out to the stable And throw down your horses some corn If you don't do it the sergeant will know it And report you to General Van Dorn."


I can't escape the feeling that this song is somehow connected to Van Dorn's reputation as a flashy ladies' man without a great deal of depth or ability (Shelby Foote, _The Civil War: A Narrative; Volume I, Fort Sumter to Perryville_, p. 725, quotes an unnamed senator as saying, "He is the source of all our woes, and disaster, it is prophesied, will attend us as long as he is connected with this army. The atmosphere is dense with horrid narratives of his negligence, whoring, and drunkenness, for the truth of which I cannot vouch; but it is so fastened in the public belief that an acquittal by a court-marshal of angels would not relieve him of the charge." Indeed, Van Dorn would later be murdered by an irate husband who accused him of an affair with his wife. And he lost both of his major battles as an infantry commander, at Pea Ridge and Corinth). But I can't prove the connection based on the fragment I've seen.

There is a fragment in Fred W. Allsopp, _Folklore of Romantic Arkansas, Volume II_ (1931), p. 227, "It was at the battle of Elkhorn, Van Dorn he lost his hat, And for about a half a mile He laid the bushes flat." I can't identify it with anything else; the mention of the Battle of Elkhorn Tavern might connect it with "The Battle of Elkhorn Tavern, or The Pea Ridge Battle [Laws A12]," or perhaps with one of the General Price songs -- but if I had to guess, I'd guess it goes here; the feeling is right. - RBW

Historical references


  1. Randolph 250, "Oh You Who Are Able..." (1 fragment)
  2. Roud #7716
  3. BI, R250