Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

Friday Night Concert: “Roll, Alabama, Roll”

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on October 21, 2011

There are numerous variants of this song out there, but I like this one, as it includes verses one doesn’t often hear. It also includes a reference to a hoary old tale about the ship:

At first she was called the Two-Ninety-Two,

Roll, Alabama, roll!

For the merchants of the city of Liverpool,

Roll, Alabama, roll!

Put up the money to build the ship,

Roll, Alabama, roll!

In hopes of driving commerce from the sea,

Roll, Alabama, roll!

The mysterious number was actually 290; the “Two-Ninety-Two” of the lyric was probably chosen to rhyme (sort of) with “Liverpool.” Nonetheless, the number 290 was indeed the original designation given the to the ship before she was officially named, and it was the subject of much speculation and whispered discussion even at the time, when it was an open secret in Liverpool that John Laird & Sons, across the river, was building a warship that would ultimately find its was into Confederate hands. The rumor that “290” was a reference to the number of secret investors in the project was swirling around the Mersey, even as the ship’s frames were being set up in Birkenhead.

Alas, there was no great mystery or significance to it; Laird numbered its vessels sequentially, and Alabama happened to the 290th building project undertaken by the shipyard.

Oh, well. Still a pretty great shanty. Not half bad in Polish, either.


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