Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

Friday Night Concert: Seeger Sessions’ “Erie Canal”

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on August 23, 2013

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This great classic of American folk songs isn’t nearly as old as I once thought. It was published in 1905 by Thomas S. Allen (1876-1919), under the title “Low Bridge, Everybody Down.” There’s a great history of the song in its various incarnations here. In the meantime, enjoy.

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I’ve got a mule and her name is Sal
Fifteen miles on the Erie Canal
She’s a good old worker and a good old pal
Fifteen years on the Erie Canal
We’ve hauled some barges in our day
Filled with lumber, coal, and hay
And every inch of the way we know
From Albany to Buffalo
 
Chorus:
Low bridge, everybody down
Low bridge for we’re coming to a town
You’ll always know your neighbor
And you’ll always know your pal
Ever navigated on the Erie Canal
 
We’d better look ’round for a job old gal
Fifteen miles on the Erie Canal
You bet your life I’d never part with Sal
Fifteen miles on the Erie Canal
Git up mule, here comes a lock
We’ll make Rome by six o’clock
One more trip and back we’ll go
Right back home to Buffalo
 
Chorus:
Low bridge, everybody down
Low bridge for we’re coming to a town
You’ll always know your neighbor
And you’ll always know your pal
Ever navigated on the Erie Canal
 
Where would I be if I lost my pal?
Fifteen miles on the Erie Canal
I’d like to see a mule as good as Sal
Fifteen miles on the Erie Canal
A friend of mine once got her sore
Now he’s got a broken jaw,
She let fly with an iron toe,
And kicked him in to Buffalo.
 
Chorus:
Low bridge, everybody down
Low bridge for we’re coming to a town
You’ll always know your neighbor
And you’ll always know your pal
Ever navigated on the Erie Canal

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GeneralStarsGray

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11 Responses

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  1. Pat Young said, on August 23, 2013 at 10:24 pm

    At Erie Canal Village in Rome, New York, you can ride in a mule-pulled canal boat on the old Erie Canal. When I took the smooth slow ride 15 years ago, a girl pulled out a fiddle and we all sang the song. They have a stall with a mule named Sal.

  2. Foxessa said, on August 24, 2013 at 11:27 am

    This was one of my younger brother’s and my favorite songs when we were kids! We’d put it on the turntable and sing along with it at the very top of our considerably loud voices. We were ordered not to do that if there were any adults within hearing.

    We had no idea of what Erie was, or a canal either, much less Albany, of course, as where we grew up was very far away from there, and settled some decades post the Civil War, and the environment was very different, i.e., no canals, which were so common for long in the east.

    And now, of course I do. I’ve even been to these places. Plus, of course, hanging out with Henry Clay and his American System for so long now ….

    • Andy Hall said, on August 25, 2013 at 9:12 am

      The pressing question is whether Charlie ever got off the MTA.

  3. Edwin Thompson said, on August 24, 2013 at 3:05 pm

    I am not sure what blog I wandered into – hahaha. My dad would play Pete Seeger on his console record player – remember those pieces of furniture? I think ours was a Magnavox. The Erie Canal Song I remember well. Bruce does a super job on this tune – first time I heard him play it, thanks

    • Andy Hall said, on August 24, 2013 at 4:38 pm

      Look for Springsteen’s Seeger Sessions Band recordings — they’re all great old folk songs revitalized.

  4. Pat Young said, on August 24, 2013 at 9:32 pm

    Also enjoyed The Er-ri-ee Was Rising about the terrible storm one night on the canal. The joke was that the canal was only 40 feet wide and 4 feet deep in its original mode. The references to the cargo, rye and barley, indicate that it wasn’t only the canal boat that was loaded. Here’s a video:

    We were forty miles from Albany,
    Forget it, I never shall!
    What a terrible storm we had one night
    On the E-ri-e Canal.

    Chorus:
    Oh, the E-ri-e was a-rising,
    And gin was getting low,
    And I scarcely think
    We’re gonna get a little drink
    Till we get to Buffalo-o-o,
    Till we get to Buffalo.

    We were loaded down with barley,
    We were loaded down with rye,
    And the captain, he looked at me
    With a gol-durn wicked eye.

    Chorus:

    The captain he come up on deck
    With a spyglass in his hand
    But the fog it was so tarn-ol’ thick
    That he couldn’t spy the land

    Chorus:

    The cook she was a grand ol’ gal,
    She had a ragged dress.
    And we hoisted her upon a pole
    As a signal of distress.

    Chorus:

    Well, the captain, he got married,
    And the cook, she went to jail;
    And I’m the only son-of-a-gun
    That’s left to tell the tale.

  5. Woodrowfan said, on August 25, 2013 at 8:14 pm

    ARGH! thanks for the earworm!!!

  6. Craig L said, on August 25, 2013 at 9:12 pm

    It’s easy to forget that the Erie Canal wasn’t just in upstate New York. It was part of a massive system that connected the Great Lakes to the Mississippi and allowed for the development of the rail system by establishing routes that weren’t simply local. Three big federally financed canal projects, the Ohio and Erie, the Miami and Erie and the Wabash and Erie, were essential elements in connecting what had been isolated and far flung villages of the inland empire that became towns and cities between 1800 and 1850.

    My mother’s ancestors moved from Pennsylvania to Ohio between 1800 and 1830 because of and by way of the Ohio and Erie, which connected the Cuyahoga, the Tuscarawas and the Muskingum to the Ohio at Marietta. The first of my mother’s family to move from Ohio to Indiana was a town doctor named Daniel Stradley, who took his practice from one canal town, Zanesville on the Ohio and Erie, to another canal town, Wabash, on the Wabash and Erie, in 1847.

    Another of my great great great grandfathers, born in 1811, had an uncle and some cousins making barrels and running a flat boat on the Tuscarawas before 1810 who returned briefly to Pennsylvania for about three years during the War of 1812. The oldest and the youngest children in that family were born in Ohio. The middle children were born in Pennsylvania during the war.


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