I'm a Good Old Rebel

Words by Major James Innes Randolph; to the tune of "Joe Bowers," ca. 1867

Who is singing this song? What is the dialect? Was it written by someone from the same cultural group?

When was the song written? How would you describe the singer's attitude? What feelings does the song express? How?

Why doesn't the singer care about "this land of Freedom"? Why might he not think freedom applied to him? Why do you think he called the Yankees "lying, thieving"? What feelings do you think might be under all that anger?

The Confederate veteran who is singing this song at some point during the war probably sang "Bonnie Blue Flag" (this unit). How does this rallying song help explain the "unreconstructed rebel's" feelings?

What did being "reconstructed" mean to this singer? Why didn't he want to be "reconstructed"?

Why did many Southerners stay bitter so long after the war? What was the South like in the 1870s? How did the Civil War change things forever in the South? How justified do you think Southerners' anger was?

The song is dedicated to Thaddeus Stevens. Who was he? Why is this song dedicated to him? Do you think it is a serious dedication?

"I'm a Good Old Rebel" performed by Alan Baker on Songs of the Civil War, New World Records, © 1987. Available on iTunes, Spotify and YouTube.

View the lyrics for "I'm a Good Old Rebel."

View the published score.

James Innes Randolf

Photo of James Innes Randolph.

James Innis Randolph of Charles County, Maryland, served on General Ewell's staff in the Confederate Army. He was bitter following the fall of the Confederacy and expressed his feelings by writing "I'm A Good Old Rebel."(The first publication is undated.) Randolph adapted a favorite tune from the California Gold Rush, "Joe Bowers." An account of the song was published in Collier's Magazine for April 14, 1914, which claimed that "Edward VII, the Prince of Wales, heard it at a reception in London and called it 'that fine American song with the cuss words in it.'"


Freedman's Bureau: Established in the War Department March 3, 1865. The Bureau supervised all relief and educational activities relating to refugees and freedmen, including issuing rations, clothing and medicine.

pardon: An act of grace on the part of the proper authority in a state, releasing an individual from the punishment imposed by sentence or that is due according to law.

Marse Robert: Robert E. Lee.

Compare this song with "Carry Me Back to Old Virginny," another song of nostalgia for the old South (see VAT Unit 5). Why were these nostalgic songs popular after the war?



Creative Commons License
Voices Across Time is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at voices.pitt.edu/Permissions.html.