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Musical Oddity



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I’m learning a rarish thing, a Mexican War song. It’s a sea chantey, Santy Anno (=Santa Anna).

Oh shellbacks, did you hear the news,

Haul away, Santy Anno,

We have taken Vera Cruz,

All on the plains of Mexico.

Brave General Taylor saved the day,

Haul away, Santy Anno,

and chased those Mexicans away,

All on the plains of Mexico.

Santy Anno had a wooden leg,

Haul away, Santy Anno,

He wore it for a wooden peg,

All on the plains of Mexico.

Oh Santy Anno fought for fame,

Haul away, Santy Anno,

And that is why we sing his name,

All on the plains of Mexico.

I think I heard the old man say,

Haul away, Santy Anno,

That we will have grog today,

All on the plains of Mexico.


My source is an old record, Paul Clayton and the Foc’sle Singers, re-issued on a Smithsonian CD. The chantey confutes two battles, since Zachary Taylor won Buena Vista, while Winfield Scott captured Verz Cruz (and ultimately Mexico City itself). But Santa Anna did have a wooden leg. The fourth stanza has the mordant wit of Shelley’s “Ozymandias.”

Will W play it at roll-outs of future immigration policy (in a historical spirit, of course)?



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