MacEdward Leach and the Songs of Atlantic Canada

Down in Dixie's Isle

Unknown Singer NFLD 2 Tape 14 Track 6
Fermeuse Audio:

The fighting drums they are beating they are calling us away
The fighting drums they are beating it's a call we must obey
We're ordered down to New Orleans through many a dreary mile
To go fight the southern soldiers way down on Dixie's Isle

Oh Jimmy lovely Jimmy you are leaving me forlorn
You'll make me curse and rue the day that ever l was born
For parting wit' you my love is the parting wit' my life
Now stay at home dear Jimmy and make me your own true wife

If I would stay at home my love that would be a disgrace
If l would stay at home my love another'd go in my place
The king he wrote for soldiers and I for one must go
And for my very life love l dear not answer no

Now I’ll cut off my yellow locks men's clothing I’ll put on
I’ll cut off my yellow locks and I’ll be your waiting man
We'll fight and wear the banners love until fortune on us smile
We'll comfort one another way down on Dixie's Isle

Your waist it is too slender love and your feet they are too small
To wait on me in battle love when on you I should call
Your delicate constitution couldn’t endure that unwholesome climate
Those cold sandy deserts way down on Dixie's Isle

My curse attend American war the hour it first began
For it has robbed old England of many a clever man
It robbed us of our sweethearts the protectors of our isle
For the blood that flowed on the grass that growed way down on Dixie's Isle


Sources: Laws N9 (The Banks of the Nile, Men’s Clothing I’ll Put On); Roud 950; Belden, p.340 (Plains of Mexico); Chappell-FSRA 66 (The Dolphin); Creighton, 1962:147 (The Banks of the Nile); Fowke, 1971:166; Fowke/MacMillan 72 (Banks of the Nile); Peacock, 1965:996; Randolph 42 (Men’s Clothing I’ll Put On); SHenry H238a pp. 296-297 (The Banks of the Nile); Broadside versions include Bodleian, Hardin B11(158) (Banks of the Nile) an extensive list of broadside references is available at the Traditional Ballad Index (

History: The earliest recorded mention of this ballad is 1859. According to the Traditional Ballad Index ( this ballad could refer to any number of battles waged by the British including those fought in Egypt in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Laws suggests that there are several adaptations of this ballad from the original including “Dixie’s Isle” which refers to the American civil war. Belden found an additional version which incorporates the Mexican War (1846-1848).

Text: A young man is called to fight for the British. His sweetheart wishes to accompany him in disguise, he thinks her too fragile due to the climate. It is unclear to which war the ballad refers as it mentions both “cold sandy deserts way down on Dixie’s Isle” and an “American war.”

Tune: The text is through composed and the melody repeats with each verse. The last word is spoken. Speaking, instead of singing a final word or phrase is generally thought to indicate Irish influence on the singer or song. The meter is 4/4. The key is A major with a range of a major 9th from A to B.

All material on this webpage is copyright © 2004, Memorial University of Newfoundland Folklore and Language Archive, Memorial University of Newfoundland. No unauthorized copying or use is permitted. For more information, follow this link.