The following information comes to us courtesy of South African Ken Copeland:
"Apparently the Confederate raider Alabama put into Capetown [South Africa] for victuals during the War. Captain Raphael Semmes, the master of the vessel, was entertained royally by the authorities. It should be borne in mind that Capetown and the Cape Province at that time was a British Colony and the Victorian British of the period were very sympathetic to the Confederate cause, even though slavery had been outlawed in Britain and British colonies as early as 1814. Indeed, I believe that it was only by the narrowest margins that Victorian Britain, at the time the most powerful country in the world, did not come into the war on the side of the Confederate cause so as to protect its interest in cotton (without Southern cotton, the spinning mills in Lancashire would have ground to a halt). Had they done so, perhaps there may have been a different result?
"To get back to the story, Captain Semmes and the Alabama made such an impression on the people of Capetown and in particular the people we call'coloured' -- literally people of mixed white/black blood -- that even today, the song is sung by them. Around Christmastime in Capetown, troupes of coloured people, dressed like Al Jolson-type minstrels, tour Capetown singing and dancing; their prime instrument is the banjo. This yearly carnival is one of Capetown's greatest tourist attractions.
"The song they sing is called 'Daar Kom Die Alibama' -- literally 'There Comes the Alabama.' 'Alabama' is pronounced 'Ali-bama.'"
Charles Priestly of London, England, adds:
"I believe that [the song] was originally a Cape coloured song, but certainly it is now a standard part of the repertoire of any 'Boeremusik' band. This particular version is from an album of favourite Afrikaans songs by a group called 'Charles Berman se Koor en Okers' (Charles Berman Chorus and Band). There is no date on the record, but I should think that it was made about 20 years ago -- I have owned it for at least 15."
Jim McGarry, also of Great Britain, supplies the following:
"One of the Alabama's flags presented to a Capetonian still hangs in the South African Museum, and the pennant she was flying when she went down is in private hands in Tasmania. The full lyrics of the song are published in William Stanley Hoole's Four Years in the Confederate Navy."
We wish to extend our thanks to:
- Ken Copeland for his historical information and for procuring the MIDI file
- Charles Priestly for supplying additional information, a tape of the music, and the words and their translation
- Jim McGarry for his historical tidbits
- Most especially to Tony Brown and the members of the American Civil War Round Table (UK) for first alerting us to the existence of this song and for their indefatigable efforts in tracking it down and sharing it with us
Daar Kom Die Alibama