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This song was first collected in textual form in 1925. Beyond that, little is known about its origin. It was popularized by famous folk singer Peter Bellamy.

The Longest Johns performed this on their March 2019 Livestream with Sam Brookes.

Factoids

This song tells the story of the sinking of the Mersey-built Confederate sloop-of-war CSS Alabama by the Yankee USS Kearsarge on June 19, 1864 just outside of Cherbourg harbour. It was, in fact, Built by William and Johnathan Laird in Birkenhead in 1862.

Lyrics

These lyrics are based on the version performed by the Longest Johns in their Livestreams, the original lyrics can be found here.

Well the Alabama's keel was laid
(Roll, Alabama, roll!)
It was laid in the yard of Jonathan Laird
(Oh, roll, Alabama, roll!)

It was laid in the yard of Jonathan Laird
(Roll, Alabama, roll!)
It was laid in the town of Birkenhead
(Oh, roll, Alabama, roll!)

Down the Mersey channel she sail-ed then
(Roll, Alabama, roll!)
And Liverpool fitted her with guns and men
(Oh, roll, Alabama, roll!)

Down the mersey channel she sail-ed forth
(Roll, Alabama, roll!)
to exploit the commerce of the north
(Oh, roll, Alabama, roll!)

Into Cherbourg harbour she sailed one day
(Roll, Alabama, roll!)
To take her share of prize money
(Oh, roll, Alabama, roll!)

and many a sailor saw his doom
(Roll, Alabama, roll!)
When the Kearsarge she sailed into view
(Oh, roll, Alabama, roll!)

A shot from the forward pivot that day
(Roll, Alabama, roll!)
Blew the Alabama's steering away
(Oh, roll, Alabama, roll!)

Oh the three-mile limit, in sixty-foor
(Roll, Alabama, roll!)
And she sank to the bottom of the ocean floor
(Oh, roll, Alabama, roll!)

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