The Sinking of the Maine- February 15, 1898

The battleship U.S.S. Maine was dispatched to Havana Harbor in January of 1898, with permission from Spain, for the official purpose of protecting American citizens in Cuba as the Spanish dealt with a rebellion on the island. On February 15, there was an explosion that sank the ship killing 266 of the servicemen aboard.

 

Officials did not form an immediate opinion as to the cause of the explosion. However, the newspapers- termed the “yellow press”- already competing for readers with sensationalistic coverage of the Cuban crisis including allegations of Spanish cannibalism, death camps & other atrocities, pounced on the story, blamed the explosion on Spain and advocated for war. The New York Journal, owned by William Randolph Hearst, devoted as much as eight pages a day to the crisis in the weeks following the disaster. The news coverage fueled public outrage that was reflected in propagandistic songs about the incident as well. The actual cause of the explosion remains a mystery with several investigations indicating it was most likely accidental.

 


Hattie Nevada

The parlor song, "My Father Was a Sailor On the Maine" by Hattie Nevada is an example of a song that was expressing the outrage fueled by the news media. Harriet Nevada Hicks Woodbury (1861-1953) was a songwriter best known for writing "The Letter Etched in Black." Her father-in-law, Isaac Baker Woodbury was a prolific, well known songwriter from the mid-1800s. Hattie Nevada was the great grandmother of Maury Stauffer, a New England and Florida based performing musician who appears as a guest vocalist and guitarist on the recording of "My Father Was a Sailor" on The Disaster Song Project.

 

 

My Father Was a Sailor on the Maine- Hattie Nevada

Down at the station ev'ry thing was gay,
Troops were departing eager for the fray,
Came a little maiden touched a trooper grand,
Then a bunch of clover blossoms placed within his hand.

My father was a soldier just like you,
My father was a sailor and wore a coat of blue,
My father was a sailor I'll never see him again,
My father was a sailor sir, a sailor on the Maine.

Please take the flowers place them for me,
On father's grave sir down by the sea,
Whisper and tell him I sent them by you,
And I know he'll hear you for you wear the coat of blue.

My father was a soldier just like you,
My father was a sailor and wore a coat of blue,
My father was a sailor I'll never see him again,
My father was a sailor sir, a sailor on the Maine.

Troopers gather round her loud play the band,
Captains and Gen'rals all round her stand,
Please mister soldier do this for me,
When you fire the cannon sir, just fire it once for me.

My father was a soldier just like you,
My father was a sailor and wore a coat of blue,
My father was a sailor I'll never see him again,
My father was a sailor sir, a sailor on the Maine.

Personnel from recording:
Maury Stauffer- Lead vocal and acoustic guitar
Jon Waterman- Harmony vocal and electric guitar


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