Jon recalls “I used to sing this a lot when I got started with fiddle-singing. It always used to go down well at the Talking Heads in Southampton. One of the great shanty choruses I think, although I’m not sure it’s actually a work shanty?”
According to Mudcat it’s a halyard shanty and today marks the anniversary of the sinking of the CSS Alabama. There’s a fascinating story about the British built raider that you can Wiki here. It’s interesting to see that the British sympathies seemed to be with the Confederacy because of the cotton trade, despite our outward stance of neutrality. If the story is to be believed, The CSS Alabama seems to be quite heroic, causing great damage with no loss of life. It’s interesting to note, however, that the Captain Semmes was painfully aware that the raiders were simply legitimised pirates, although I guess the war footing put a different perspective on it. Those with time on their hand might like to follow this link to the memoirs of Captain Semmes.