"The Battle Song of the Great Kanawha"

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"The Battle Song of the Great Kanawha" is one of the oldest documented Virginia ballads. As the second verse states, it describes military events in October of 1774. John Murray, Governor of Virginia and fourth Earl of Dunmore (with part of his troops under the command of Colonel Andrew Lewis, cousin of Meriwether Lewis of Lewis and Clark fame) arrived at Point Pleasant to suppress an Indian uprising led by Cornstalk in the far western part of Virginia (what is now West Virginia.) The battle ensued where the Kanawah and Ohio Rivers join, with Lewis facing Cornstalk. Lewis' Virginians won the day, while Dunmore was 60 miles away at the mouth of the Hocking river.

As far as can be ascertained, "The Battle Song of the Great Kanawha" is no longer in oral tradition in Virginia. Two other songs about the battle have also come down through history, but they tell less of a story. One of those, however, remains part of the family musical tradition of the well-known Kentucky folksinger Jean Ritchie.

Kanawha main page | song

Deathly Lyrics:
Songs of Virginia Tragedies


Audio Credits


Breeding Mill

Caty Sage


Dewey Lee


Freeda Bolt

Great Kanawha

Kent Steffie

Mollie Tynes

Old 97

Poor Goins

Roanoke Riot

Rye Cove

Talt Hall

Vance Song

Wreck of the 1256