Santy Anno

Santy Anno

English: Antonio López de Santa Anna

Antonio López de Santa Anna (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Leader: We’re sailing up the river from Liverpool,
Chorus: Heave away, Santy Anno!
Leader: Round Cape Horn to Frisco Bay,
Chorus: Away in Californ-i-o.

Chorus: So heave her up and away we’ll go,
Heave away, Santy Anno,
Heave her up and away we’ll go,
All on the plains of Mexico.

She’s a fast clipper ship with a bully good crew,
Heave away, Santy Anno!
A down-east Yankee for her captain, too,
Away in Californ-i-o.

When Zachary Taylor gained the day,
Heave away, Santy Anno,
He made old Santy run away
All on the plains of Mexico.

I thought I heard the old man say
Heave away, Santy Anno!
He’d give us grog this very day
All on the plains of Mexico.

There’s plenty of gold, so I’ve been told,
Heave away, Santy Anno,
Plenty of gold, so I’ve been told
Away in Californ-i-o.

When I leave ship, I’ll settle down,
Heave away, Santy Anno,
Marry a girl named Sally Brown
Away in Californ-i-o.

Now Santy Anno’s dead and gone,
Heave away, Santy Anno,
Santy Anno’s dead and gone,
All on the plains of Mexico.

(Click here for a PDF version of the music) * (Click here to hear an MP3 Recording)

English: Antonio López de Santa Anna

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Antonio López de Santa Anna (c. 1797-1876) is the only person I can think of who managed to be both larger than and smaller than life. Larger than life, because he was three times president (or at least warlord) of Mexico, first in 1836 (when he lost Texas), then again in 1846 (when he finished losing the already-badly-botched Mexican War), then again in 1853, being pushed out of the country each time. (He made one more attempt in 1867, but was captured and the attempt failed). He lost a leg in 1838. He was sentenced to death in 1867. He did not finally come home to stay until 1872.

But if his exploits were larger than life, he was himself almost pitifully inefficient at everything except taking power.

Bernard DeVoto wrote of him, “Santa Anna is the set piece of Mexican history, complete with rockets, pinwheels, Greek fire, and aerial bombs. He had been president of Mexico, dictator, commander in chief, much too often and too variously for specification here. He had contrived to persuade a good many different factions that he was their soul, and never betrayed any of them till he had got their funds…. He had the national genius for oratory and manifesto, and a genius of his own for courage, cowardice, inspiration, and magnificent graft” (The Year of Decision: 1846, Little, Brown and Company, 1943, pp. 68-69).

Or how about this: “The amazing career of Antonio López de Santa Anna is so entwined with the early years of Texas and Mexico that it is impossible to tell their history without telling his. Born in 1794 in upland Jalapa into a venerable Spanish Castillian family, Antonio was a quarrelsome boy who matured into a fractious, luxury-loving man. Unquestionably courageous, he was also elegant and charming. His favorite amusements were… gambling, cockfighting, and dancing. He was ambitious, opportunistic, crafty, and egotistical.” (Joseph Wheelan, Invading Mexico: America’s Continental Dream and the Mexican War, 1846-1848, Carroll & Graf, 2007, p. 41).

J. Franklin Jameson’s Dictionary of United States History sums up his career as follows (note that it doesn’t even mention the loss of his leg, which shows how much he packed into his life): “a turbulent Mexican politician, entered the Spanish army in Mexico, sided finally with the patriots [i.e. with those who wanted Mexican independence]. opposed Iturbide [who had made himself Mexican emperor in 1822], and became a politico-military leader of national prominence. He was President 1832-1835. The next year he marched against the Texas revolutionists, stormed the Alamo, and was defeated by Houston at San Jacinto and captured. He was head of the executive in 1839, and again President 1841-1844; overthrown, he was once more President in 1846, and in 1847 was defeated by Taylor at Buena Vista. After [Winfield] Scott’s victories and conquest of the [Mexican] capital Santa Anna resigned, but reappeared as President and dictator in 1853-1855. He frequently attempted to regain power [after that], and was a marshal under the empire, but died in obscurity.”

This wild career was enough to get him a song — though not a very accurate one. This is a sea chantey, but David Bone calls it “the most peculiar of all Chanties.” Stan Hugill regards it as a pump chantey, but William Main Doerflinger notes that the rhythm can be quite irregular. I wonder if it wasn’t used mostly in the foc’s’le, for entertainment.

General Zachary Taylor in uniform

Zachary Taylor in uniform (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Although the version given here correctly states that Zachary Taylor beat Santa Anna, this is unusual. Joanna C. Colcord’s version, for instance (Songs of American Sailormen, revised edition, 1938, p. 84) begins

Oh, Santy Anna gained the day,
Hooray, Santy Anna!
He lost it once but gained it twice,
All on the plains of Mexico.

And Gen’ral Taylor ran away,
Hooray, Santy Anna!
He ran away at Monterey,
All on the plains of Mexico.

In Hugill, this is

Oh, Santiana gained the day,
Away, Santiana,
Santiana gained the day,
All across the plains of Mexico.

He gained the day at Molley-del-rey
Away, Santiana,
An’ General Taylor ran away,
All across the plains of Mexico.

(Hugill thinks Molley-del-rey is Monterey, but it sounds more like an error for Molina del Rey. Admittedly Winfield Scott was the commander at Molina del Rey, not Zachary Taylor — but the song already has the winner of the battle wrong, so why not the general as well? Later on, the song says that Santa Anna lost his leg at Molley-del-rey, but, of course, he’d already lost it!)

English: Picture of James K. Polk

James K. Polk (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As a sea chantey, this song has not been collected in Minnesota — but Zachary Taylor commanded Fort Snelling in 1828-1829, making him one of the very earliest officers at the first American outpost in Minnesota, so he was an important part of the state’s history. Plus there are very few traditional songs about the Mexican War (the only other one I’ve heard is “On Buena Vista Battlefield”), and the war, and its influence on American politics, had a great deal of influence in Minnesota, causing Minnesota territory to be created earlier than it might otherwise have been. This was because President James K. Polk, a Democrat, wanted to organize the territory before his successor, Zachary Taylor, came into office. Taylor, after all, was a Whig, and could be expected to use the state to provide Whig patronage.

In any case, it is nearly certain that the song has been heard in Minnesota, because we know it was sung on the Great Lakes. Ivan H. Watson, who spent many years collecting Great Lakes songs, found at least two fragments, from Captain Thomas Hylant of Buffalo, New York, and Captain Charles Millard of Sarnia, Ontario. Hylant’s text began in exactly the same way as the version in Colcord, except that Watson prints the name as “Santa Anna” rather than “Santy Anno.” This version is printed on page 40 of Ivan H. Watson and Joe Grimm, Windjammers: Songs of the Great Lakes Sailors, Wayne State University Press, 2002.

Source: I learned this song, at a hyperkinetic pace, from a group (I believe from Wisconsin) named the Gilmour Brothers. The version given here is what came out after listening to all sorts of people singing this (I’ve even heard a version in Welsh!) But it definitely has more Gilmour than anything else. Their version (and consequently mine) is much too fast for actual use on shipboard — but it certainly can get your attention!

3 thoughts on “Santy Anno

  1. Koenraad Moreau

    Very interesting comment. Should you say me who is the composer of the melody of this song?
    Thank you by forehand.
    Koenraad

    Reply
    1. RBW Post author

      It’s a traditional song. We usually do not know who wrote traditional songs. We don’t know who wrote either words of music of this song; if we did, I would have reported it.

      Reply

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