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Unusually for folk song, this one is based on fact. In 1813 a “single combat” was arranged between the USS Chesapeake and the HMS Shannon. The American ship was poorly crewed and trained and as a result the British ship, led by Captain Broke [sic], easily won the battle, capturing the ship and taking it back to England where it was eventually scrapped.
The ballad printers had a field day with the story, but the song was rarely taken up by country singers. A version was collected in 1975 from a singer in Kent and apart from our Gloucestershire version, it has been found one in Canada, and this is it. Not surprisingly, no American version exists.