hang Jeff Davis from a sour apple tree

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Senior Member
Hi everyone! I'm not sure the meaning of the word "hang" in the phase “hang Jeff Davis from a sour apple tree,”. I think "hang" here means "If someone is hanged or if they hang, they are killed, usually as a punishment, by having a rope tied around their neck and the support taken away from under their feet." Is it right?

the context is as follows:
In the summer of 1865, Davis became a star attraction. Banners painted with the feminized image of the Confederate leader draped the museum’s facade. A song from the war promised to “hang Jeff Davis from a sour apple tree,” but Barnum had other plans. Why hang a man once when you could mock him for profit all season long?

source: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/13/opinion/the-many-images-of-jefferson-davis.html?_r=0
  • exgerman

    Senior Member
    English but my first language was German
    The line occurs in versions of the extremely popular Civil War song John Brown's body lies a-mouldering in the grave, whose lyrics were later toned down into the still popular (in the US) Battle Hymn of the Republic.


    Senior Member
    I do not get the sour apple tree part.

    Here's another extract from It by Stephen King:

    He supposed they would have kept it up as long as necessary, not because any of them really believed the good Derryfolk were going to break into the police station, carry Henry out, and hang him from a sour-apple tree, but because they were desperate to close the books on that summer’s blood and horror; they would have, but Henry didn’t make them.

    What does sour mean? Is there a specimen of apple tree that is called sour-apple?

    Thank you.


    Senior Member
    English - USA
    I would assume it refers to what were called "crabapple" trees where I grew up - they are common in many areas of the US, but their fruit is much too sour to eat.

    Malus - Wikipedia
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