Lyricist L. Wolfe Gilbert got the idea for this song while actually watching the steamboat Robert E. Lee unloading its cargo in Baton Rouge. When composer Lewis F. Muir took the song to publisher F.A. Mills, it made no impression and was rejected. A while later, Gilbert came by to pick up the music and Mills told him that the song would be published. Song plugger Tubby Garron showed the number to Al Jolson, who interpolated it into a Winter Garden Sunday concert.