Digital Tradition Mirror

The Battle of the Kegs

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The Battle of the Kegs
(Francis Hopkinson)

Gallants, attend, and hear a friend
Trill forth harmonious ditty,
Strange things I'll tell that late befell
In Philadelphia city.
     'Twas early day, as poets say,
     Just when the sun was rising,
     A soldier stood on log of wood
     And saw a sight surprising.

As, in amaze, he stood to gaze;
The truth can't be denied, sirs,
He spied a score of kegs or more,
Come floating down the tide, sirs.
 A sailor, too, in jerkin blue,
 The strange appearance viewing,
 First damned his eyes in great surprise,
 Then said, "Some mischief brewing."

"The kegs now hold the rebel bold
Packed up like pickled herring;
And they've come down to attack the town
In this new way of ferrying."
 The soldier flew, the sailor, too,
 And, scared almost to death, sirs,
 Wore out their shoes to spread the news,
 And ran till out of breath, sirs.

Now up and down, throughout the town,
Most frantic scenes were acted;
And some ran here and some ran there,
Like men almost distracted.
 Some "Fire" cried, which some denied,
 But said the earth had quaked;
 And girls and boys, with hideous noise,
 Ran through the town half-naked.

Lord William, he, snug as a flea,
Lay all this time a-snoring
Nor dreamed of harm as he lay warm
In bed with _______________
 Now, in a fright he starts upright
 Awakened by such a clatter;
 He rubs both eyes and boldly cries,
 "For God's sake, what's the matter?"

At his bedside he then espied
Sir Erskine at command, sirs;
Upon one foot he had a boot,
And t'other in his hand, sirs.
 "Arise!  Arise!"  Sir Erskine cries;
 "The rebels---more's the pity---
 Without a boat are all afloat,
 And ranged before the city."

"The motley crew, in vessels new
With Satan for their guide, sir,
Packed up in bags, or wooden kegs,
Come driving donwn the tide sir.
 Therefore, prepare for bloody war!
 Those kegs must all be routed,
 Or surely we despised shall be,
 And British courage doubted."

The royal band now ready stand
All ranged in dead array, sirs,
With stomach stout to see it out,
And make a bloody day, sirs.
 The cannons roar from shore to shore,
 The small arms make a rattle;
 Since wars began, I'm sure no man
 E'er saw so strange a battle.

The rebel vales, the rebel dales,
With rebel trees surrounded,
The distant woods, the hills and floods,
With rebel echoes sounded.
 The fish below swam to and fro,
 Attacked from every quarter-
 "Why sure," thought they, "the devil's to pay
 'Mongst folks above the water."

The kegs, 'tis said, tho' strongly made
Of rebel staves and hoops, sirs,
Could not oppose the powerful foes,
The conquering British troops, sirs.
  From morn to night these men of might
  Displayed amazing courage,
  And when the sun was fairly down
  Returned to sup their porridge.

A hundred men, with each a pen,
Or more---upon my words, sirs,
It is most true---would be too few
Their valor to record, sirs,
  Such feats did they perform that day
  Upon those wicked kegs, sirs,
  That years to come, if they get home
  They'll make their boasts and brags, sir.

During the American Revolution, during the British occupation of
     Philadelphia, some ingenious Yankee had the idea of floating
     some wooden kegs, loaded with gunpowder, down the Delaware
     River to explode against the British ships anchored there.
     The boms were badly timed, and most of the kegs blew up
     against the ice in the river. British troops and ships,
     panicked by the explosions, fired  small arms and cannon
     broadsides into the river. RG

Tune: Yankee Doodle

Thanks to Mudcat for the Digital Tradition!

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