Verse > Anthologies > William McCarty, ed. > The American National Song Book
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William McCarty, comp.  The American National Song Book.  1842.
 
The Battle of Lake Erie—1813
 
“TO clear the lake of Perry’s fleet,
And make his flag his winding-sheet,
This is my object, I repeat,”
  Said Barclay, flush’d with native pride,
To some who serve the British crown;        5
But they, who dwell beyond the moon,
Heard this bold menace, with a frown,
  Nor the rash sentence ratified.
 
Ambition so bewitch’d his mind,
And royal smiles had so combined        10
With skill, to act the part assign’d,
  He for no contest cared a straw;
The ocean was too narrow far
To be the seat of naval war;
He wanted lakes, and room to spare,        15
  And all to yield to Britain’s law.
 
And thus he made a sad mistake;
Forsooth he must possess the lake,
As merely made for England’s sake,
  To play her pranks and rule the roast;        20
Where she might govern uncontroll’d,
An unmolested empire hold,
And keep a fleet to fish up gold,
  To pay the troops of George Prevost.
 
The ships approach’d, of either side,        25
And Erie, on his bosom wide,
Beheld two hostile navies ride,
  Each for the combat well prepared:
The lake was smooth, the sky was clear,
The martial drum had banish’d fear,        30
And death and danger hover’d near,
  Though both were held in disregard.
 
From lofty heights their colours flew,
And Britain’s standard, all in view,
With frantic valour fired the crew        35
  That mann’d the guns of Queen Charlotte.
“And we must Perry’s squadron take,
And England shall command the lake;
And you must fight for Britain’s sake,”
  Said Barclay: “sailors, will you not?”        40
 
Assent they gave with heart and hand;
For never yet a braver band
To fight a ship, forsook the land,
  Than Barclay had on board that day;
The guns were loosed the game to win,        45
Their muzzles gaped a dismal grin,
And out they pull’d their tompion-pin,
  The bloody game of war to play.
 
But Perry soon with flowing sail
Advanced, determined to prevail        50
When from his bull-dogs flew the hail,
  Directed full at Queen Charlotte.
His wadded guns were aim’d so true,
And such a weight of ball they threw,
As, Barclay said, he never knew        55
  To come, before, so scalding hot!
 
But still, to animate his men,
From gun to gun the warrior ran,
And blazed away and blazed again,
  Till Perry’s ship was half a wreck:        60
They tore away both tack and sheet;
Their victory might have been complete
Had Perry not, to shun defeat,
  In lucky moment left his deck.
 
Repairing to another post,        65
From another ship he fought their host,
And soon regain’d the fortune lost,
  And down his flag the Briton tore:
With loss of arm and loss of blood
Indignant, on his decks he stood        70
To witness Erie’s crimson flood,
  For miles around him, stain’d with gore!
 
Thus, for dominion of the lake,
These captains did each other rake,
And many a widow did they make;        75
  Whose is the fault, or who to blame?
The Briton challenged with his sword,
The Yankee took him at his word,
With spirit laid him close on board,
  They’re ours—he said—and closed the game.        80
 
 
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