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 Erie—1813
 
AVAST, honest Jack! now, before you get mellow,
Come tip us that stave just, my hearty old fellow,
’Bout the young commodore, and his fresh-water crew,
Who keelhaul’d the Britons, and captured a few.
 
“’Twas just at sunrise, and a glorious day,        5
Our squadron at anchor snug in Put-in-Bay,
When we saw the bold Britons, and clear for a bout,
Instead of put in, by the Lord we put out.
 
Up went union-jack, never up there before,
‘Don’t give up the ship’ was the motto it bore;        10
And as soon as that motto our gallant men saw,
They thought of their Lawrence, and shouted huzza!
 
“O! then it would have raised your hat three inches higher,
To see how we dash’d in among them like fire!
The Lawrence went first, and the rest as they could,        15
And a long time the brunt of the action she stood.
 
“’Twas peppering work—fire, fury, and smoke,
And groans that from wounded lads, spite of ’em, broke.
The water grew red round our ship as she lay,
Though ’twas never before so till that bloody day.        20
 
“They fell all around me like spars in a gale;
The shot made a sieve of each rag of a sail;
And out of our crew scarce a dozen remain’d;
But these gallant tars still the battle maintain’d.
 
“’Twas then our commander—God bless his young heart,        25
Thought it best from his well-pepper’d ship to depart,
And bring up the rest, who were tugging behind—
For why—they were sadly in want of a wind.
 
“So to Yarnall he gave the command of his ship,
And set out, like a lark, on this desperate trip,        30
In a small open yawl, right through their whole fleet,
Who with many a broadside our cockboat did greet.
 
“I steer’d her, and damme if every inch
Of these timbers of mine at each crack didn’t flinch:
But our tight little commodore, cool and serene,        35
To stir ne’er a muscle by any was seen.
 
“Whole volleys of muskets were levell’d at him,
But the devil a one ever grazed e’en a limb,
Though he stood up aloft in the stern of the boat
Till the crew pull’d him down by the skirt of his coat.        40
 
“At last, through Heaven’s mercy we reach’d t’other ship,
And the wind springing up, we gave her the whip,
And run down their line, boys, through thick and through thin,
And bother’d their crews with a horrible din.
 
“Then starboard and larboard, and this way and that,        45
We bang’d them and raked them, and laid their masts flat,
Till, one after t’other, they haul’d down their flag,
And an end, for that time, put to Johnny Bull’s brag.
 
“The Detroit, and Queen Charlotte, and Lady Prevost,
Not able to fight or run, gave up the ghost:        50
And not one of them all from our grapplings got free,
Though we’d fifty-four guns, and they just sixty-three.
 
“Smite my limbs! but they all got their bellies full then,
And found what it was, boys, to buckle with men,
Who fight, or, what’s just the same, think that they fight        55
For their country’s free trade and their own native right.
 
“Now give us a bumper to Elliott and those
Who came up, in good time, to belabour our foes:
To our fresh-water sailors we’ll toss off one more,
And a dozen, at least, to our young commodore.        60
 
“And though Britons may brag of their ruling the ocean,
And that sort of thing, by the Lord, I’ve a notion,
I’ll bet all I’m worth—who takes it—who takes?
Though they’re lords of the sea, we’ll be lords of the lakes.”
 
 
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