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 Champlain
By Philip Freneau (1752–1832)
 
September 11, 1814

          Between the British squadron, of ninety-three guns and one thousand and fifty men, and the American fleet, of eighty-six guns and eight hundred and twenty men. The Confiance, of thirty-nine, and the Saratoga, of twenty-six guns, were the flag-ships of the two commanders, Downie and Macdonough.

PARADING near Saint Peter’s flood,
Full fourteen thousand soldiers stood;
Allied with natives of the wood,
With frigates sloops and galleys near,
Which southward now began to steer;        5
    Their object was Ticonderogue.
 
Assembled at Missisqui bay
A feast they held, to hail the day
When all should bend to British sway
    From Plattsburgh to Ticonderogue.        10
 
And who could tell, if reaching there
They might not other laurels share,
And England’s flag in triumph bear
    To the capitol, at Albany!
 
Sir George advanced with fire and sword,        15
The frigates were with vengeance stored,
The strength of Mars was felt on board,—
When Downie gave the dreadful word,
    “Huzza! for death or victory!”
 
Sir George beheld the prize at stake,        20
And with his veterans made the attack.
Macomb’s brave legions drove him back;
And England’s fleet approach’d to meet
    A desperate combat on the lake.
 
From isle La Motte to Saranac, 1        25
With sulphurous clouds the heavens were black;
We saw advance the Confiance,
Shall blood and carnage mark her track,
    To gain dominion on the lake?
 
Then on our ships she pour’d her flame,        30
And many a tar did kill or maim,
Who suffer’d for their country’s fame,
    Her soil to save, her rights to guard.
 
Macdonough, now, began his play,
And soon his seamen heard him say,        35
“No Saratoga yields this day,
    To all the force that Britain sends.
 
“Disperse, my lads, and man the waist,
Be firm, and to your stations haste,
And England from Champlain is chased,        40
    If you behave as you’ll see me.”
 
The fire began with awful roar;
At our first flash the artillery tore
From his proud stand, their commodore,
    A presage of the victory.        45
 
The skies were hid in flame and smoke,
Such thunders from the cannon spoke,
The contest such an aspect took
    As if all nature went to wreck!
 
Amidst his decks with slaughter strew’d,        50
Unmoved, the brave Macdonough stood,
Or waded through a scene of blood,
    At every step, that round him stream’d:
 
He stood amidst Columbia’s sons,
He stood amidst dismounted guns,        55
He fought amidst heart-rending groans,
    The tatter’d sail, the tottering mast.
 
Then, round about his ship he wore,
And charged his guns with vengeance sore,
And more than Ætna shook the shore—        60
    The foe confess’d the contest vain.
 
In vain they fought, in vain they sail’d,
That day; for Britain’s fortune fail’d,
And their best efforts naught avail’d,
    To hold dominion on Champlain.        65
 
So, down their colours to the deck
The vanquish’d struck—their ship’s a wreck—
What dismal tidings for Quebec,
    What news for England and her prince!
 
For in this fleet from England won,        70
A favourite project is undone:
Her sorrows only are begun—
As she may want, and very soon,
    Her armies for her own defence.
 
Note 1. A river which rises from several small lakes among the mountains to the westward of Lake Champlain, and, after a north-easterly course of near seventy-five miles, enters the grand lake in the vicinity of Plattsburgh. [back]
 
 
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