Verse > Anthologies > William McCarty, ed. > The American National Song Book
William McCarty, comp.  The American National Song Book.  1842.
Capture of General Prescott
From the Plymouth Memorial—1835

          Almost every one is acquainted with the circumstances of the taking of General Prescott, then commanding officer of the British forces on Rhode Island, by Captain Barton of Providence. He was exchanged for General Lee, who had been previously captured by the British.
  Shortly after his exchange he returned to Rhode Island, and was invited to dine on board the admiral’s ship, with many other officers of the highest grade. General Prescott was naturally a haughty, imperious man, and as a commander was very unpopular with his officers and soldiers, and with the citizens of Newport, but a brave and skilful officer.
  It was often that boys as well as men were sent from the town on board the admiral’s ship for any offence, and confined there for some time, by the arbitrary authority of those in power. Martial law was the law of the place. A small lad, about thirteen years of age, was placed in this situation previous to General Prescott’s return, and was on board, with many others, at the time the general dined there. He did not know General Prescott.
  After dinner the wine circulated freely, and a toast and song were repeatedly called for. In the course of the evening the first lieutenant observed to the admiral, who was a real jolly son of Neptune, that “there was a Yankee lad on board who would shame all the singing.” “Bring him up here,” says Prescott. The boy was accordingly brought into the cabin. The admiral called on him to give them a song. The little fellow, being somewhat intimidated by gold-laced coats, epaulettes, &c., replied, “I can’t sing any songs but Yankee songs.” The admiral, perceiving that he was embarrassed, ordered the steward to give him a glass of wine, saying, “Come my little fellow, don’t be frightened; give us one of your Yankee songs.” General Prescott spoke in his usual haughty, imperious manner, “You d—d young rebel, give us a song or I’ll give you a dozen.” The admiral interfered, and assured the lad that he should be set at liberty the next day, “if he would give them a song—any one he could recollect.”
  The following doggerel, written by a sailor of Newport, was then given, to the great amusement of the company.

’TWAS on a dark and stormy night,
  The wind and waves did roar,
Bold Barton then, with twenty men
  Went down upon the shore.
And in a whale-boat they set off        5
  To Rhode Island fair,
To catch a red-coat general
  Who then resided there.
Through British fleets and guard-boats strong,
  They held their dangerous way,        10
Till they arrived unto their port,
  And then did not delay.
A tawny son of Afric’s race
  Them through the ravine led,
And entering then the Overing House,        15
  They found him in his bed.
But to get in they had no means
  Except poor Cuffee’s head,
Who beat the door down, then rush’d in,
  And seized him in his bed.        20
“Stop! let me put my breeches on,”
  The general then did pray:
“Your breeches, massa, I will take,
  For dress we cannot stay.”
Then through rye-stubble him they led,        25
  With shoes and breeches none,
And placed him in their boat quite snug,
  And from the shore were gone.
Soon the alarm was sounded loud,
  “The Yankees they have come,        30
And stolen Prescott from his bed,
  And him they’ve carried hum.”
The drums were beat, skyrockets flew,
  The soldiers shoulder’d arms,
And march’d around the ground they knew,        35
  Fill’d with most dire alarms.
But through the fleet with muffled oars
  They held their devious way,
And landed him on ’Ganset shore
  Where Britain held no sway.        40
When unto land they came,
  Where rescue there was none,
“A d—d bold push,” the general cried,
  “Of prisoners I am one.”

        There was a general shout of all the company during the whole song, and at the close, one who was a prisoner on board, at the time, observed, he “thought the deck would come through with the stamping and cheering.”
  General Prescott joined most heartily in the merriment. Thrusting his hand into his pocket, he handed the boy a guinea, saying, “Here, you young dog, is a guinea for you.” The boy was set at liberty the next morning.
  This anecdote is often related by an aged gentleman living at Newport.

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