Verse > Anthologies > William McCarty, ed. > The American National Song Book
William McCarty, comp.  The American National Song Book.  1842.
Death of Warren
By Epes Sargent (1813–1880)
          On the day of the memorable engagement at Bunker Hill, General Joseph Warren, then in the prime of life, joined the American ranks as a volunteer. “Tell me where I can be useful,” said he, addressing General Putnam. “Go to the redoubt,” was the reply; “you will there be covered.” “I came not to be covered,” returned Warren; “tell me where I shall be in the most danger; tell me where the action will be hottest.”—At the meeting of the committee of safety previous to the battle, his friends earnestly strove to dissuade him from exposing his person. “I know there is danger,” said Warren, “but who does not think it sweet to die for his country?” When Colonel Prescott gave the order to retreat, Warren’s desperate courage forbade him to obey. He lingered the last in the redoubt, and was slowly and reluctantly retreating, when a British officer called out to him to surrender. Warren proudly turned his face to the foe, received a fatal shot in the forehead, and fell dead in the trenches.

WHEN the war-cry of Liberty rang through the land,
To arms sprang our fathers, the foe to withstand;
On old Bunker Hill their intrenchments they rear,
When the army is join’d by a young volunteer.
“Tempt not death!” cried his friends; but he bade them good-bye,        5
Saying, “O! it is sweet for our country to die.”
The tempest of battle now rages and swells
Mid the thunder of cannon, the pealing of bells:
And a light, not of battle, illumes yonder spire,
Scene of wo and destruction! ’tis Charlestown on fire!        10
The young volunteer heedeth not the sad cry,
But murmurs, “’Tis sweet for our country to die!”
With trumpets and banners the foe draweth near;
A volley of musketry checks their career!
With the dead and the dying the hill-side is strown,        15
And the shout through our lines is, “The day is our own!”
“Not yet,” cries the young volunteer, “do they fly!
Stand firm! it is sweet for our country to die!”
Now our powder is spent—and they rally again;
“Retreat!” says our chief, “since unarm’d we remain!”        20
But the young volunteer lingers yet on the field,
Reluctant to fly, and disdaining to yield.
A shot!—ah! he falls! but his life’s latest sigh
Is, “’Tis sweet, O! ’tis sweet for our country to die!”
And thus Warren fell! happy death! noble fall!        25
To perish for country at Liberty’s call!
Should the flag of invasion profane evermore
The blue of our seas, or the green of our shore,
May the hearts of our people re-echo that cry,
“’Tis sweet, O! ’tis sweet for our country to die.”        30

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