Verse > Anthologies > William McCarty, ed. > The American National Song Book
William McCarty, comp.  The American National Song Book.  1842.
The Battle of Bennington
By Thomas P. Rodman
UP through a cloudy sky, the sun
  Was buffeting his way,
On such a morn as ushers in
  A sultry August day.
Hot was the air—and hotter yet        5
  Men’s thoughts within them grew:
They Britons, Hessians, Tories saw—
  They saw their homesteads too.
They thought of all their country’s wrongs,
  They thought of noble lives        10
Pour’d out in battle with her foes,
  They thought upon their wives,
Their children, and their aged sires,
  Their firesides, churches, God—
And these deep thoughts made hallow’d ground        15
  Each foot of soil they trod.
Their leader was a brave old man,
  A man of earnest will;
His very presence was a host—
  He’d fought at Bunker Hill.        20
A living monument he stood
  Of stirring deeds of fame,
Of deeds that shed a fadeless light
  On his own deathless name.
Of Charlestown’s flames, of Warren’s blood,        25
  His presence told the tale,
It made each hero’s heart beat high
  Though lip and cheek grew pale;
It spoke of Princetown, Morristown,
  Told Trenton’s thrilling story—        30
It lit futurity with hope,
  And on the past shed glory.
Who were those men—their leader who?
  Where stood they on that morn!
The men were Berkshire yeomanry,        35
  Brave men as e’er were born,—
Who in the reaper’s merry row
  Or warrior rank could stand;
Right worthy such a noble troop,
  John Stark led on the band.        40
Wollamsac wanders by the spot
  Where they that morning stood;
Then roll’d the war-cloud o’er the stream,
  The waves were tinged with blood;
And the near hills that dark cloud girt,        45
  And fires like lightning flash’d,
And shrieks and groans, like howling blasts,
  Rose as the bayonets clash’d.
The night before, the Yankee host
  Came gathering from afar,        50
And in each belted bosom glow’d
  The spirit of the war.
All full of fight, through rainy storm,
  Night, cloudy, starless, dark
They came, and gathered as they came,        55
  Around the valiant Stark.
There was a Berkshire parson—he
  And all his flock were there,
And like true churchmen militant
  The arm of flesh made bare.        60
Out spake the Dominie and said,
  “For battle have we come
These many times, and after this
  We mean to stay at home.
If now we come in vain, said Stark,        65
  What! will you go to-night
To battle it with yonder troops,
  God send us morning light,
And we will give you work enough:
  Let but the morning come,        70
And if ye hear no voice of war
  Go back and stay at home.
The morning came—there stood the foe,
  Stark eyed them as they stood—
Few words he spake—’twas not a time        75
  For moralising mood.
“See there the enemy, my boys!
  Now strong in valour’s might,
Beat them, or Molly Stark will sleep
  In widowhood to-night.”        80
Each soldier there had left at home
  A sweetheart, wife, or mother,
A blooming sister, or, perchance,
  A fair-hair’d, blue-eyed brother.
Each from a fireside came, and thoughts        85
  Those simple words awoke
That nerved up every warrior’s arm
  And guided every stroke.
Fireside and woman—mighty words!
  How wondrous is the spell        90
They work upon the manly heart,
  Who knoweth not full well?
And then the women of this land,
  That never land hath known
A truer, prouder hearted race,        95
  Each Yankee boy must own.
Brief eloquence was Stark’s—nor vain—
  Scarce utter’d he the words,
When burst the musket’s rattling peal
  Out-leap’d the flashing swords;        100
And when brave Stark in after time
  Told the proud tale of wonder,
He said the battle din was one
  “Continual clap of thunder.”
Two hours they strove—then victory crown’d        105
  The gallant Yankee boys.
Nought but the memory of the dead
  Bedimm’d their glorious joys;
Ay—there’s the rub—the hour of strife,
  Though follow years of fame,        110
Is still in mournful memory link’d
  With some death-hallow’d name.
The cypress with the laurel twines—
  The pæan sounds a knell,
The trophied column marks the spot        115
  Where friends and brothers fell.
Fame’s mantle a funereal pall
  Seems to the grief-dimm’d eye,
For ever where the bravest fall
  The best beloved die.        120

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