Verse > Anthologies > William McCarty, ed. > The American National Song Book
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William McCarty, comp.  The American National Song Book.  1842.
 
Battle of the Kegs
By Francis Hopkinson (1737–1791)
 
GALLANTS, attend, and hear a friend
  Trill forth harmonious ditty:
Strange things I’ll tell, which late befell
  In Philadelphia city.
 
’Twas early day, as poets say,        5
  Just when the sun was rising,
A soldier stood on log of wood,
  And saw a sight surprising.
 
As, in amaze, he stood to gaze,
  The truth can’t be denied, sirs;        10
He spied a score—of kegs, or more,
  Come floating down the tide, sirs.
 
A sailor, too, in jerkin blue,
  The strange appearance viewing,
First damn’d his eyes, in great surprise,        15
  Then said, “Some mischief’s brewing.
 
“These kegs now hold the rebels bold,
  Pack’d up like pickled herring:
And they’re come down to attack the town,
  In this new way of ferrying.        20
 
The soldier flew, the sailor, too,
  And scared almost to death, sirs;
Wore out their shoes to spread the news,
  And ran till out of breath, sirs.
 
Now up and down, throughout the town,        25
  Most frantic scenes were acted;
And some ran here, and some ran there,
  Like men almost distracted.
 
Some fire cried, which some denied,
  But said the earth had quaked;        30
And girls and boys, with hideous noise,
  Ran through the town half-naked.
 
Sir William 1 he, snug as a flea,
  Lay all this time a snoring,
Nor dream’d of harm, as he lay warm,        35
  In bed with Mrs. Loring.
 
Now, in a fright, he starts upright,
  Awaked by such a clatter:
He rubs both eyes, and boldly cries,
  “For God’s sake, what’s the matter?”        40
 
At his bedside he then espied
  Sir Erskine 2 at command, sirs,
Upon one foot he had one boot,
  And t’other in his hand, sirs.
 
“Arise! arise!” Sir Erskine cries:        45
  “The rebels—more’s the pity—
Without a boat, are all on float,
  And ranged before the city.
 
“The motley crew, in vessels new,
  With Satan for their guide, sir;        50
Pack’d up in bags, or wooden kegs,
  Come driving down the tide, sir.
 
“Therefore prepare for bloody war!
  These kegs must all be routed;
Or surely we despised shall be,        55
  And British courage doubted.”
 
The royal band now ready stand,
  All ranged in dread array, sirs;
With stomach stout to see it out,
  And make a bloody day, sirs.        60
 
The cannons roar from shore to shore,
  The small arms make a rattle;
Since wars began, I’m sure no man
  E’er saw so strange a battle.
 
The rebel 3 vales, the rebel dales,        65
  With rebel trees surrounded,
The distant woods, the hills and floods,
  With rebel echoes sounded.
 
The fish below swam to and fro,
  Attack’d from every quarter:        70
Why, sure, thought they, the devil’s to pay
  ’Mongst folks above the water.
 
The kegs, ’tis said, though strongly made,
  Of rebel staves and hoops, sirs,
Could not oppose their powerful foes,        75
  The conquering British troops, sirs.
 
From morn to night these men of might
  Display’d amazing courage;
And when the sun was fairly down,
  Retired to sup their porridge.        80
 
A hundred men, with each a pen,
  Or more—upon my word, sirs,
It is most true—would be too few
  Their valour to record, sirs.
 
Such feats did they perform that day        85
  Upon these wicked kegs, sirs,
That years to come, if they get home,
  They’ll make their boasts and brags, sirs.
 
Note 1. Sir William Howe. [back]
Note 2. Sir William Erskine. [back]
Note 3. The British officers were so fond of the word rebel, that they often applied it most absurdly. [back]
 
 
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