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Chapter 7 - Exiled
Patriots Hatch a Plot
The experiment of tying
kegs together and sending them down the Delaware
River to sink the British fleet moored in
Philadelphia seems outlandish and silly in modern
But back then, in 1778,
it stoked the imagination and pride of the
fighting colonists who were looking for any way
possible to win the war.
Francis Hopkinson wrote
this humerous song-poem about the indicent and
called it "The Battle of the Kegs."
Many Revolutionary War
battles were recounted, not only in news articles
and letters, but in songs and poems as well.
* * *
Battle of the Kegs
(Sung to the tune of
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
Just when the sun was rising.
'A soldier stood on a log of wood
And saw a thing surprising.
As in amaze he stood to
The truth can't be denied, sir
He spied a score of kegs or more
Come floating down the tide, sir.
A sailor, too, in jerkin
This strange appearance viewing,
First damned his eyes, in great surprise,
Then said, "Some mischief's brewing.
"These kegs, I'm
told, the rebels hold,
Packed up like pickled herring,
And they're come down t'attack the town
In this new way of ferrying."
The soldier flew, the
And scared almost to death, sir,
Wore out their shoes to spread the news,
And ran till out of breath, sir....
Sir William, he, snug as
Lay all this time a-snoring;
Nor dreamed of harm, as he lay
In bed with Mrs. [Loring].
Now in a fright, he
Awaked by such a clatter;
He rubs his eyes and boldly cries,
"For God's sake, what's the matter?"
At his bedside, he then
Sir Erskine at command, sir;
Upon one foot he had one boot,
And tither in his hand, sir.
Sir Erskine cries.
"The rebels more's the pity
Without a boat are all afloat
And ranged before the city.
"The motley crew, in
With Satan for their guide, sir,
Packed up in bags, or wooden kegs,
Come driving down the tide, sir.
for bloody war;
These kegs must all be routed,
Or surely we despised shall be,
And British courage doubted."
The royal band now ready
All ranged in dread array, sir,
With stomach stout, to see it out
And make a bloody day, sir.
The cannons roar from
shore to shore,
The small arms make a rattle;
Since wars began, I'm sure no man
Ere saw so strange a battle....
The kegs, 'tis said,
though strongly made
Of rebel staves and hoops, sir,
Could not oppose their powerful foes,
The conquering British troops, sir.
From morn till night,
these men of might
Displayed amazing courage;
And when the sun was fairly down,
Retired to sup their porridge.
An hundred men, with each
Or more, upon my word, sir,
It is most true would be too few
Their valor to record, sir.
Such feats did they
perform that day
Against those wicked kegs, sir,
That years to come, if they get home,
They'll make their boasts and brags, sir.
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