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John Renfro Davis
|This tune was a broadside ballad during the Revolutionary War. The author is unknown. It is said to have been written by a British sergeant mortally wounded during the battle surrounding the British landing on Manhattan on September 16, 1776. It relates his experiences from his leaving England in 1773 to his death. Given the sentiments toward the colonial soldiers and that the end of the song promotes the right of the American cause, it is no wonder the song was popular with Americans.
There are two variants at Digital Tradition, The Dying British Sergent and The Dying Sergeant.
'Twas on December's fifteenth day,
When we set sail for America;
'Twas on that dark and dismal day,
When we set sail for America.
'Twas on that dark and dismal time,
When we set sail for the Northern clime,
Where drums to beat and trumpets sound,
And unto Boston we were bound.
And when to Boston we did come,
We thought by the aid of our British guns,
To drive the rebels from that place,
To fill their hearts with sore disgrace.
But to our sorrow and surprise,
We saw men like grasshoppers rise;
They fought like heroes much enraged,
Which did affright old General Gage.
Like lions roaring of their prey,
They feared no danger or dismay;
Bold British blood runs through their veins,
And sill with courage they sustain.
We saw those bold Columbia's sons
Spread death and slaughter from their guns:
Freedom or death! these heroes cry,
They did not seem afraid to die.
We said to York, as you've been told,
With the loss of many a Briton bold,
For to make those rebels own our King,
And daily tribute to him bring.
They said it was a garden place,
And that our armies could, with ease,
Pull down their town, lay waste their lands,
In spite of all their boasted bands.
A garden place it was indeed,
And in it grew many a bitter weed,
Which will pull down our highest hopes
And sorely wound our British troops.
'Tis now September the seventeenth day,
I wish I'd never come to America;
Full fifteen thousand has been slain,
Bold British heroes every one.
Now I've received my mortal wound,
I bid farewell to Old England's ground;
My wife and children will mourn for me,
Whilst I lie cold in America.
Fight on America's noble sons,
Fear not Britannia's thundering guns;
Maintain your cause from year to year,
God's on your side, you need not fear.
The Ballad of America
See Bibliography for full information.