Chesapeake and Shannon
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Lesley Nelson-Burns

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Three distinct broadsides were printed in the early and mid 19th century to celebrate the British victory of the War of 1812. The ballad was printed as Shanon and Chesapeake and Battle of the Shannon and Chesapeake. These can be found at the Bodleian Library. It was also known on American sailing ships.

On June 1, 1813, Captain Broke of the British frigate Shannon challenged Captain Lawrence of the American ship Chesapeake to combat. The battle could be seen from Boston harbor and a large crowd gathered to watch. In a short time the British were victorious and boarded the Chesapeake. Third Lieutenant William Cox was blamed for the loss of the ship because he left his post to carry Captain Lawrence, who was mortally wounded, below. Cox was court-martialed, and cashiered from the Navy. In 1952 Congress passed a bill nullifying the court-martial decision.*

Captain Lawrence is said to have spoken the famous words, "Don't give up the ship." before he died.

O the Chesapeake so bold
Out of Boston she was towed
To take an English frigate
Neat and handy, O;
And the people in the port,
They came to see the sport,
Whilst the music played up
Yankee doodle dandy, O.
Hi! Yankee doodle doo,
Yankee doodle dandy!
Hi! Yankee doodle doo,
Yankee doodle dandy!


Now the British frigate's name,
0 that for the purpose came
To cool the Yankees' courage
Neat and handy, 0,
Was the Shannon, Captain Broke,
With his men all hearts of oak,
Who for fighting was allowed to be
The dandy, 0.
Hi! Yankee doodle doo,
Yankee doodle dandy!
Hi! Yankee doodle doo,
Yankee doodle dandy!


Just before the fight began,
Said the Yankees with much fun:
We'll tow her into Boston
Neat and handy, 0;
And then afterwards we'll dine
With our sweethearts and our wives,
And we'll dance the jig called
Yankee doodle dandy, 0.
Hi! Yankee doodle doo,
Yankee doodle dandy!
Hi! Yankee doodle doo,
Yankee doodle dandy!


Now the fight had scarce begun
When they flinch-ed from the guns,
Which they thought that they would fight
So neat and handy, 0;
Then brave Broke he drew his sword, crying:
Now my lads we'll board
And we'll stop them playing
Yankee doodle dandy, 0.
Hi! Yankee doodle doo,
Yankee doodle dandy!
Hi! Yankee doodle doo,
Yankee doodle dandy!


They no sooner heard the word
Than they quickly jumped on board,
And haul-ed down the ensign
Neat and handy, 0.
Notwithstanding all their brag,
Soon the glorious British flag
At the Yankee's mizen-peak it looked
The dandy, 0.
Hi! Yankee doodle doo,
Yankee doodle dandy!
Hi! Yankee doodle doo,
Yankee doodle dandy!


Here's a health, my boys, to you,
With your courage stout and true.
Who fought the Chesapeake
So neat and handy, 0;
And may it ever prove
That in fighting as in love
That the true British sailor
Is the dandy, 0.
Hi! Yankee doodle doo,
Yankee doodle dandy!
Hi! Yankee doodle doo,
Yankee doodle dandy!


Related Links
From A Selection of Some some Less Known Folk Songs, Vol. 2 and
American Balladry from British Broadsides
See Bibliography for full information.