The Battle Of Stonington, By Philip Freneau


“In an attack upon the town and a small fort of two guns, by the “RAMILLIES”, seventy-four gun ship, commanded by Sir Thomas Hardy; the “PACTOLUS”, 38 gun ship; “DESPATCH” brig, and a razee, or bomb ship,–August, 1814.”

Four gallant ships from England came Freighted deep with fire and flame, And other things we need not name, To have a dash at Stonington.

Now safely moor’d, their work begun, They thought to make the Yankees run, And have a mighty deal of fun In stealing sheep at Stonington.

A deacon then popp’d up his head, And Parson Jones’s sermon read, In which the reverend doctor said That they must fight for Stonington.

A townsman bade them, next, attend To sundry resolutions penn’d, By which they promised to defend With sword and gun old Stonington.

The ships advancing different ways, The Britons soon began to blaze, And put th’ old women in amaze, Who feared the loss of Stonington.

The Yankees to their fort repair’d, And made as though they little cared For all that came–though very hard The cannon play’d on Stonington.

The “Ramillies” began the attack, “Despatch” came forward–bold and black–And none can tell what kept them back From setting fire to Stonington.

The bombardiers with bomb and ball Soon made a farmer’s barrack fall, And did a cow-house sadly maul That stood a mile from Stonington.

They kill’d a goose, they kill’d a hen, Three hogs they wounded in a pen–They dash’d away,–and pray what then? “This” was not taking Stonington.

The shells were thrown, the rockets flew, But not a shell, of all they threw, Though every house was full in view, Could burn a house at Stonington.

To have “their” turn, they thought but fair;–The Yankees brought two guns to bear, And, sir, it would have made you stare, This smoke of smokes at Stonington.

They bor’d “Pactolus” through and through, And kill’d and wounded of her crew So many, that she bade adieu T’ the gallant boys of Stonington.

The brig “Despatch” was hull’d and torn–So crippled, riddled, so forlorn–No more she cast an eye of scorn On the little fort at Stonington.

The “Ramillies” gave up th’ affray, And, with her comrades sneaked away. Such was the valor on that day, Of British tars, near Stonington.

But some assert, on certain grounds, (Besides the damage and the wounds,) It cost the King ten thousand pounds To have a dash at Stonington.

[Few of Freneau’s earlier and “better” poems were so popular as this of “The Battle of Stonington,” in its day. All Connecticut boys knew it by heart, and it had an established place among the ‘declamations’ of school exhibitions. Until within a few years it was to be found in the assortment of every street vender of ballads and patriotic poems,–sometimes in its original form, but more often, with ’emendations and corrections.’ In the broad-side from which I first learned it (bought at a stall in the neighborhood of Fulton market, some thirty years ago,) for the twelfth and thirteenth verses was substituted this:–

“They bored the “Despatch” through and through, And kill’d and wounded half her crew; ‘Till crippled, riddled, she withdrew,–And curs’d the boys of Stonington.”]

Trumbull, J. Hammond. The Defence of Stonington (Connecticut) Against a British Squadron, August 9th to 12th, 1814. Hartford. 1864.

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