Mudcat Café message #1242564 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #72252   Message #1242564
Posted By: Chris Amos
08-Aug-04 - 12:15 PM
Thread Name: DTStudy: Dying British Sergeant
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This thread is intended to serve as a forum for corrections and annotations for the Digital Tradition song named in the title of this thread.

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I remember Martin Nail doing a cracking version of this song at the Islington Folk Club a while back, I put it on my list of songs to research.

The Digital Tradition has this version;

The British Soldier (or, The Dying British Sergeant)

Come all you good people where'er you be
Who walk by the land or sail by the sea.
Come listen to the words of a dying man,
I think you will remember them.

It was in December the eighteenth day
That our fleet set sail for Americay;
Our drums and trumpets loud did sound,
And then for Boston we were bound.

And when to Boston we did come
We thought by the aid of our British guns
We could make those Yankees own our British king
And daily tribute to him bring.

They said it was a garden place,
And that our armies could with ease
Tear down their walls, lay waste their lands,
In spite of all their boasted bands.

We found a garden place indeed,
But in it grew many a bitter weed,
Which soon cut off our highest hopes
And slowly wound[ed] the British troops.

For to our sad and sore surprise
We saw men like grasshoppers rise.
"Freedom or Death!" was all their cry,
Believe, they did not fear to die.

When I received my death-lie wound,
I bade farewell to England's ground
My wife and children will mourn for me
Whilst I lie cold in Amerikee.

Fight on! America's noble sons,
Fear not great Britain's thundering guns.
Maintain your rights from year to year,
God's on your side, you need not fear.

From Frank Warner
@America @revolution
filename[ DYSARGE

Our old friend, the Digital Tradition Mirror has a slightly different set of words Here

I understand that the song was collected in New York State and is in the Penguin Book of North American Folk Songs, but I don't have a copy, can anyone give any more details.


The second version in the Digital Tradition is a good transcription of the version found the the New Green Mountain Songster:


Come all you heroes, where'er you be,
That walk by land or sail by sea,
Come hear the words of a dying man
And surely you'll remember them.

In '76 that fatal year
As by our signal doth appear
Our fleet set sail for America
Twas on the fourteenth day of May.

Twas a dark and dismal time
Our fleet set sail for the northern line
Where drums did beat and the trumpet sound
And into Boston we are bound

And when to Boston we did come
We thought the noise of the British drum
Would drive the rebels from that place
And fill their hearts with sore distress

But to our woeful, sad surprise
We saw them like grasshoppers rise
To fight like heroes much in rage-
Which sorely frightened General Gage.

Like lions roaring for their prey
They fear no danger, no not they
True British blood runs in their veins
While them with courage it sustains.

We sailed to York, as you've been told,
With the loss of many a Briton bold,
And there we many a traitor found
False to the land where he belonged.

They told us 'twas a garden place
And that our armies might with ease
Burn down their towns, lay waste their lands
In spite of all their boasting bands.

A garden place it was indeed
And in it grew many a bitter weed
Which did pull down our brightest hopes
And sorely wounded our British troops.

'Tis now December, the seventeenth day,
Since we set sail for America,
Full fifteen thousand have been slain-
Bold British heroes on the plain.

Now I've received my mortal wound.
Adieu unto old English ground.
My wife and children they'll mourn for me
While I lie cold in America.

Fight on, fight on, American boys,
But ne'er heed bold Britain's thundering noise.
Maintain your rights, years after year.
God's on your side, you need not fear.

The glory of Great Britain's soil
Is now eclipsed for a while
But it shall shine bright in meridian year
Although our king is most severe.

His crown shall fade most certainly
A reward for all his cruelty
America shall her rights maintain
While proud cold England sinks with shame.

From The New Green Mountain Songster, Flanders et al
Collected from Ellen Nye Lawrence
@America @revolution @war
filename[ DYSARGE2

Traditional Ballad Index entry:

Dying British Sergeant, The

DESCRIPTION: The British soldier recalls sailing to America to suppress the rebels. Told to expect easy duty and a swift victory, the soldiers instead find an implacable enemy; "Freedom or death! was all their cry." The singer is mortally wounded and bids farewell
AUTHOR: unknown
KEYWORDS: war death patriotic
REFERENCES (4 citations):
Warner 6, "The British Soldier" (1 text, 1 tune)
Fuson, p. 195, "Our Fleet," "Our British Troops," "American Boys" (3 fragments, first three of seven "Quatrains on the War"; the date in "Our Fleet" should of course be 1776, not 1770)
Scott-BoA, pp. 69-71, "The Dying Redcoat" (1 text, 1 tune)

Roud #2801
Notes: As "The Dying Sergeant," his song is item dA29 in Laws's Appendix II. - RBW
File: Wa010

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