Battle of the Kegs

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 say,
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 gaze,
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 blue,
This strange appearance viewing,
First damn'd his eyes, in great surprise;
Then said, "Some mischief's brewing,—
"These kegs, I'm told, the rebels hold,
Pack'd up like pickled herring;
And they've come down to attack the town,
In this new way of ferrying."

The soldier flew, the sailor, too,
And, scared almost to death, sir,
Wore out their shoes to spread the news,
And ran till out of breath, sir.

Now up and down, throughout the town,
Most frantic scenes were acted;
And some ran here, and others there,
Like men almost distracted.

Some "Fire!" cried, which some denied
But said the earth had quaked;
And girls and boys with hideous noise
Ran through the streets half naked.

Sir William he, snug as a flea,
Lay all this time a snoring,
Nor dreamed of harm as he lay warm,
In bed with Mr. Loring.

Now in a fright he starts upright,
Awaked by such a clatter;
He rubs both eyes, and boldly cries,
"For God's sake, what's the matter?"

At his bedside he then espied
Sir Erskine at command, sir,
Upon one foot he had one boot,
And the other in his hand, sir.

"Arise, arise," Sir Erskine cries,
"The rebels—more's the pity—
Without a boat are all afloat,
And ranged before the city.

"The motley crew, in vessels new,
With Satan for their guide, sir,

Packed up in bags or wooden kegs,
Come driving down the tide, sir.

"Therefore prepare for bloody war,
These kegs must all be routed,
Or surely we despised shall be,
And British courage doubted."

The royal band now ready stand,
All ranged in dread amy, 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
E'er saw so strange a battle.

The rebel dales, the rebel vales,
With rebel trees surrounded,
The distant woods, the hills and floods,
With rebel echoes sounded.

The fish below swam to and fro,
Attacked from every quarter;
"Why sure," thought they, "the devil's to pay
'Mongst folks above the water."

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 to night, these men of might
Displayed amazing courage;
And, when the sun was fairly down,
Retired to sup their porridge.

A hundred men with each a pen,
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.

 Francis Hopkinson.