Lyrics & Knowledge Personal Pages Record Shop Auction Links Radio & Media Kids Membership Help
The Mudcat Cafehuddy

Post to this Thread - Sort Descending - Printer Friendly - Home


DTStudy: Dying British Sergeant

DigiTrad:
DYING BRITISH SERGENT
THE DYING SERGEANT


Chris Amos 08 Aug 04 - 12:15 PM
masato sakurai 08 Aug 04 - 12:29 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 08 Aug 04 - 02:34 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 08 Aug 04 - 04:48 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 09 Aug 04 - 11:58 AM
Joe Offer 11 Aug 04 - 04:31 AM
GUEST,Lighter 11 Aug 04 - 07:33 AM
Q (Frank Staplin) 11 Aug 04 - 11:47 AM
Q (Frank Staplin) 11 Aug 04 - 11:52 AM
Dave Ruch 19 Jun 17 - 11:14 AM
Dave Ruch 20 Jun 17 - 01:15 PM
Share Thread
more
Lyrics & Knowledge Search [Advanced]
DT  Forum
Sort (Forum) by:relevance date
DT Lyrics:



Subject: Lyr Add: DYING BRITISH SERGEANT / DYING SERGEANT
From: Chris Amos
Date: 08 Aug 04 - 12:15 PM

This is an edited DTStudy thread, and all messages posted here are subject to editing and deletion.
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.

Search for other DTStudy threads


Hi,

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)
In DT as: DYING BRITISH SERGENT

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
TUNE FILE: DYSARGE
CLICK TO PLAY
RG
oct96


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.

Chris

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

THE DYING SERGEANT

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
TUNE FILE: DYSARGE2
CLICK TO PLAY
RG
oct96

    It's hard to figure what "from Frank Warner" means, but it appears that the version in the Digital Tradition is the one collected by Anne & Frank Warner from John Galusha in New York State in 1939. There are a few differences in Traditional American Folk Songs from the Anne and Frank Warner Collection. I added the text variances above.
    -Joe Offer-

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
EARLIEST DATE: 1931
KEYWORDS: war death patriotic
FOUND IN: US(MA,NE)
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)
DT, DYSARGE* DYSARGE2*

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

Go to the Ballad Search form
Go to the Ballad Index Instructions

The Ballad Index Copyright 2004 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Mudcat Study; Dying British Sergent
From: masato sakurai
Date: 08 Aug 04 - 12:29 PM

From Alan Lomax's notes in The Penguin Book of American Folk Songs, p. 22:
A propaganda ballad from the American Revolutionary War, this come-all-ye purports to record the last words of a British redcoats who wished he'd stayed at home. Frank Warner recorded it in 1940s from a New York State lumberjack, known as Yankee John Galusha, who growled and thundered it out as if the Hessians were still camped along the Hudson.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: Lyr Add: BRITANIA'S DISGRACE... TRIUMPH OF LIBERTY
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 08 Aug 04 - 02:34 PM

The song stems from this broadside, or one like it. From Nineteenth-Century Song Sheets, American Memory.

BRITANIA'S DISGRACE AND THE TRIUMPH OF LIBERTY

COME all you heroes, where'er you be,
Who walk by land or *fail by sea, (*sail)
Come hear the words of a dying man,
For I am sure you'll remember them. Tol de rol.

In seventy-five, that fatal year,
As by our signal it did appear,
It was on the fourteenth day of May,
Our fleet set sail for America.

It was on a dark and dismal time,
Our fleet set sail for the northern clime;
The drums did beat, and the trumpets sound,
And unto Boston we were bound.

And when to Boston we did come.
We fought them by our British drum,
To drive those rebels from that place,
And fill their hearts with sore disgrace.

But to our sad and great surprise,
Like grasshoppers we saw them rise,
To fight like heroes so much in rage,
Which sorely frighten'd brave General.

Those brave and bold America's sons,
Saw death and slaughter from our guns;
"Freedom or Death!" those heroes cry-
I'm sure they're not afraid to die.

We sailed to York, as you've been told,
To the loss of many a Briton bold;
With many traitors in the throng,
False to the States where they did belong.

They told us it was a garden place,
We and our armies might with ease
Burn down their towns, and lay waste their lands,
In spite of all their Boston bands.

A garden place, boys, it was indeed,
In it grew many a bitter weed,
Which did pull down our highest hopes,
And sorely wounded our British troops.

Now I've received my mortal wound,
I bid adieu to Old England's ground;
My wife and children will mourn for me,
While I lay cold in America.

Fight on, fight on, my American boys,
Fear not Great Britain's thundering noise,
Your rights maintain from year to year,
God is on your side, You need not fear.

American Memory, 19th c. Song Sheets, Printed by Freeborn Watson, no date.

Many patriotic ballads came out in the 19th c. in connection with the Centennial celebrations in 1876 and the Exposition in Philadelphia.
In the period of the Revolution, there were similar songs, extolling either the Americans or the British troops. Whether "Dying British Sergeant" and its variants under several names came from Revolutionary War days or later, I don't know.

One 18th c. song, of the ilk, is "A Song, Composed by the British Soldiers, after the fight at Bunker Hill, June 17, 1775."

There are several buried in American Memory under the horrendously long titles popular at the time.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: ADD Version: General Gage
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 08 Aug 04 - 04:48 PM

"Britannia's Disgrace..." is entitled "General Gage" in an other undated broadside. To General, it adds 'Gage' to verse five, line four.
It has two York verses:

We sailed to York, sailed through the sound
And many a traitor there we found
Who told us we could win the day-
There was no danger they did say.

As a last verse:
We sailed from York as you've told
With the loss of many a Briton bold,
Full fifteen hundred have been slain,
Bold British heroes every one.

Both of these broadsides are printed with 19th c. type.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: ADD: A Song Composed by the British Soldiers
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 09 Aug 04 - 11:58 AM

The following ballad, an entirely different song, is posted for comparison. It has 18th c. lettering, which persisted until about 1820, and is included with the Nineteenth-Century Song Sheets by American Memory. No date.

A SONG COMPOSED BY THE BRITISH SOLDIERS,
after the fight at Bunker Hill, June 17, 1775.

It was on the seventeenth by brake of day,
The Yankees did surprise us,
With their strong works they had thrown up,
To burn the town and drive us;
But soon we had an order come,
An order to defeat them:
Like rebels stout they stood it out,
And thought we ne'er could beat them.

About the hour of twelve that day,
An order came for marching,
With three good flints and sixty rounds,
Each man hoped to discharge them.
We marched down to the long wharf,
Where boats were ready waiting;
With expedition we embark'd,
Our ships kept cannonading.

And when our boats all filled were
With officers and soldiers,
With as good troops as England had,
To oppose who dared controul us;
And when our boats all filled were,
We row'd in line of battle,
Where flow'rs of balls like hail did fly,
Our cannon loud did rattle.

There was Cop's hill battery near Charlestown,
Our twenty-fours thay played,
And the three frigates in the stream,
That very well behaved:
The Glasgow frigate clear'd the shore,
All at the time of landing,
With her grape shot and cannon balls,
No Yankees e'er could stand them.

And when we landed on the shore,
We drew up all together;
The Yankees they all man'd their works,
And thought we'd ne'er come thither;
But soon they did perceive brave Howe,
Brave Howe our bold commander,
With grenadiers and infantry,
We made them to surrender.

Brave William Howe, on our right wing,
Cry'd boys fight on like thunder;
You soon will see the rebels flee,
With great amaze and wonder.
Now some lay bleeding on the ground,
And some full fast a running,
O'er hills and dales and mountains high,
Crying, zounds! brave Howe's a coming.

They began to play on our left wing,
Where Pegot commanded;
But we returned it back again,
With courage most undaunted.
To our grape shot and musket balls,
To which they were but strangers,
They thought to come with sword in hand,
But soon they found their danger.

And when the works we got into,
And put them to the flight, sir,
Some of them did hide themselves,
And others died with fright, sir.
And then their works we got into,
Without great fear or danger,
The work they'd made so firm and strong,
The Yankees are great strangers.

But as for our artillery,
They all behaved dinty;
For while their ammunition held,
We gave it to them plenty.
But our conductor he got broke,
For his misconduct, sure, sir;
The shot he sent for twelve pound guns
Were made for twenty-four, sir.

There's some in Boston pleas'd to say,
As we the field were taking,
We went to kill their countrymen,
While they their hay were making;
For such stout Whigs I never saw;
To hang them all I'd rather,
For making hay with musket-balls
And buckshot mixed together.

Brave Howe is so considerate,
As to prevent all danger;
He allows half a pint a day;
To rum we are no strangers.
Long may he live by land and sea,
For he's beloved by many;
The name of Howe the Yankees dread,
We see it very plainly.

And now my song is at an end;
And to conclude my ditty,
It is the poor and ignorant,
And only them I pity.
And as for their king John Hancock,
And Adams, if they're taken,
Their heads for signs shall hang up high,
Upon that hill call'd Bacon.

Printed by Lockwood, Brooks and Co., Boston. American Song Sheets, Series 1, Volume 8. Spelling not changed.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: ADD Version: Dying British Sergeant
From: Joe Offer
Date: 11 Aug 04 - 04:31 AM

I'm still wondering about the source of the Digital Tradition version. Maybe it's from the singing of Frank Warner himself. The Penguin Book of American Folk Songs (Alan Lomax, 1964) has a text that also comes from Warner. It's almost the same as the other two, but there are some differences. Note that this version does not have the final "Fight On!" verse, and neither does the version in the Digital Tradition.

The Dying British Sergeant

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

'Twas in October, the eighteenth day,
Our ship set sail for Amerikay,
The drums and the trumpets loud did sound,
And then to Boston we were bound.

And when to Boston we did come
We thought by the aid of our British guns
To make them Yankees own our King,
And daily tribute to him bring.

But to our sad and sore surprise
We saw men like grasshoppers rise,
'Freedom or death' was all their cry,
Indeed, they were not feared to die.

When I received my deathly wound
I bid farewell to England's ground,
My wife and children shall mourn for me
Whilst I lie dead in Amerikee.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: DTStudy: Dying British Sergeant
From: GUEST,Lighter
Date: 11 Aug 04 - 07:33 AM

Alan Lomax was not always the most careful transcriber of lyrics.
Just compare "The Foggy, Foggy Dew" in Folksongs of North America with his stated source, Sandburg's American Songbag. Lomax's printing of "Frankie and Johnny" in the same book elicited a published rebuke from its original collector; for one thing, the collected text had "Albert" as the cheatin' man!

There's no need to assume that the 1964 "British Sergeant" represents an independent traditional text.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: DTStudy: Dying British Sergeant
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 11 Aug 04 - 11:47 AM

There have probably been several rewrites, but similarities tie "The British Sergeant" to the 19th c. Britania's Disgrace. This is clearly shown by the 'grasshopper' verses.
I would like to see the versions in Fuson, even if they are fragments. They may help to place the time of origin.

Nothing at American Memory so far found puts the origin in the 18th c. "A Song Composed by the British Soldiers...." has nothing that allies it to "Sergeant," except that it purportedly is by soldiers.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: DTStudy: Dying British Sergeant
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 11 Aug 04 - 11:52 AM

The 'grasshopper' verse clearly ties "Britannia's Disgrace" and the "Dying Sergeant" together, so the song was known in the 19th c. So far, I have found nothing putting it back to the Revolution.
I would like to see the fragments in Fuson; they might help date the origin.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: DTStudy: Dying British Sergeant
From: Dave Ruch
Date: 19 Jun 17 - 11:14 AM

I just came across a version of "Britania's Disgrace" or "Dying British Sergeant" from a journal entry dated August 28, 1799. If the dating by the author is to be believed (no reason to think it shouldn't be), this would seem to be the earliest known reference to the song. It comes from the journal of one James Tinker, living at the time in New London CT and brought to Western NY to the town of Henrietta in the 19th century.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: DTStudy: Dying British Sergeant
From: Dave Ruch
Date: 20 Jun 17 - 01:15 PM

More information on James Tinker, from Tim Pratt at the Tinker Homestead and Nature Park in Pittsford NY....

James Tinker: b.1772, d.1856. Originally from New London (Waterford), CT. Moved to Pittsford (Henrietta), NY in 1812.

Would have been 17yrs when he wrote that entry. His father was John Tinker (1742-1790). James married Rebekah Tyler in 1799 in Branford, Ct.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate
  Share Thread:
More...

Reply to Thread
Subject:  Help
From:
Preview   Automatic Linebreaks   Make a link ("blue clicky")


Mudcat time: 20 September 2:22 PM EDT

[ Home ]

All original material is copyright © 1998 by the Mudcat Café Music Foundation, Inc. All photos, music, images, etc. are copyright © by their rightful owners. Every effort is taken to attribute appropriate copyright to images, content, music, etc. We are not a copyright resource.