The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #29402   Message #371797
Posted By: GUEST, Art Thieme
09-Jan-01 - 06:27 PM
Thread Name: Lyr Req: St. Claire was our commander
Subject: Lyr Add: ST. CLARE'S DEFEAT
Ann Grimes did an LP for Folkways (FH5217) OHIO STATE BALLADS that includes this song. Bob Gibson did it later in a relatively modern way. This topical ballad was circulated as a broadside (printed) that was hung on the wall of many homes in the early 1800s. It tells of the bloodiest battle of the Indian wars which continued in the Ohio country during and after the Revolutionary War. The Indians were encouraged by their British allies to attack surveyors and settlers coming to the area after the Ordinance of 1787. The ballad follows the battle's action on Nov. 4, 1791. The oral tradition changed some of the names of the participants slightly in Ms. Grimes' version---and Bob Gibson changed it some later also. The troops at Marietta on the Ohio River were sent by George Washington down the river to Cincinnatti where the Virginia Militia joined them. They were led by Gen. Arthur St. Clair. Fort Jefferson was one of several forts S. of Greenville. Troops headed to the Indian headquarters at the headwaters of the Wabash River --- which they took to be the St. Mary's. They were ambushed by the Indians under Chief Little Turtle. Over 1000 troops were killed there in the southwest corner of what is now Mercer County near the Indiana line.


'Twas November the 4th in the year of '91,
We had a strong engagement near to Fort Jefferson,
Sinclair was our commander which may remembered be,
For we left 900 men there in that Western Territory.

At Bunker's Hill and at Kennebec where many a hero fell,
Likewise at Cannondaigua the truth to you I'll tell,
But such a bloody carnage may I never see again,
As happened near St. Mary's all on that river plain.

The army was attacked just as the day did dawn,
And was soon overpowered and driven from the lawn,
They killed Major Oldham, Levin and Briggs likewise,
While horrid yells of savages resounded to the sky.

3 hours more we fought them 'til then we had to yield,
900 bloody warriors lay stretched upon the field,
Says Col. Gibson to his men, "My boys, be not dismayed
I am sure that true Virginians were never yet afraid."

"Ten thousand deaths I'd rather die than they should gain the field,"
With that he got a fatal shot -- which caused him for to yield,
Says Major Clark, "My heroes, we can no longer stand,
We'll strive to form in honor and retreat the best we can."

The word "retreat" being passed around, there rose a dismal cry,
Then helter-skelter through the woods like wolves and sheep they fly,
This well-apointed army which but a day before,
Had braved, defied all danger and like a cloud passed o'er.

Alas, the dying and wounded---how dreadful was the thought,
To the tomahawk and scalping knife in misery are brought
Some had a thigh and some an arm broke on the field that day,
Who writhed in torment at the stake to close the dire fray.

To mention our brave officers is what I wish to do,
No sons of Mars e're fought more brave or with more courage true,
To Captain Bradford I belonged---to his artillery,
He fell that day amongst the slain --- a valiant man was he.

(I hope this helps you. There are other varients of the song around.-------Art Thieme)