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Bennington Rifles

14 Apr 01 - 08:25 PM (#440757)
Subject: Bennington Rifles copyright
From: Haruo

How did John Allison/Stormking come to have a copyright on this song; the text is traditional, and I think the tune is, too. What year do they claim copyright in it for? I learned it as a traditional song in school in the early sixties.

If Allison did in fact compose the tune, what tune was the (traditional) text previously sung to?


14 Apr 01 - 08:52 PM (#440776)
Subject: RE: Bennington Rifles
From: Greg F.

If you mean the "Why come ye hither strangers" &c., I believe it was a recognized traditional song & tune long before the sixties. Beats me, unless it's another case of hijacking a trad. song- plenty of examples of that, unfortunately.

Best, Greg

14 Apr 01 - 11:52 PM (#440895)
Subject: RE: Bennington Rifles
From: Naemanson

I've got it on an old record and now I have to go look it up. Damn!

I will report back on what the liner notes say when I find it.

15 Apr 01 - 12:05 AM (#440903)
Subject: RE: Bennington Rifles
From: raredance

Two books that I have that include supposed revolutionary era songs, (one by Jerry Silverman, 1994 and one byIrwin Silber, 1973) both credit Allison with the music. One of them says as sung by John Allison. 5 other books with similar material, including a couple of older ones, do not include the song. So maybe it was a poem that was printed in a local paper or a braodside that was never actually sung contemporaneously.

rich r

15 Apr 01 - 12:22 AM (#440919)
Subject: RE: Bennington Rifles
From: Sourdough

I heard a homemade recording of the song played by someone on a 12-string from Boston (the player, not the guitar. Of course, the guitar might have been from Boston, too. Ah, but I digress, Gentle Reader) in 1958 and the recording was several years old. The unusual feature of the performance was that there was a rhythmic punctuation of the chorus with two smart slaps to the guitar body.


15 Apr 01 - 10:00 PM (#441431)
Subject: RE: Bennington Rifles
From: dick greenhaus

John Allison, back in the 1940s and 1950s, did a fine job of finding broadsides and composing appropriate, singable tunes for them. Wild Goose Grasses, Bowery Grenadiers and Riflemen's Song are three of his better-known songs.

If you want to jump on somebody about claiming songs, try Oscar Brand (who claims Yankee Doodle) and Pete Seeger (Cindy, Old Joe Clark and a bunch of others), as well as Woody Guthrie, who claims words and music copyrights on everything he did.

15 Apr 01 - 10:12 PM (#441441)
Subject: RE: Bennington Rifles
From: raredance

Sourdough, the rhythmic slaps or claps or thumps on the instrument are in the printed versions and Pete Seeger has recorded it that way also. The logical inference is that's the way Allison wrote it.

rich r

16 Apr 01 - 08:18 PM (#442102)
Subject: RE: Bennington Rifles
From: Abby Sale

Burl Ives prints "The Rifleman's Song at Bennington" in 1953 and the Folkways recording (1975) both imply the tune is trad but give no attribution. I don't find it elsewhere. Good song - the two smart slaps are rifle cracks, of course & could be clapped or whatever to simulate this. I sing it every August 16th. (Battle of Bennington- 8/16/1777)

17 Apr 01 - 07:35 PM (#442944)
Subject: RE: Bennington Rifles
From: Haruo

So if I want to make a MIDI of it and put my version on my website (i.e. as background music for my Esperanto version of the text) to whom if anyone am I supposed to turn for permission?

who has no desire to rip anyone off
but also no funds for royalties

17 Apr 01 - 09:16 PM (#443056)
Subject: RE: Bennington Rifles
From: Irish sergeant

Liland: The copyright office has a website. They should be able to tell you. I would think if the tune is traditional unless Allison altered the tune or lyrics you would be on safe ground. They can tell you wheither or not the song is in public domain. Hope this helps, Neil

18 Apr 01 - 11:50 AM (#443442)
Subject: RE: Bennington Rifles
From: dick greenhaus

Allison didn't alter the tune: he wrote it. Lyrics are 18 century.

18 Apr 01 - 07:42 PM (#443884)
Subject: RE: Bennington Rifles
From: Irish sergeant

In that case (See Dick's reply) Liland, you can use the word but you must get permission to use the tune. Kindest Reguards, Neil

15 Jul 03 - 05:19 PM (#983991)
Subject: Lyr Add: Riflemen of Bennington
From: GUEST,

Riflemen of Bennington

Why come ye hither, ye Redcoats? Your mind what madness fills?
In our valleys there is danger and there's danger on our hills
Oh hear ye not the singing of the bugle proud and free?
Soon you'll hear the rifle, ringing from the tree

For the rifle (clap, clap), the rifle, (clap, clap)
In our hands will prove no trifle
Yes the rifle (clap, clap), the rifle, (clap, clap)
In our hands will prove no trifle

Ye ride a goodly steed, ye may know another master
Ye forward came with speed but you'll learn to back much faster
When you meet our Mountain Boys and their leader Johnny Stark
Men who make but little noise but who always hit their mark


Tell he who stays at home, or 'cross the briny waters
That hither ye must come like bullocks to the slaughter
If we the work must do, then the sooner 'tis begun
If flint and trigger hold but true, the quicker 'twill be done.


15 Jul 03 - 05:33 PM (#984002)
Subject: RE: Lyr. Add Riflemen of Bennington
From: Malcolm Douglas

It's nice that you're posting songs, but it would be even nicer if you were to give some information about them as well. Usually it's a help if people say where they got songs from, and give some indication of what the tune might be, if they are able to. Sources are important for traditional songs, and of course writer credits should always be given when a song has a known writer. In this case, the lyric is already in the Digital Tradition database:  The Riflemen's Song at Bennington, with the tune put to it by John Allison.

Until you are used to it, it can be a bit difficult checking to see whether a song is already here, as titles and spellings do vary; the best way is to search for a short, distinctive phrase in the song rather than the title you know. There are more hints about the best way of posting songs in the FAQ; you'll see a link to it at the top of the thread list on the main Forum page.

15 Jul 03 - 07:36 PM (#984079)
Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Riflemen of Bennington
From: GUEST,

Thank you for your advice. I will follow it as best I can from this time forward.

07 May 18 - 05:37 AM (#3922642)
Subject: RE: Bennington Rifles
From: DrewG

There is an article by the New York Folklore Society - John Allison: the collector as folk artist Volume 9 Issue 3 pages 27-36, (1983) which explains the sources for several of Allison's songs, among many other aspects of his artistry (research as well as from interviews with Allison). According to the article, the words for The Riflemans Song at Bennington are from Burton E. Stevenson's "Poems of American History" (1908).   The text was left as it appears with the exception of the word "redcoats" substituted for "strangers" in the first line. The air to this song was composed by Allison. The article also states that The Rifleman's Song at Bennington was originally printed as a poem rather than a song ("Varieties" New York Mirror - Dec 9, 1837). There is no indication of an air for this text at that time.

The article also states that The Burl Ives Songbook contains four Allison songs, all printed without credit to Allison.