Poetry by Major John Andre
The following lyrics, set to a popular colonial tune, were penned by British Major John Andre to commemorate a raid by "Mad Anthony" Wayne, who had been a tanner in civilian life. The raid, on a Loyalist ("the refugees") supply depot near Nyack, had as its purpose the securing of beef to feed the Continentals. The skirmish that ensued was less than memorable for the Patriots.
"THE COW CHASE To drive the kine* one summer's morn the tanner took his way.
The calf shall rue that is unborn the jumbling of that day,
And Wayne-descending steers shall know and tauntingly deride,
And call to mind in every low the tanning of his hide.
All wondrous proud in arms they came, what hero could refuse,
To tread the rugged path to fame-who had a pair of shoes.
At six, the host with sweating buff arrived at Freedom's pole,
And Wayne, who thought he'd time enough, thus speechified the whole
O ye, who glory doth unite who Freedom's cause espouse,
Whether the wing that's doomed to fight or that to drive the cows,
Their fort and blockhouse we will level and deal a horrid slaughter,
We'll drive the scoundrels to the devil and ravish wife and daughter
And I, under cover of attack, whilst you are all at blows,
From English neighborhood and Nyack will drive away the cows,
For well you know the latter is the serious operation,
And fighting with the refugees is only demonstration.
His daring words from all the crowd such great applause did gain
That every man declared aloud for serious work with Wayne,
And now the foe began to lead his forces to the attack,
Balls whistling unto balls succeed and make the blockhouse crack.
The firmer as the Rebels pressed, the loyal heroes stand,
Virtue had nerved each honest breast and industry each hand,
And as the fight was further fought and balls began to thicken,
The fray assumed, the generals thought, the color of a lickin'.
Yet undismayed the chiefs command, and to redeem the day,
Cry, "Soldiers, charge!" They hear, they stand, they turn and run away.
And now I've closed my epic strain, I tremble as I show it,
Lest this same warrior-drover, Wayne, should ever catch ---this poet."
*kine - an archaic term for cattle.
After Major Andre was captured and hanged for his part in the Benedict Arnold affair, an anonymous wag added this final verse: "When the epic strain was sung
The poet by the neck was hung
And to his cost he finds too late
The dung-born tribe decides his fate."
Major John Andre
self portrait done shortly before his execution
Original at Yale University
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