Castle Island Song | American Revolution War Song


    About the author

    Frank Moore
    Frank Moore

    Frank Moore was a journalist and Revolutionary historian. He published a number of books on the American Revolution during his career in the mid-19th century, including Songs and Ballads of the American Revolution, Diary of the American Revolution and The Patriot Preachers of the American Revolution.


      These verses appeared in a broadside, a short time after the “massacre of the fifth of March,” 1 1770, as a “new song much in vogue among the friends to arbitary power, and the soldiery at Castle Island,1 where it was composed, since the troops have evacuated the town of Boston.”

      Castle Island Song

      You simple Bostonians, I’d have you beware,
      Of your Liberty Tree, I would have you take care,
      For if that we chance to return to the town,
      Your houses and stores will come tumbling down.
      Derry down, down, hey derry down.
      If you will not agree to Old England’s laws,
      I fear that King Hancock will soon get the yaws
      But he need not fear, for I swear we will,
      For the want of a doctor give him a hard pill.

      A brave reinforcement, we soon think to get;
      Then we will make you poor pumpkins to sweat:
      Our drums they’ll rattle, and then you will run
      To the devil himself, from the sight of a gun.

      Our fleet and our army, they soon will arrive,
      Then to a bleak island, you shall not us drive.
      In every house, you shall have three or four,
      And if that will not please you, you shall have half a score.
      Derry down, down, hey derry down.

      1. Castle Island. Castle William was situated on this island. In 1798, the fortress was ceded to the United States, and in the following year was named by President Adams, Fort Independence.

      Massacre of the fifth of March.

      Two regiments of British troops under command of Colonels Dalrymple and Carr, arrived at Boston in the month of September, 1768. The people of Boston desired that they should be stationed at the Castle, but “they landed with all the appearance of hostility! They marched through the town with all the ensigns of triumph, evidently designed to subject the inhabitants to the severe discipline of a garrison, and continued their enormities by abusing the people.” On the second day of March, 1770, a quarrel arose between two soldiers of the 29th regiment, and the workmen at a ropewalk not far distant from the barracks. The soldiers being repulsed, soon made another attack, having increased their number to ten or twelve, but these were also successfully resisted. In consequence of these quarrels the soldiery declared they would be avenged. The following account of their proceedings is taken from the Boston Chronicle of March 8, 1770. “Last Monday about 9 o’clock at night a most unfortunate affair happened in King Street. The sentinel posted at the Custom House, being surrounded by a number of people, called to the main-guard, upon which Captain Preston, with a party, went to his assistance, soon after which some of the party fired, by which the following persons were killed. Samuel Gray, rope maker, a mulatto man, named Attucks, and Mr. James Caldwell. Early the next morning Captain Preston was committed to jail, and the same day eight soldiers. A meeting of the inhabitants was called at Faneuil Hall that forenoon, and the lieutenant-governor and council met at the council chamber, where the Colonels, Dalrymple and Carr, were desired to attend, when it was concluded upon, that both regiments should go down to the barracks at Castle William, as soon as they were ready to receive them.”

      The funeral of the victims of the massacre was attended the 8th of March. On this occasion the shops of the town were closed, and all the bells were ordered to be tolled, as were those of the neighboring towns. The procession began to move between 4 and 5 o’clock, P. M., the bodies of the two strangers, Caldwell and Attucks, being borne from Faneuil Hall, and those of the other victims, from the residence of their families, the hearses meeting in King Street, near the scene of the tragedy, and passing through the main street, to the burial ground, where the bodies were all deposited in one vault. Patrick Carr, who was wounded in the affair, died on the 14th, and was buried on the 17th, in the same vault with his murdered associates. Shortly after the occurrence Paul Revere, of Boston, engraved and printed a large handbill, giving a sketch of the scene, and accompanied it with the following lines:

      “Unhappy Boston I see thy sons deplore
      Thy hallowed walks besmear’d with guiltless gore.
      While faithless Preston and his savage bands,
      With murderous rancor stretch their bloody hands;
      Like fierce barbarians grinning o’er their prey,
      Approve the carnage and enjoy the day.
      If scalding drops, from rage, from anguish wrung,
      If speechless sorrows lab’ring for a tongue.
      Or if a weeping world can aught appease
      The plaintive ghosts of victims such as these;
      The patriot’s copious tears for each are shed,
      A glorious tribute which embalms the dead.
      But know, Fate summons to that awful goal,
      Where justice strips the murderer of his soul:
      Should venal C-ts, the scandal of the land,
      Snatch the relentless villain from her hand,
      Keen execrations on this plate inscrib’d
      Shall reach a judge who never can be bribed.”

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