The Letter | 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.

On Thursday night, the nineteenth of December, at 10 o’clock, off the Delaware, the British ships, Quebec, Diomede and Astrea, carrying ninety-eight guns, fell in with the American ship South Carolina, of forty guns, having under convoy a ship, brigantine and a schooner, bound out from Philadelphia. The South Carolina was chased eighteen hours, when she fired a stern chase at the Diomede, which was returned by one of the latter’s bow-guns. After a running fight of more than two hours, the American colors were struck to the British.

The Letter*

My dear brother Ned,
We are knock’d on the head;
No more let America boast;
We may all go to bed,
And that’s enough said,
For the South Carolina we’ve lost.**

The pride of our eyes,
I swear is a prize,
You never will see her again,
Unless thro’ surprise,
You are brought where she lies,
A prisoner from the false main.

Oh Lord! what a sight –
I was struck with affright,

When the Diomede’s shot round us fell,
I feared that in spite,
They’d have slain us outright,
And sent us directly to h–l.

The Quebec did fire,
Or I’m a curs’d liar,
And the Astrea came up apace;
We could not retire,
From the confounded fire,
They all were so eager in chase.

The Diomede’s shot
Was damnation hot,
She was several times in a blaze;
It was not my lot,
To go then to pot,
But I veow, I was struck with amaze.

And Ned, may I die,
Or be pok’d in a sty,
If ever I venture again
Where bullets do fly,
And the wounded do cry
Tormented with anguish and pain.

The Hope, I can tell,***
And the brig Constance fell,
I swear, and I veow, in our sight;
The first I can say,
Was taken by day,
But the latter was taken at night.

I die to relate
What has been our fate,****
How sadly our navies are shrunk;
The pride of our State,
Begins to abate,
For the branches are lopp’d from the trunk.

The Congress must bend,
We shall fall in the end,
For the curs’d British sarpents are tough;
But, I think as you find,
I have enough penn’d
Of such cursèd, such vexatious stuff.

Yet how vexing to find,
We are left all behind,
That by sad disappointment we’re cross’d;
Ah, fortune unkind !
Thou afflicted’st my mind,
When the South Carolina we lost.

Our enemy vile,
Cunning Digby does smile,
Is pleasèd at our mischance;
He useth each wile,
Our fleets to beguile,
And to check our commerce with France.

No more as a friend,
Our ships to defend,
Of South Carolina we boast;
As a foe in the end
She will us attend,
For the South Carolina we’ve lost

  • *The Letter. This ballad appeared in the loyal papers, as a letter “from a dejected Jonathan, a prisoner taken in the South Carolina, to his brother Ned at Philadelphia.”
  • **For the South Carolina we’ve lost. She was bound on a cruise off Charleston, South Carolina, and was taken the day after she sailed. She was built in Holland in 1778. Her keel was about one hundred and sixty feet long, and as strong as a castle. Captain Joiner commanded her in this action. The Americans’ loss in killed and wounded was fourteen, and that of the British very slight. “Fifty German and eight British soldiers of General Burgoyne’s army, who had been taken out of jail at Philadelphia, and compelled on board the Carolina, rather than submit to be sold by the rebels, were on this occasion happily released from a service so obnoxious to their principles.” Loyal prints.
  • ***The Hope, I can tell. The ship Hope and the brig Constance were the vessels taken in company with the South Carolina. The little schooner escaped and reached Charleston in safety.
  • ****What has been our fate. A few days after the action, the South Carolina arrived at New York and anchored in the East River. The newspapers of that city, in announcing her arrival, say, that “she was to call at Charleston and there receive Commodore Gillon on board, but being imperfectly coppered by the rebels at Philadelphia, it was judged expedient to alter her destination, and bring her round to New York to complete her sheathing, only thirteen feet of which had been performed.”

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