James and Mary Ford, eds. Every Day in the Year. 1902.

August 27

The Maryland Battalion

By John Williamson Palmer (1825–1896)

  • The battle of Long Island was fought at the extreme western end of that island on August 27, 1776. The British under Lord Howe defeated the Americans, but the latter made a masterly retreat under cover of night.

  • SPRUCE Macaronis, and pretty to see,

    Tidy and dapper and gallant were we;

    Blooded fine gentlemen, proper and tall,

    Bold in a fox-hunt and gay at a ball;

    Prancing soldados so martial and bluff,

    Billets for bullets, in scarlet and buff—

    But our cockades were clasped with a mother’s low prayer,

    And the sweethearts that braided the sword-knots were fair.

    There was grummer of drums humming hoarse in the hills,

    And the bugles sang fanfaron down by the mills,

    By Flatbush the bagpipes were droning amain,

    And keen cracked the rifles in Martense’s lane;

    For the Hessians were flecking the hedges with red,

    And the grenadiers’ tramp marked the roll of the dead.

    Three to one, flank and rear, flashed the files of St. George,

    The fierce gleam of their steel as the glow of a forge.

    The brutal boom-boom of their swart cannoneers

    Was sweet music compared with the taunt of their cheers—

    For the brunt of their onset, our crippled array,

    And the light of God’s leading gone out in the fray.

    Oh, the rout on the left and the tug on the right!

    The mad plunge of the charge and the wreck of the flight!

    When the cohorts of Grant held stout Stirling at strain,

    And the mongrels of Hesse went tearing the slain;

    When at Freeke’s Mill the flumes and the sluices ran red,

    And the dead choked the dike and the marsh choked the dead!

    “Oh, Stirling, good Stirling, how long must we wait?

    Shall the shout of your trumpet unleash us too late?

    Have you never a dash for brave Mordecai Gist,

    With his heart in his throat, and his blade in his fist?

    Are we good for no more than to prance in a ball,

    When the drums beat the charge and the clarions call?”

    Tralára! Tralára! Now praise we the Lord

    For the clang of His call and the flash of His sword!

    Tralára! Tralára! Now forward to die;

    For the banner, hurrah! and for sweethearts, good-by!

    “Four hundred wild lads!” May be so. I’ll be bound

    ’T will be easy to count us, face up, on the ground.

    If we hold the road open, though Death take the toll,

    We ’ll be missed on parade when the States call the roll—

    When the flags meet in peace and the guns are at rest,

    And fair Freedom is singing Sweet Home in the West.