Rifleman's Song at Bennington
DESCRIPTION: "Why come ye hither, redcoats? Your mind what madness fills?" The singer warns the British soldiers of danger in America. They are asked if there are no graves in Britain for them. He promises a quick death "If flint and trigger hold but true."
AUTHOR: Words: John Allison / Music traditional, set by John Allison
EARLIEST DATE: 1962 (recording, Pete Seeger)
KEYWORDS: battle patriotic
Aug 16, 1777 - Battle of Bennington.
FOUND IN: US
REFERENCES (4 citations):
Cohen-AFS1, pp. 25-26, "RIflemen's Song at Bennington" (1 text)
Botkin-NEFolklore, pp. 543-544, "Rifleman's Song at Bennington" (1 text, 1 tune)
Silber-FSWB, p. 280, "The Riflemen At Bennington" (1 text)
Pete Seeger, "Riflemen of Bennington" (on PeteSeeger32)
NOTES: Recorded by John and Lucy Allison. There is no reason to believe this song ever circulated in oral tradition.
The Battle of Bennington was part of John Burgoyne's campaign that ended at Saratoga. Burgoyne had a long supply train, and was forced to forage to supply his troops. He ordered Colonel Friedrich Baum to take about 650 men to raid the Colonial supply center at Bennington.
The colonial leader John Stark is believed to have had about 2000 men, although they were poorly organized (almost all were militia, which in the Revolutionary War translated as "individuals with guns who came and went as they pleased"). This large force surrounded Baum, who ignored them until fired upon, then fought until his ammunition gave out. He was killed as his men tried to cut their way out, and most of the remaining British forces surrendered.
This very nearly doomed Burgoyne's expedition. He could perhaps have retreated -- but that wasn't politically wise. So he sat, and starved, and eventually had to surrender. For further background, see the notes to "The Fate of John Burgoyne." - RBW
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