Home  »  A Library of American Literature  »  Bunker’s Hill

Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

Bunker’s Hill

By Hugh Henry Brackenridge (1748–1816)

[Born near Campbelton, Scotland, 1748. Died at Carlisle, Penn., 1816. The Battle of Bunker’s Hill. A Dramatic Piece in Five Acts. 1776.]

YOU bold warriors, who resemble

Flames upon the distant hill;

At whose view the heroes tremble,

Fighting with unequal skill.

Loud-sounding drums, now with hoarse murmurs,

Rouse the spirit up to war;

Fear not, fear not, though their numbers

Much to ours superior are.

Hear brave Warren, bold commanding:

“Gallant souls and veterans brave,

See the enemy just landing

From the navy-covered wave.

Close the wings—advance the centre—

Engineers point well your guns—

Clap the matches—let the rent air

Bellow to Britannia’s sons.”

Now, think you see three thousand moving,

Up the brow of Bunker’s hill;

Many a gallant veteran shoving

Cowards on, against their will.

The curling volumes all behind them,

Dusky clouds of smoke arise;

Our cannon-balls, brave boys, shall find them,

At each shot a hero dies.

Once more, Warren, ’midst this terror,

“Charge, brave soldiers, charge again!

Many an expert veteran warrior

Of the enemy is slain.

Level well your charged pieces,

In direction to the town;

They shake, they shake, their lightning ceases;

That shot brought six standards down.”

Maids in virgin beauty blooming,

On Britannia’s sea-girt isle,

Say no more your swains are coming,

Or with songs the day beguile,

For sleeping found in death’s embraces,

On their clay-cold beds they lie;

Death, grim death, alas, defaces

Youth and pleasure, which must die.

“March the right wing, Gardiner, yonder;

The hero spirit lives in thunder;

Take the assailing foe in flank,

Close there, sergeants, close that rank.

The conflict now doth loudly call on

Highest proof of martial skill;

Heroes shall sing of them, who fall on

The slippery brow of Bunker’s Hill.”

Unkindest fortune, still thou changest,

As the wind upon the wave;

The good and bad alike thou rangest,

Undistinguished in the grave.

Shall kingly tyrants see thee smiling,

Whilst the brave and just must die;

Them of sweet hope and life beguiling

In the arms of victory?

“Behave this day, my lads, with spirit,

Wrap the hill-top as in flame;

Oh! if we fall, let each one merit

Immortality in fame.

From this high ground, like Vesuvius,

Pour the floods of fire along;

Let not, let not numbers move us,

We are yet five hundred strong.”

Many a widow, sore bewailing

Tender husbands, shall remain,

With tears and sorrows unavailing,

From this hour to mourn them slain.

The rude scene, striking all by-standers,

Bids the little band retire;

Who can live like salamanders,

In such floods of liquid fire?

“Ah, our troops are sorely pressed—

Howe ascends the smoky hill;

Wheel inward, let these ranks be faced,

We have yet some blood to spill.

Our right wing pushed, our left surrounded,

Weight of numbers five to one;

Warren dead, and Gardiner wounded—

Ammunition is quite gone.”

See the steely points, bright gleaming

In the sun’s fierce dazzling ray;

Groans arising, life-blood streaming

Purple o’er the face of day.

The field is covered with the dying,

Freemen mixed with tyrants lie,

The living with each other vying

Raise the shout of battle high.

Now brave Putnam, aged soldier:

“Come, my veterans, we must yield;

More equal matched, we’ll yet charge bolder,

For the present quit the field.

The God of battles shall revisit

On their heads each soul that dies;

Take courage, boys, we yet sha’n’t miss it,

From a thousand victories.”