You are here

The Retreat from New York, Poem Written by a Soldier, American Revolution, n.d.

Poem, "The retreat from New York"

Poem, "The retreat from New York"

Other, NYHS_MSRevWar_B2_001
Document Description
The Retreat from New York, a poem written during the American Revolution by soldier, n.d.
The Retreat from New York

Come all you soldiers far & Near 
A true relation you shall hear 
How we were obliged to Retreat 
From Danger of the british fleat
2  September on the fifteenth Day 
So Clost in ambush we Did Lay 
Till Cannon balls begun to fly 
Their smoak asending to the sky

Our generals sent strict command 
March on brave boys & make no stand 
We then away; my boys did steer 
With Colours flying front and Rear

The british troops were landing then 
It was near horns hook full thousand ten 
Endeavouring to hinder our Retreat 
And there my boys we did them meet

They the so boly gave us (one) fire 
I wish my boys we had been nier 
But the milisia before were 
and they soon were; running here and there

Our major says; men Doe not run 
face to the right & load your gun 
Case of your packs be no afraid 
We’ll fight them boys be not Dismaid

That were a sore and Dismal Day 
For many fainted by the way 
Being over Come with heat & thrist 
Therefore my boys were put to (the) worst

Our number than being but small 
Our officers did to mind Recald 
That we wer afainting with the heat 
Therefore though best for to Retreat

We made the best of our Escape 
To Read us of the Dismal fate 
They did swiftly after us persue 
But the next day were made to rue
We marched onto harlom hights 
On the Cold ground we lay all night 
awaiting for the brake of Day 
Resolving then to give them play
When morning Came we soon did hear 
They were sat out in full Career 
thinking to Drive us; as before 
But they mistaken were full sore
Our men so boly did advance 
which made these Lobsters for to Dance 
we Drove them back the way they Came 
And laid them sprolling on the plain
It pleas’d our generals to the heart 
Tio See how we did play the part 
How lobsters did Confess that Day 
That the Yankees were as good as they
Come now my boys Chear up your Souls 
Come Tost about your flowing boles 
We’ll tell the battle we have Won 
and sing huzzar for Washington
Huzzar huzzar for Washington 
we make hows lobsters for to run 
we neither care for them nor he 
For washington is the man for me.
Who is the speaker? 
What is the occasion?
Who is the audience?
What is the purpose of this document?
What is the subject?
What is the tone?
Historical Challenges
Trace the Battle of New York and the retreat of the American soldiers on a map of the New York area (check the Resources).
Soldiers throughout time have used words to capture their experiences in battle and everyday life.  Locate a poem written by a soldier or other combatant in another conflict.  Discuss the structure and tone of the poem.
Research the Battle of New York and identify the major strategies and tactics used by the British and American forces.  Evaluate the short and long term success for each side’s strategy.
Interdisciplinary Connections
Art/Geography – Take a map of the Battle of New York and use phrases from the poem and other graphics to illustrate the map.
English/Language Arts – Take a selection from the poem and write an alternate stanza from the British point of view.
A Map of the Province of New York 1776
Campaign of 1776 around New York and Brooklyn (ebook)
Poems of the American Revolution
Outfitting a Revolutionary War Soldier
The American Revolution:  Defeat and Victory in New York
Columbia American History Online (DBQ)

Historical Context
Military records for the American Revolution come from three main sources:  state veterans’ lists, which date to the early 19th century, federal veterans’ pension applications dating to 1832, and the records of the Daughters of the American Revolution.  Consequently it is difficult to pinpoint the exact number of American soldiers who fought during the American Revolution.  Approximately 175,000 men served as soldiers, including five thousand free black men and slaves. 
Colonial militias and the Continental Army constituted the two main branches of military service.   Colonial militias generally required service of every male between the ages of 16 and 60.  There were exceptions made for clergy and college students, among others, but the colonial militias provided the largest force of soldiers during the war.  Militiamen were able to live at home most of the time during the war and were generally only called into action when there were battles in their home regions.  As the war progressed, many militiamen, concerned about their families and farms were reluctant to sign on for long periods of service.  Some, including General George Washington, believed that militiamen were less disciplined, hardened, and professional than soldiers should be.  Despite concerns, the militias served an important role in the Revolutionary War.  In June of 1775, the Continental Congress established a standing professional army, the American Continental Army.  Continental soldiers enlisted for terms of service ranging from one year initially then longer terms as the war wore on.  On average, Continental soldiers were younger, under 20 years of age, and poorer than their militia counterparts.  The middle and upper classes generally avoided service in the Continental Army by paying substitutes to enlist for them.  Baron Von Steuben helped bring discipline and skills to the Continental Army and it became an effective fighting force.  For some soldiers, even the harsh discipline and lack of resources of Army life were preferable to their lives at home.  Although often delayed, soldiers of the Continental Army at least received pay.  As the war progressed, many colonial governments drafted men to serve in the militia or the Continental Army.
Soldiers had to endure harsh conditions during the war.  They were often not given enough clothing or food and medical care was minimal.  Many soldiers died of disease.  The harsh conditions and brutality of battle prompted many soldiers to desert. 
Essential Question
What were some of the conditions faced by soldiers in the American Revolution and how did they respond to them?
Check for Understanding
How did the Battle for New York illustrate the strengths and weaknesses of the Patriot cause during the American Revolution?