James Bird

Laws A5

Tune from George M. Haskins of Gordon, Wisconsin; text from a manuscript of John James Johnson.

Sons of freedom, listen to me,
And ye daughters too give ear,
You a sad and mournful story
As was ever told shall hear.

Hull you know his troops surrendered
And defenseless left the west
And Captain Thomas our commander
The invader to resist.

Among the troops that marched to Erie
Were the Kingston Volunteers,
And Captain Thomas was our commander
To protect our west frontiers.

But there was one amongst that number
Tall and graceful in his mien
Firm his step, his look undaunted
Never a nobler youth was seen.

One sweet kiss he stole from Mary,
Begged his mother’s prayers once more,
Pressed his father’s hand and started
For Lake Erie’s distant shores.

“Where is Bird? The battle rages
Is he in the strife or no?
Hear the cannons roar tremendous.
Dare he meet the dreadful foe?”

Painting by William Henry Powell depicting Per...

Painting by William Henry Powell depicting Perry’s transfer to the Niagara during the Battle of Lake Erie. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Yes — by Perry see him standing
In the self same ship he fights
[Though] his messmates fall around him
Nothing can his [soul] affright.

But behold a ball has hit him,
See the crimson current flow
“Leave the deck,” exclaimed brave Perry,
“No,” cried Bird, “I will not go.”

“Here on deck I have took my station,
Bird will near his colors fly.
I’ll stand by you galliant Perry
Till we conquer or we die.”

Thus he fought both faint and bleeding
Till out Stripes and Stars arose.
Victory having crowned our efforts
All triumphant o’er our foes.

Then did Bird receive a pension?
Was he to his friends restored?
No, nor never to his bosom
Clasped the maid his heart adored.

But there came most dismal tidings
From Lake Erie’s distant shore:
“I must suffer for deserting
From the brig Niagarie.

[“Dearest parents,” said the letter,
“This will bring sad news to you.]
Read this letter, brother, sisters
It is the last you’l have from me.”

Though he fought so brave at Erie,
Freely bled and boldly dared.
Let his courage plead for mercy,
Let his noble life be spared.

It was a dark and doleful morning,
Bird was ordered out to die.
Where is the heart not dead to pity
But for him would heave a sigh?

See him kneeling on his coffin;
Sure, his death can do no good.
Spare him. Hark — my God they have shot him!
See his bosom stream with blood!

Farewell, Bird. Farewell forever.
Friends and home you will see no more.
Now his mangled corpse lies buried
On Lake Erie’s distant shore.

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