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Variously titled: The Ballad Of Major Andre, this song first appeared in 1780. Different sets of verses were published over the next couple years. The set transcribed below was published in 1783.
Major John Andre was the British officer in contact with Benedict Arnold, who being upset by having been passed over with a promotion, attempted to betray West Point by disclosing its defenses. John Paulding commanded the detachment of militia that stopped Major Andre as he was passing behind the Patriot lines. In the routine process of searching Andre, Paulding found the plans for West Point in his boot. The result of Andre's involvement was that he was hanged on 02 October 1780. Arnold, on hearing of Andre's arrest, escaped to British-held New York City ~ forever after branded as the country's biggest traitor.
Come all you brave Americans, And unto me give ear; And I'll sing you a ditty That will your spirits cheer,
Concerning a young gentleman Whose age was twenty-two; He fought for North America, His heart was just and true.
They took him from his dwelling, And they did him confine, They cast him into prison, And kept him there a time.
But lie with resolution Resolv'd not long to stay; He set himself at liberty, And soon be ran away.
He with a scouting Party Went down to Tarrytown, Where he met a British officer, A man of high renown;
Who says into these gentlemen, "You're of the British cheer, I trust that you can tell me If there's any danger near"'
Then up stept this young hero, John Paulding was his name, "Sir, tell us where you're going, And, also, whence you came?"
I bear the British flag, sir; I've a pass to go this way, I'm on an expedition, And have no time to stay."
Then round him came this company, And bid him to dismount; "Come, tell us where you're going, Give us a strict account;
For we are now resolved, That you shall ne'er pass by." Upon examination They found he was a spy.
He begged for his liberty, He plead for his discharge, And oftentimes he told them, If they'd set him at large,
"Here's all the gold and silver I have laid up in store, But when I reach the city, I'll give you ten times more."
"I want not the gold and silver You have laid up in store, And when you get to New York, You need not send us more;
But you may take your sword in hand To gain your liberty And if that you do conquer me O, then you shall be free."
"The time it is improper Our valor for to try, For if we take our swords in hand, Then one of us must die;
I am a man of honor, With courage true and bold, And I fear not the man of clay, Although he's cloth'd in gold."
He saw that his conspiracy Would soon be brought to light; He begg'd for pen and paper, And asked leave to write
A line to General Arnold, To let him know his fate, And be, for his assistance; But now it was too late.
When the news it came to Arnold, It put him in a fret; He walk'd the room in trouble, Till tears his cheek did wet;
The story soon went through the camp, And also through the fort; And he called for the Vulture And sailed for New York.
Now Arnold to New York is gone, A-fighting for his king, And left poor Major Andre On the gallows for to swing;
When lie was executed, He looked both meek and mild; He look'd upon the people, And pleasantly he smil'd.
It mov'd each eye with pity, Caus'd every heart to bleed, And every one wish'd him releas'd And Arnold in his stead.
He was a man of honor, In Britain he was born; To die upon the gallows Most highly he did scorn.
A bumper to John Paulding! Now let your voices sound, Fill up your flowing glasses, And drink his health around;
Also to those young gentlemen Who bore him company; Success to North America, Ye sons of liberty!
Note: The midi file that is linked to this page was sequenced by John Renfro Davis, and included on the website: http://www.contemplator.com/intro.html