The British Grenadiers

This irresistible march can be traced to the early Playford dance books of the 1690’s where it appears as “The New Bath.” Also called “The London Apprentice” and “All you that love good fellows,” it was officially adopted by the British Grenadiers in the 18th century and has since been identified with troops of trim Redcoats marching with elegant and deadly formality into battle. Colonists knew the tune well and heard in it the enemy’s infuriating haughtiness. It sounded the British advance at Brandywine in September, 1777, with the result that “There was no irregularity, no hurry. They came on with the arrogant assurance that marked the disciplined troops of that period of formal, dress-parade warfare.” After the fighting was over, “The British Grenadiers” was appropriated by American nationalists and renamed by two New Hampshiremen in 1890 as “Vain Britons, Boast No Longer.”

Even before independence was declared, Dr. Joseph Warren parodied the song and its superior tone to protest the swelling numbers of British troops occupying Boston. Warren’s famous oration decrying the Boston Massacre had been delivered in the presence of threatening British soldiers lining his pulpit stairs, and he sounded this same defiant note in “Free America,” a frontal assault on the Grenadiers’ greater-than-the-nine-worthies posturing. The lyrics remind “Proud Albion” that the glories of Athens and Rome inevitably passed into history and that Britain herself had before fallen “To Picts, to Danes, to Normans, / And many masters more.” The real heroes are the Rebels; the arrogant English are “wretches” and those loyal to her, “venal sycophants.” By predicting America’s future world dominance, Warren hoped to persuade other colonies to join Massachusetts on the freedom trail. “Free America” first appeared in 1775, a year before the patrician Dr. Warren died in his fine silk-fringed waistcoat facing the British regulars’ final assault at Breed’s Hill.


The British Grenadiers

Some talk of Alexander,
And some of Hercules,
Of Hector and Lysander,
And such great names as these;
But of all the world’s brave heroes
There’s none that can compare
With a tow row row row row row,
To the British Grenadiers.

None of those ancient heroes
E’re saw a cannon ball,
Or knew the force of powder
To slay their foes withal,
But our brave boys do know it,
And banish all their fears,
Singing, “Tow row row row row row,
To the British Grenadiers.”

Whene’er we are commanded
To storm the palisades,
Our leaders march with fusees,
And we with hand grenades;
We throw them from the glacis
About the enemies’ ears,
Sing tow row row row row row,
The British Grenadiers.

And when the siege is over,
We to the town repair.
The townsmen cry, “Hurrah, boys,
Here comes a Grenadier.
Here come the Grenadiers, my boys,
Who know no doubts or fears,”
Singing, “Tow row row row row row,
To the British Grenadiers.”

Then let us fill a bumper,
And drink a health to those
Who carry caps and pouches,
And wear the louped clothes:
May they and their commanders
Live happy all their years,
With a tow row row row row row,
For the British Grenadiers.

* * * * *

Free America

That seat of science, Athens,
And earth’s proud mistress, Rome;
Where now are all their glories?
We scarce can find a tomb.
Then guard your rights, Americans,
Nor stoop to lawless sway,
Oppose, oppose, oppose, oppose
For North America.

We led fair Franklin hither
And, lo! The desert smiles;
A paradise of pleasure
Was opened to the world!
Your harvest, bold Americans,
No power shall snatch away!
Huzza, huzza, huzza, huzza
For free America.

Torn from a world of tyrants,
Beneath this western sky,
We formed a new dominion,
A land of liberty.
The world shall own we’re masters here;
Then hasten on the day:
Huzza, huzza, huzza, huzza
For free America.

Proud Albion bowed to Caesar,
And numerous lords before;
To Picts, to Danes, to Normans,
And many masters more;
But we can boast, Americans,
We’ve never fallen a prey;
Huzza, huzza, huzza, huzza,
For free America.

God bless this maiden climate,
And through its vast domain
May hosts of heroes cluster,
Who scorn to wear a chain:
And blast the venal sycophant
That dares our rights betray;
Huzza, huzza, huzza, huzza
For free America.

Lift up your heads, ye heroes,
And swear with proud disdain
The wretch that would ensnare you
Shall lay his snares in vain;
Should Europe empty all her force,
We’ll meet her in array,
And fight and shout, and shout and fight
For free America.

Some future day shall crown us
The masters of the main.
Our fleets shall speak in thunder
To England, France, and Spain;
And the nations o’er the oceans spread
Shall tremble and obey
The sons, the sons, the sons, the sons
Of brave America.

BORN IN BATTLE: The American Revolution Songs of the Revolution The British Grenadiers