Benjamin Franklin Papers

Song: “The King’s Own Regulars,” 27 November 1775

Song: “The King’s Own Regulars.”

Printed in The Boston Gazette, November 27, 1775.2

The King’s own REGULARS;

And their Triumphs over the Irregulars.


To the Tune of,

An old Courtier of the Queen’s, and the Queen’s old Courtier.

Since you all will have singing, and won’t be said, nay,

I cannot refuse where you so beg and pray;

So I’ll sing you a song-as a body may say.

’Tis of the King’s Regulars, who ne’er run way.

O the old Soldiers of the King, and the King’s own Regulars.

At Preston Pans we met with some Rebels one day,

We marshall’d ourselves all in comely array:

Our hearts were all stout, and bid our legs stay,

But our feet were wrong headed and took us away.

O the old soldiers, &c.

At Falkirk we resolv’d to be braver,

And recover some credit by better behaviour;

We would not acknowledge feet had done us a favour;

So feet swore they would stand, but-legs ran however.

O the old soldier, &c.

No troops perform better than we at reviews;

We march and we wheel, and whatever you chuse.

George would see how we fight, and we never refuse;

There we all fight with courage-you may see it in the news.

O the old soldiers, &c.

To Monongehela with fifes and with drums

We march’d in fine order, with cannon and bombs:

That great expedition cost infinite sums;

But a few irregulars cut us all into crumbs.

O the old soldiers, &c.

It was not fair to shoot at us from behind trees:

If they had stood open as they ought before our great Guns we should have beat them with ease.

They may fight with one another that way if they please;

But it is not regular to stand and fight with such rascals as these.

O the old soldier, &c.

At Fort George and Oswego, to our great reputation,

We shew’d our vast skill in fortification;

The French fired three guns, of the fourth they had no occasion;

For we gave up those forts, not thro’ fear-but mere persuasion.

O the old soldiers, &c.

To Ticonderoga we went in a passion,

Swearing to be revenged on the whole French nation.

But we soon turned tail, without hesitation

Because they fought behind trees, which is not the3 fashion.

O the old soldiers, &c.

Lord Loudon he was a fine regular General, they say;

With a great regular army he went his way

Against Louisbourg, to make it his prey;

But return’d without seeing it, for he did not feel bold that day.

O the old soldier, &c.

Grown proud at reviews, great George had no rest,

Each grandsire, he had heard a rebellion supprest.

He wish’d a rebellion, look’d round and saw none,

So resolv’d a rebellion to make of his own-

With the old soldiers, &c.

The Yankees he bravely pitch’d on, because he thought they would not fight,

And so he sent us over to take away their right,

But least they should spoil our review clothes, he cried braver and louder,

“For God’s sake, brother kings, don’t sell the cowards any powder.”

O the old soldiers &c.

Our General with his council of war did advise,

How at Lexington we might the Yankees surprise.

We march’d-and we march’d-all surpriz’d at being beat;

And so our wise General’s plan of surprise was complete.

O the old soldiers &c.

For fifteen miles they follow’d and pelted us, we scarce had time to pull a trigger;

But did you ever know a retreat perform’d with more vigour?

For we did it in two hours, which sav’d us from perdition,

’Twas not in going out but in returning consisted our expedition.

O the old soldiers, &c.

Says our General, we were forced to take to our arms in our own defence:

(For arms read legs, and it will be both truth and sense.

Lord Percy (says He) I must say something of him in civility,

And that is, I can never enough praise him for his great-agility.

O the old soldiers, &c.

Of their firing from behind fences, he makes a great pother,

Ev’ry fence has two sides; they made use of one, and we only forgot to use the other.

That we turn’d our backs and ran away so fast, don’t let that disgrace us;

’Twas only to make good what Sandwich said, “that the Yankees would not face us.”

O the old soldiers, &c.

As they could not get before us, how could they look us in the face?

We took care they should not, by scampering away apace;

That they had not much to brag of, is a very plain case.

For if they beat us in the fight, we beat them in the race.4

O the old soldiers of the King, and the King’s own Regulars.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

2The song was also published in the Pa. Evening Post, March 30, 1776, and the Constitutional Gaz., April 6, 1776; we have supplied readings of some illegible words from the former. Charles Carroll, on his way to Canada with the other commissioners in the spring of 1776, sent a MS copy to his wife; it was, he said, “a song made by Dr. Franklin. I think it abounds with good wit.” April 15, 1776, Md. Hist. Soc. In the MS the stanzas are numbered after the first six, and for some reason the fourteenth, beginning “Says our General,” is omitted. The wording differs throughout in many small details from our and the other printed texts; we therefore assume that BF quoted from memory to his traveling companion. We cannot tell what tune he had in mind. Sheet music for the famous Caroline ballad that was his model was published about 1710, but the only copy we have located, in the Folger Library, is for flute alone. When he wrote the song is anyone’s guess. Ours, based on the place and time of first publication, is that he composed it to relieve the tedium of the long conferences at Cambridge in October, 1775.

3The text in the Pa. Evening Post adds “regular,” which also appears in the MS version.

4BF was going through a roster of actions in which the regulars failed, or in one case failed to act: the Battles of Prestonpans and Falkirk in the Jacobite rising of 1745–46, Braddock’s defeat on the Monogahela in 1755, the loss to the French of Fort William Henry on Lake George (“Fort George”) in 1757 and of Fort Oswego in 1756, the repulse of Abercromby at Ticonderoga in 1758, Loudoun’s failure to attack Louisbourg in 1757, and the retreat from Concord that was covered by a relief force under Lord Percy.

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