Patriotic Verse in a Schoolboy’s Math Book during the Revolutionary War

Between the pages of his math exercise book John Barstow jotted down a patriotic tune called “The Amaricans Challing” on January 2, 1777. Carefully written in a youth’s unsteady hand, the text appears to be a transcript of a popular camp song from the Revolutionary era. How this declaration of patriotism found its way into Barstow’s math lessons is unknown. The book is filled with conversion tables for weights and measures, time and money tables, and multiplication and division tables in addition to mathematical problems. One can imagine a young child learning the song from a father or older brother going off to war or hearing the tune sung by soldiers who marched through town. Perhaps it was simply doodled during an instance of classroom boredom. This unexpected entry is, however, evidence of the patriotic fervor that young John and other children must have felt.

Poem written in John Barstow's math book, circa 1777. (Gilder Lehrman Collection

The song was composed as America prepared for war around 1775. Songs such as this would be performed by soldiers at camps and during marches to boost morale. The author of the song is unknown. A variant copy, dated December 31, 1775, is housed at the New England Genealogical Society.

The book and poem are on display at the New-York Historical Society, July and August 2012. For more information, plese see our Museum Exhibitions page.

 “THE AMaricans Challings” [The Americans’ Challenges]:

Americans To arms Prepare
Honour & Glory Beats For war
Exert Yourselves with Force & might
Show how The amaricans Boys Can fight
For To maintain Their Charter rights
Hozah Brave Boys —

            2

hark how The warlike Trumpets Sounds
Where there is nothing but Blood and Wound
Drums A Beating[,] Colours Flying[,] Cannons Roaring[,] Tories Dying
These are The Noble Efects of war, Hozah Brave Boys

            3

You That Rain masters on The Seas
Shake of your Youthful Sloth & Ease
We will make The haughty Tories know, The Sorrows They must undergo
When they Engage Their mortal Foe, Hozah Brave Boys

            4

Display your Collours[,] mount your Guns,
Bator Their Castels[,] Fire their Towns
You Nighted sons of Amaricans Fame
Let not your unDaunted Courage Tame
We will Drive The Tories Back again; hozah Brave Boys

            5

Why Should we be Daunted at all, Sence we are engaged in so Just a Cause
In Fighting For our Rights and Laws, and dying in so Just a Cause Bemoved
We Will Prove Their Fatal Overthrow
Hozah Brave Boys


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