Ballad of Princeton Battle
By: Henry Van Dyke
Along Assunpink’s woody bank we left our campfires bright,
While like a fox with padded feet we stole away be night;
Cornwallis watched his Trenton trap,
And drained his glass, and took his nap;
But the ragged troops of Washington outflanked him in the night-
Up and away for Princeton,
By a secret road to Princeton-
We dragged our guns with muffled wheels to win another fight.
The icy trail was hard as iron, our footprints marked it red;
Our frosty breath went up like smoke to the winking stars o’erhead;
By Bear Swamp and by Miry Run,
Our muskets weighed at least a ton;
We shivered till o’er Stony Brook we saw that sun rise red;
Weary we tramped to Princeton; Bt all of us at Princeton
Would follow our chief through tick and thin
till the last of us was dead.
We looked beyond the upper bridge, across the swollen stream,
And there along the king’s highway we saw the Redcoats gleam;
‘Twas Mawhood’s regiment marching down
To finish us off at Trenton Town!
“Go cut the bridge”-and Mercer’s men crept up along the stream.
But the British turned towards Princeton,
Came bravely back for Princeton;
And all the rest of that dim hour was wilder than a dream.
They rushed thro’ Will Clark’s orchard, among the naked trees;
With horse and foot they hammered hared; Their bullets sang like bees;
And Mercer fell, and Haslet fell;
The bayonets cut us up like h***;
The chain shot mowed a bloody path beneath the twisted trees.
It looked all black for Princeton,
We lost our hopes of Princeton;
We wavered, and we broke and fled as leaves before the breeze.
Then down the hill from Tom Clark’s house rode Washington aflame
With holy ire; through smoke and fire, like mighty Mars he came.
“Come on, my men, parade with me,
We’ll make the braggart Redcoats flee”-
And up the hill against the guns, rode Washington aflame.
He turned the tide at Princeton;
The land was save at Princeton;
And they who fought, and they who fell, won liberty and fame.
Men praise our chief for weighty words, for counsel calm and high,
For prudence and enduring will, for cool, farseeing eye;
One thing he had all else above-
Courage that caught the soldier’s love,
And made the soldier’s loyal heart in danger’s hour beat high.
We saw it clear at Princeton;
‘Twas written here at Princeton;
THE MEN WHO MAKE A NATION GREAT ARE MEN WHO DARE TO DIE.