January 8, 2012

Woodworth and the hunters of Kentucky

The Battle of New Orleans on January 8, 1815 was the final major battle of the War of 1812. The American victory pushed the British troops to withdraw from Louisiana. Commanding the battle was Andrew Jackson, future President of the United States. A significant portion of Jackson's troops were from Kentucky, mostly riflemen.

Some sources suggest that New England poet Samuel Woodworth wrote his poem, "Hunters of Kentucky," immediately after the battle. It was certainly sung at a public commemoration of the battle about six years later.

Ye gentlemen and ladies fair,
   Who grace this famous city,
Just listen, if ye've time to spare,
   While I rehearse a ditty;
And for the opportunity,
   Conceive yourselves quite lucky,
For't is not often that you see,
   A hunter from Kentucky.
Oh! Kentucky, the hunters of Kentucky,
   The hunters of Kentucky.

We are a hardy free-born race,
   Each man to fear a stranger,
Whate'er the game, we join in chase,
   Despising toil and danger;
And if a daring foe annoys,
   Whate'er his strength.and forces,
We'll show him that Kentucky boys
   Are "alligator horses."
Oh! Kentucky, the hunters of Kentucky,
   The hunters of Kentucky.

I s'pose you've read it in the prints,
   How Packenham attempted
To make Old Hickory Jackson wince,
   But soon his scheme repented;
For we with rifles ready cocked,
   Thought such occasion lucky,
And soon around the general flocked
   The hunters of Kentucky.
Oh! Kentucky, the hunters of Kentucky,
   The hunters of Kentucky.

You've heard, I s'pose, how New Orleans
   Is famed for wealth and beauty —
There's girls of every hue, it seems,
   From snowy white to sooty:
So Packenham he made his brags,
   If he in fight was lucky,
He'd have their girls and cotton bags,
   In spite of Old Kentucky.
Oh! Kentucky, the hunters of Kentucky,
   The hunters of Kentucky.

But Jackson, he was wide awake,
   And was n't scared at trifles;
For well he knew what aim we take,
   With our Kentucky rifles;
So he led us down to Cypress swamp,
   The ground was low and mucky;
There stood John Bull, in martial pomp,
   And here was Old Kentucky.
Oh! Kentucky, the hunters of Kentucky,
   The hunters of Kentucky.

A bank was raised to hide our breast,
   Not that we thought of dying,
But then we always like to rest,
   Unless the game is flying;
Behind it stood our little force —
   None wished it to be greater,
For every man was half a horse,
   And half an alligator.
Oh! Kentucky, the hunters of Kentucky,
   The hunters of Kentucky.

They did not let our patience tire,
   Before they showed their faces —
We did not choose to waste our fire,
   So snugly kept our places;
But when so near we saw them wink,
   We thought it time to stop them;
And't would have done you good, I think,
   To see Kentucky pop them.
Oh! Kentucky, the hunters of Kentucky,
   The hunters of Kentucky.

They found at last, 't was vain to fight
   Where lead was all their booty,
And so they wisely took to flight,
   And left us all the beauty.
And now, if danger e'er annoys,
   Remember what our trade is,
Just send for us Kentucky boys,
   And we'll protect you, ladies.
Oh! Kentucky, the hunters of Kentucky,
   The hunters of Kentucky.

During his campaign for the presidency, Jackson used Woodworth's work as his campaign song.  Jackson himself was nicknamed "the Hero of New Orleans" (Jackson, incidentally, was from Tennessee, not Kentucky).

2 comments:

  1. This doesnt have any extra info

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    1. Compared to what? Info on what? What's "this"? If only your comment had more info...

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