Recorded in the summer of 1976 in Woodstock, NY Fifty Sail on Newburgh Bay: Hudson Valley Songs Old & New was released in October of that year. Designed to be a booster for the replica sloop Clearwater, as well as to tap into the national interest in history thanks to the bicentennial, the album includes a mixture of traditional songs and new songs. This album is a recording to songs relating to the Hudson River, which played a major role in the commercial life and early history of New York State, including the Revolutionary War. Folk singer Ed Renehan (born 1956), who was a member of the board of the Clearwater, sings and plays guitar along with Pete Seeger. William Gekle, who wrote the lyrics for five of the songs, also wrote the liner notes, which detail the context of each song and provide the lyrics. This booklet designed and the commentary written by William Gekle who also wrote the lyrics for: Fifty Sail, Moon in the Pear Tree, The Phoenix and the Rose, Old Ben and Sally B., and The Burning of Kingston.
"The Hudson River has been many things to many people. During the Revolutionary War, the Americans regarded it as their lifeline. To the British, it was not only an invasion route from Canada, but the dividing line that could cut the American colonies in two. In the summer of 1776, the British under General Burgoyne came down from Canada to seize the upper Hudson while a great British naval force entered New York harbor with the intention of seizing the lower Hudson.
Two small British frigates were sent up into the Hudson to test the strength of the American defenses. The 44-gun Phoenix, under Captain Hyde Parker, and the 20-gun Rose, under Captain James Wallace, along with three escort vessels forced their way through a tremendous bombardment from the American forts on the Manhattan and Jersey shores. They reached the Tappan Sea virtually unharmed and spent the entire summer terrorizing the towns and villages along the River as far north as Peekskill. The British made many attempts to land, seizing cattle and other previsions wherever they could. They were not always successful, as we hear in this ballad describing an attempted attack on Peekskill." This booklet designed and the commentary written by William Gekle who also wrote the lyrics for: Fifty Sail, Moon in the Pear Tree, The Phoenix and the Rose, Old Ben and Sally B., and The Burning of Kingston. https://folkways-media.si.edu/liner_notes/folkways/FW05257.pdf
"THE PHOENIX AND THE ROSE" LYRICS
Upon the lordly Hudson
On a pleasant summer's day,
His Majesty's ships Phoenix
and the Rose at Anchor lay.
They had spent the day in shooting up
The towns along the shore,
A sport the gunners much enjoyed
But the captains found a bore.
It was tea time on the Phoenix,
So the Captain rang his bell
And he asked the Captain's Steward
“Now then where's my tea, pray tell?”
The Steward was embarrassed
And he said, “Well, Sir, you see,
There's not a blinking thing aboard
To serve you with your tea.”
“Not a thing aboard the Phoenix
With her four-and-forty guns!
Not a thing aboard the Phoenix
In her gross two-hundred tons?
Not a blinking thing aboard the ship
To serve me with my tea?
What sort of nonsense, Steward,
Is this you're telling me!”
“It's been quite a busy day, Sir,
What with all the shelling.
And the raiding and the burning
And the general raise-helling.
What's more the natives are unhappy, Sir,
And we've aroused their ire,
And some have them , by God, Sir,
Have dared return our fire!”
The Steward then went on to say
That in view of all the shooting,
There'd been precious little time to spare
For foraging and looting.
Because of which, aboard the ship
Of some four-and-forty guns,
There was not a single thing to eat
But some carrots and stale buns.
“Now blast me eyes and damme too!”
Cried Captain Sir Hyde Parker,
“Bestir yourself and bestir the crew
Before it gets much darker!
Lower a boat or two or four
And pull for that damn rebellious shore
And capture and seize a well-stocked store
Or I'll give the lot of you what for!”
Meanwhile aboard the frigate Rose
There was scarcely a bite or nibble,
And Captain Wallace sent his boats ashore
With orders not to quibble,
But to take whatever they came upon,
Whatever was to their taste,
“Now hurry, me lads”, the Captain said,
“There's little time to waste!”
The crew of the gallant Phoenix now
Had stormed the Peekskill shore,
And joined by the crew of the gallant Rose
They marched on the Peekskill store.
Not a rebel at all did they meet in town,
Not a single shot was fired,
The Peekskill folk had taken their wives
And prudently retired.
Into the empty town they went,
As bold as they could be,
Into the vacant stores they stormed
In search of things for tea.
Alas, they found but empty shelves,
Not a single thing remained,
At which the sailors cursed the town
In language unrestrained.
Not a scrap of food in all the town,
Not a single bite to eat,
And the bugler scarcely had the strength
To sound the sad retreat.
Back to their ships they slowly rowed,
In anger and in sorrow,
For they had no tea on that summer's day
And they had none for tomorrow.
Upon the lordly Hudson,
On a pleasant summer's night,
The villagers of Peekskill
Beheld a pleasant sight.
The British ships had sailed away,
Hungry from head to toes,
And Peekskill won the battle
With the Phoenix and the Rose.
Thanks to HRMM volunteer Mark Heller for sharing his knowledge of Hudson River music history for this series.
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