American History Stories—Volume III. - Mara L. Pratt

A Story of Stonington

It was one warm beautiful morning in August, 1814, that the people of Stonington, looking out across the water saw approaching, under full sail, a British vessel.

"She is coming straight into our little bay," said the frightened people, watching from their house-tops. "Yes, she is weighing anchor. She lowers a boat—she sends us a message—maybe a challenge.

But it was no challenge—only a message; and, still a message which the good people knew only too well, polite and civil and mild as it seemed, had all the force of a command. "We wish no harm to the people of Stonington. We only ask that they leave their town that we may occupy it."

"Leave our town! our homes! our fields! our houses!" exclaimed the people, indignant, frightened, sorrow-stricken.

"The militia! call together the militia! Let us decide and decide quickly—shall we leave our town or defend it?"

"Defend it!" shouted the militia, "and if need be, perish with it." And word was sent to the commodore—"the people of Stonington will defend their town to the last man."

Then such a hurrying to and fro as there was. Guns were dragged forward. Every man, woman and child set to work. Soon the British opened fire. Boom, boom, boom! went the cannons. It was a sharp, hot fight. How the women and children hurried hither and thither beating out the fires that every where about the village broke forth. How the men tugged and worked at the guns. Cannon ball after cannon ball came crashing into the village—still no one is killed, no home has been destroyed.

But see! the British have ceased firing! "It was not worth the lead," said the commodore, scornfully—and away he sailed out of the harbor. "Those Americans are strangely plucky," thought he to himself.

"Fifteen tons of lead!" exclaimed the Stonington people the next day, as they set to work to clear away their streets and repair their scorched buildings. "Fifteen tons of lead poured into our village and not one man killed!"

"Probably the Britisher wanted to lighten her cargo," said one old sailor, slyly.

"Write us a poem," said the people to their village rhymster. And here is what he wrote:

They killed a goose, they killed a hen,

Three hogs they wounded in a pen,

They dashed away, and pray, what then?

That was not taking Stonington.

The shells were thrown, the rockets flew,

But not a shell of all they threw,

Though every house was full in view,

Could burn a house in Stonington.

Not very classical poetry, is it? But it served to amuse the Stonington people for many a long day; and even now it stands in the old records of the town, a valued, treasured bit of history in rhyme.