This song was written to commemorate the loss of the South Carolina on the 20th of December 1782. The American ship, built in Holland in 1778, was bound for Charleston, South Carolina from Philadelphia, and after just clearing the Delaware Bay, she was attacked by three British ships: Quebec, Diomede and Astrea. The South Carolina's forty guns were opposed by the British ships' ninety-eight guns. Beginning at 10:00 in the night of the 19th, the South Carolina was chased for nearly eighteen hours before she engaged the Diomede. Then, following a two hour long running fight, she was forced to strike her colors to the British.
This ballad was published in the Loyalist newspapers apparently as "a letter" from Jonathan, a prisoner taken from the South Carolina to his brother Ned at Philadelphia.
My dear brother Ned, We are knock'd on the head; No more let America boast;
We may all go to bed, And that's enough said, For the South Carolina we've lost.
The pride of our eyes, I swear is a prize, You never will see her again,
Unless thro' surprise, You are brought where she lies, A prisoner from the false main.
Oh Lord! what a sight - I was struck with affright, When the Diomede's shot round us fell,
I feared that in spite, They'd have slain us outright, And sent us directly to h--l.
The Quebec did fire, Or I'm a curs'd liar, And the Astrea came up apace;
We could not retire, From the confounded fire, They all were so eager in chase.
The Diomede's shot Was damnation hot, She was several times in a blaze;
It was not my lot, To go then to pot, But I veow, I was struck with amaze.
And Ned, may I die, Or be pok'd in a sty, If ever I venture again
Where bullets do fly, And the wounded do cry Tormented with anguish and pain.
The Hope, I can tell, And the brig Constance fell, I swear, and I veow, in our sight;
The first I can say, Was taken by day, But the latter was taken at night.
I die to relate What has been our fate, How sadly our navies are shrunk;
The pride of our State, Begins to abate, For the branches are lopp'd from the trunk.
The Congress must bend, We shall fall in the end, For the curs'd British sarpents are tough;
But, I think as you find, I have enough penn'd Of such cursed, such vexatious stuff.
Yet how vexing to find, We are left all behind, That by sad disappointment we're cross'd;
Ah, fortune unkind! Thou afflicted'st my mind, When the South Carolina we lost.
Our enemy vile, Cunning Digby does smile, Is pleased at our mischance;
He useth each wile, Our fleets to beguile, And to check our commerce with France.
No more as a friend, Our ships to defend, Of South Carolina we boast;
As a foe in the end She will us attend, For the South Carolina we've lost.