This song was written to honor the captain who undertook a mission to spy on the British forces who remained at New York City following retreat of the Continental Army under General George Washington. Captain Hale was captured by the British, and without even the benefit of a clergyman, was executed the day following his capture. The incident outraged the Americans.
This song was published in the Freeman's Journal on 18 February, 1777.
The breezes went steadily thro' the tall pines, A saying "oh! hu-ush!" a saying "oh! hu-ush!"
As stilly stole by a legion of horse, For Hale in the bush, for Hale in the bush.
"Keep still!" said the thrush as she nestled her young, In a nest by the road; in a nest by the road.
"For tyrants are near, and with them appear, What bodes us no good, what bodes us no good."
The brave captain heard it, and thought of his home, In a cot by the brook; in a cot by the brook,
With mother and sister and memories dear, He so gaily forsook; he so gaily forsook.
Cooling shades of the night were coming apace, The tattoo had beat; the tattoo had beat.
The noble one sprang from his dark lurking place, To make his retreat; to make his retreat.
He warily trod on the dry rustling leaves, As he pass'd thro' the wood; as he pass'd thro' the wood;
And silently gained his rude launch on the shore, As she play'd with the flood; as she play'd with the flood.
The guards of the camp on that dark, dreary night, Had a murderous will; had a murderous will.
They took him and bore him afar from the shore, To a hut on the hill; to a hut on the hill.
The brave fellow told them, no thing he restrain'd, The cruel gen'ral; the cruel gen'ral.
His errand from camp, of the ends to be gain'd, And said that was all; and said that was all.
They took him and bound him and bore him away, Down the hill's grassy side; down the hill's grassy side.
'Twas there the base hirelings, in royal array, His cause did deride; his cause did deride.
Five minutes were given, short moments, no more, For him to repent; for him to repent;
He pray'd for his mother, he ask'd not another, To Heaven he went; to Heaven he went.