Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE TROPHY GUNS, by LEVI BISHOP



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THE TROPHY GUNS, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: On the fourth of july, a. D. 1874, an impromptu
Last Line: "banner."
Subject(s): Fourth Of July; Guns; Nations; Independence Day


On the fourth of July, A. D. 1874, an impromptu celebration took place, on
the occasion of two of the Trophy Guns taken by Perry on Lake Erie being placed
in position and unveiled in front of the City Hall, Detroit. At six A. M. a
national salute was fired. At seven o'clock the ceremonies took place, in
presence of several military companies and a large assemblage of the citizens.
The guns were draped in American flags, and several maps of the ships and
battle, with a life-size portrait of Commodore Perry were suspended over them.
The City Hall and adjacent buildings, decorated with flags and streamers,
presented a gay and patriotic appearance. Mr. Bishop had made an earnest and
successful effort, with the city authorities, to have the guns in question,
which had lain a long time on the Campus Martius of the city, properly
mounted and placed, and being now called on, spoke as follows on the occasion:

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN -- It is a subject of congratulation that these interesting
old relics have finally found an appropriate place. A brief historical account
of these guns seems to be also proper on this occasion. They were on the fleet
of Commodore Barclay in the battle on Lake Erie, on the 10th of September, A. D.
1813; and no doubt they did gallant and effective service on that decisive day
against the American fleet under Commodore Perry. They were taken with the
enemy's fleet in that battle, and as a consequence they are now military
trophies belonging to our nationality.
After the battle and the interment of the dead, the fleet with these guns on
board was taken to Erie, Pennsylvania, that being then a naval depot of the
United States. Six large guns similar to and including those before us remained
for several years on the military grounds at Erie. That station was then
abandoued by the Government as a naval depot, and the guns were ordered and
taken to Detroit. They were placed on the Government wharf, between Wayne and
Cass streets, then under the command of the late Gen. Hugh Brady.
Several years later, and probably about forty years ago, the Government wharf
and these guns were sold by the United States, and were purchased by the late
well-remembered Oliver Newberry, sometimes called the Commodore of the Lakes.
The guns were set in the ground on the wharf, and they were for a long time used
as posts to which vessels and steamers were made fast, as occasion required.
In this condition, even, they were objects of much curiosity to visitors of our
city.
They were afterward sold with the wharf before mentioned, by Mr. Newberry, and
acquired by Messrs. Moore & Foote, now well-known merchants of this city. In
1872, one of the three guns yet remaining was donated by these gentlemen to the
city of Cleveland, and it now occupies a most appropriate position, as an
ornament, at the foot of the monument of Commodore Perry, on one of the
beautiful public squares of that beautiful city.
One of these guns now here present, being the shortest one, was, on the 17th day
of May, 1872, donated by Messrs. Moore, Foote & Co. to the city of Detroit, to
be placed in some appropriate position, in commemoration of the signal event
which gave it to us as a National trophy.
The other gun -- the long one, has had a narrow escape; for in the month of
April, 1872, it was discovered at a foundry in this city, where it was about to
be broken up as old iron. The price of the same was ascertained to be one
hundred dollars, and the following named gentlemen, E. I. Garfield, Francis
Adams, Smith R. Woolley, Guy F. Hinchman, James Flower, C. M. Welch, Philo
Parsons, J. B. Wayne, M. S. Smith, and D. Preston, at once raised that sum by
subscription, purchased the old gun, and on April 12, 1872, donated it to the
city, to be placed with its twin relic in the place which they now occupy, as
ornaments of our City Hall Square, as fit associates of the Soldiers' Monument
in front, and as worthy memorials of one of the proudest days in American
history.
There can be no question as to the identity and authenticity of these guns.
Their history can be traced as it now has been traced; and they have several
times been recognized as old acquaintances, by men who were in the battle of the
10th of September; and especially by Commodore Montgomery, who served in the
battle as lieutenant under Commodore Perry.
Such are the facts in regard to these trophies. In addition thereto I have no
speech to make -- impromptu or otherwise. These guns have delivered their
own speeches. They tell their own story now. The battle of Lake Erie told its
own story in its day and generation. History has done ample justice to the men
-- the friends and foes -- the heroes who took part in that battle. Posterity
will do justice to those men, and to all men who deserve well of their country.
But it has occurred to me that if a person had any poetry in his soul, this was
the time for it to show itself. That here is the subject and here the event
which should inspire the patriotic song. I have, therefore, composed a few
lines and even stanzas for this occasion. To understand these lines fully it
will be proper to bear in mind the following facts in connection with the
subject:
At the time of the battle on Lake Erie, our city was still occupied by the enemy
as a result of the surrender of Detroit by General Hull. The Indians, as allies
of the English, were numerous and troublesome in the neighborhood. It is well
known that Perry's fleet was built and assembled in great haste, and the same is
doubtless true to some extent in reference to the hostile squadron. It is also
well known that Commodore Barclay was a veteran of the English marine, and that
he had served under Nelson in the great battle of Trafalgar. Many of his
gallant crew also belonged to the royal navy of England. The foe was therefore
all that the most ardent ambition could desire. The victory on the lake opened
the way for the advance of Harrison's army, and the recovery of Detroit, with
the battle of the Thames, which occurred a few weeks later.
With these explanatory remarks I will venture to read the following composition:

THE TROPHY GUNS.

Lake Erie, September 10, 1813.

DETROIT, JULY 4, 1874.

Let the trophies be placed on the lawn of the square,
As the banner above gaily floats:
Let the minute guns tell on the loud vocal air;
Let the trumpets re-echo the notes.

If our city hath fallen a prey to the foe,
If the savage hath joined with his yell;
The sailor boy bravely will hurl back the blow;
Will retrieve what adversely befell.

If the ships, on each side, were but few and but small,
If in haste they were built and assembled;
The heroes who trod them no strife could appall,
Tho' had Neptune been there he had trembled.

And the foe is all worthy our prowess to meet,
For Trafalgar the struggle will share;
When the star-covered flag shall the Union Jack greet,
No freeman need blush to be there.

Tho' a lake be the scene of the grand coming fight,
Instead of the deep briny wave;
Even here gallant foes shall exert their best might;
Here shall flow the best blood of the brave.

If no Nelson be here, bold to lead the wild brunt,
Or Van Tromp here to sweep the broad sea;
Yet a Briton shall worthily challenge the front,
And a Perry -- the pride of the free.

And the contest is worthy of rivals in fame;
Here the brave are of one common stock;
When the Greek meets the Greek, of the same race and name,
Then the world shall resound with the shock.

As we see 'mid the fire, and the smoke, and the hail,
The proud flag of the foeman descend;
Give him back his good sword, for the best often fail;
The results upon fortune depend.

And the fleet, with the men, and the rough heavy gun,
Fall to us as proud trophies to-day;
The command of the lakes we have thus nobly won,
To our army is opened the way.

Place the guns on the lawn; let them silently tell,
To a throng that shall daily behold,
How they thundered on us; and what then befell,
In the days that we reckon of old.

As they speak of events that are long past away;
As they tell us so proudly their story;
The grim rusted iron, in partial decay,
Is a volume of fame and of glory.

Nor is this to awaken the spirit of war;
In this deed no offense would we give;
War's alarms, may they still be away very far;
With our neighbors as friends would we live.

But in this would we cherish, as years may revolve,
The example so worthy and grand;
That if friends must be foes, we may firmly resolve,
Calm to die for our dear native land.

Several other short but patriotic addresses were delivered, and finally the guns
were unveiled amid the shouts of the assembled multitude, and while the bands
present sent forth the cheerful notes of "Hail Columbia" and "The Star Spangled
Banner."





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