June 22, 2017

Liberty Calls to Battle – The 56 Minute Men of Jamaica, Queens

Unified Queens creates original designs inspired by the history of Queens. This is the story of the Minute Men of Jamaica, Queens who influenced us to make these shirts.

During the lead-up to the Revolutionary War, the colonies found themselves splitting into two factions – those in favor of revolution, and loyalists. The majority of the residents of Queens were staunchly loyal to the British crown. A justice of the peace in late 1775 even reported to the Provincial Congress that the loyalists in Queens Country were numerous and armed, that they were ready to crush the revolution and that they were holding their cattle for the British troops.

However, there were pockets of residents who were ready to take up arms to defend the new republic. In 1775, a group of 56 men from Jamaica, Queens, sent the following letter to the Provincial Congress:

“We, whose names are hereunto subscribed, inhabitants of the township of Jamaica, do hereby declare, that we have associated ourselves as a company of Minute Men, for the defence of American Liberty, and do hereby promise and engage to be obedient to our officers, and subject to the resolutions and directions of the Honorable the Continental Congress, and of the Provincial Congress of this colony.”

Shortly after independence was declared in July, the United States faced its first battle against the British – The Battle of Long Island, which was fought on August 27, 1776 in Brooklyn. The Jamaica Minute Men fought alongside General George Washington in this important battle.

It unfortunately did not go well for the Continental Army – General Washington underestimated the number of British troops and quickly retreated from Guan Heights (today’s Gowanus area) to their main defenses in Brooklyn Heights. The British dug in for a siege, but Washington evacuated the army overnight back to Manhattan. After several more defeats, the British took control of New York. But in the end, we know who won the war...

“Song of the Jamaica Minute Men”

Arouse, my brother Minute Men! 
And let us bear our chorus; 
The braver and the bolder, 
The more they will adore us. 
Toll de rol, &c.

Our country calls for swords and balls, 
Our drums aloud do rattle, 
Our fifer's charms arouse to arms, 
And Liberty calls to battle. 
Toll de rol, &c.

Now to our station let us march 
And render us with pleasure, 
Behaving like brave Minute Men 
To save so great a treasure. 
Toll de rol, &c.

We'll let 'em see immediately 
That we are men of mettle, 
American boys who fear no noise, 
And ne'er will flinch from battle. 
Toll de rol, &c.

We have some noble Congressmen 
Elected for our nurses, 
And every jolly farmer will 
Assist 'em with their purses. 
Toll de rol, &c.

And they may stay at home, we say, 
And enjoy their state of pleasure, 
While we do go and fight their foe 
And save their lives and treasure. 
Toll de rol, &c.

Why should we be dismayed, 
If the Torries-they do thunder, 
They only want to ruin us 
And live upon their plunder. 
Toll de rol, &c.

Such heavy chains we do disdain, 
And likewise Popish tyranny; 
Such hellish frays we do defy, 
And will not yield to any. 
Toll de rol, &c.

Why should we be dismayed 
If the Torries-they defy us? 
There are the brave riflemen, 
They say they will stand by us. 
Toll de rol, &c.

That Tory brood that has withstood 
This great and glorious jovial, 
If they advance, we'll make'em dance 
The tune of Yankee Doodle. 
Toll de rol, &c.