Who were the American Army of Two?

A sailor's yarn from fellow chantey singer David Kessler. Listen to the song here.

Some stories aren't captured by the standard ship's log. Captain Drew and I sailed in his Tartan 27' Gray Dawn from Salem down to Scituate over Memorial Day weekend. Winds were light at the start of the trip, but somewhere off of Boston they picked up and got progressively stronger right up until we reached Scituate harbor, allowing us to make decent time overall, as we enjoyed the bright sunny day. 

In Scituate we met up with a couple of his friends, took an afternoon sail, and had some dinner on shore before splitting up, his friends back to their B&B and us back to Gray Dawn. We got some sleep, and early the next morning we took the launch to shore to find some breakfast before starting back north for Salem.

Well, Scituate doesn't have anyplace to get a decent breakfast. We found a Dunkin Donuts and figured that there had to be something better somewhere (how can you have a harbor and not have a greasy spoon of some sort?). As we were walking toward the north end of town, Drew mumbled something, and then asked me if I had ever heard of a Rebecca and Abigail Bates.

bates-house

The names were familiar, but I was still waking up and couldn't recall why. I followed his eyes to the small, yellow house we were walking by. It was set back slightly from the road, and on the side of the house was a plaque.

Ah yes, I said, and began telling him the story of how the lighthouse keeper's daughters managed to repel a party of redcoats using a combination of musical instruments and pluck, and that this was how these two could be war heroes in a time when women didn't regularly get that distinction.

Drew was a little surprised that I had so many facts of the story ready to tell (especially before breakfast), and asked how I knew the story.

As an explanation I sang him the two choruses of "American Army of Two". I first heard this song almost one year earlier, while getting ready for the Gloucester Hornpipe & Clog Society’s Harborfest concert on George’s Island, and they played it that day as part of their first show (an obvious choice for Independence Day weekend). I had hardly thought about it since, but apparently enough of the song had remained in my memory to be useful that morning.

So for those stories that aren't captured by the standard ship’s log, or by the standard history book, sometimes a good song works just fine.

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