This version, nearly identical to the first given by W. B. Whall in Sea Songs and Shanties, was a long-time favorite with naval seamen. Whall proceeded to give another version to the tune of Captain Kiddwhich is categorized under the title Admiral Benbow.
John Benbow (1653-1702) was the son of a tailor, born in Shrewsbury, England. He served in the merchant navy and Royal Navy for 24 years, reaching the rank of vice-Admiral. His final campaign was aboard the HMS Breda in the West Indies during the War of Spanish Succession, where his task was to intercept the Spanish silver fleet and guide it to England. As tensions with the French boiled over, Benbow set out to find Jean-Baptiste du Casse's fleet near Santa Marta. Though the English war ships outnumbered the French seven to four, Benbow's officers would not close the engagement. He chased du Casse along with the HMS Ruby, but the battle ended in defeat. The disabled Breda returned to Jamaica where he received a letter from the French captain:
I had little hopes on Monday last but to have supped in your cabin: but it pleased God to order it otherwise. I am thankful for it. As for those cowardly captains who deserted you, hang them up, for by God they deserve it.
Yours, Du Casse
His captains were court-martialed and then cashiered or executed. Admiral Benbow succumbed to his injuries on November 4, 1702.
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Oh, we sailed to Virginia and thence to Fayall
Where we watered our shipping and then weighed all.
Then in view on the seas, boys, seven sails we did espy;
Oh, we mannéd our capstan and weighed speedily
The first we come up with was a brigantine sloop
And we asked if the others were as big as they looked.
Then turning to windward as near as we could lie
We found there was ten men-o'-war a-cruising thereby.
Oh, we drew up our squadron in a very nice line
And boldly we fought them for full four hours time;
Then the day being spent, boys, and the night coming on
We left them alone till the very next morn.
The very next morning the engagement proved hot
And brave Admiral Benbow received a chain shot.
And when he was wounded to his men he did say:
“Take me up in your arms, boys, and carry me away!”
Oh, the guns they did rattle and the bullets did fly,
But Admiral Benbow for help would not cry:
“Take me down to the cockpit, there is ease for my smarts,
If my merry men see me, it would sure break their hearts.”
And there Captain Kirkby proved a coward at last
And with Wade played at bo-peep behind the main-mast
And there they did stand, boys, and shiver and shake
For fear that those French dogs their lives they should take.
The very next morning at the break of the day
They hoisted their tops'ls and so bore away;
We bore up for Port Royal, where the people flocked much
To see Admiral Benbow carried to Kingston Church.
Come all you brave fellows, wherever you be,
And drink to the health of our King and our Queen.
And another good health to the girls that we know,
And a third in remembrance of brave Admiral Benbow.
Oh, yes, drink up a health, boys, to the girls we do know
And a third for remembrance of brave Admiral Benbow.