Fireworks from the Heights

Independence Day, View from Montague

My paternal ancestors have the distinction of being the first to have set Walt Whitman to music, when in 1846 an ode written by Whitman for the July 4th celebrations at Fort Greene was sung to the tune of The Star Spangled Banner as played by Granger’s Brooklyn Brass Band.

Following is an excerpted transcription of the day’s program, including the Whitman Ode, as published by the Brooklyn Daily Eagle on July 2nd, 1846:

Programme of the Day.
Salutes will be fired from Fort Greene at sunrise–noon–and sunset. At 7 o’clock, A.M. the procession will commence forming in Sands street, right on Fulton street, under the direction of Harmanus B. Duryea, Grand Marshal of the day, assisted by the following aids, viz: William Cumberson, D.J. Lucas, Elisha Burbank, John J. Manning, Edwin Beers, J. M. Van Cott, D. Ayres, jr. R. P. Perrin, J. Hubbard, Alfred Ladd, N. D. Morgan, James Bailey, S. R. Bunker, Alexander McCue, D. J. Atwater, Isaac Van Anden, L. W. Ransom, Francis Van Dyke, Jr., and in the following order.
1. Grand Marshal and aids.
2. Fusilier Guard, Captain Dillon, as Flying Artillery.
3. Brooklyn Light Guard, Captain Pearson.
4. Brooklyn Brass Band, W. Granger, Leader.
5. Brooklyn Union Blues, Captain Goodchild.
6. Columbian Riflemen, Captain Morrison.
7. The General Committee of Arrangements.
8. The Orator, reader, and writers of Odes.
9. Revolutionary Patriots and Clergy
10. Officers of the Army and Navy.
11. The Brooklyn City Guard, Captain Olney.
12. The Mayor and Common Council and city officers.
13. The Sheriff and his deputies.
14. The Judiciary and members of the Bar.
15. The Supervisors and members of the Board of Education.
16. Members of the Medical profession.
17. Members of the Literary and Scientific Institutions.
18. Officers and Soldiers of the last war, stationed at Fort Greene.
19. Exempt Firemen.
20. Fire Companies.
21. Societies according to the date of their organization.
22. Citizens on foot.
23. Citizens mounted and in carriages.
The Squadron of Kings County horse artillery, under the command of Capt. John McLeer, will join in the procession at the Fort, and act as an escort in returning therefrom.

Down Fulton street to Hicks street, up Hicks st. to Pierrepont street, through Pierrepont street to Henry street, down Henry street to Joralemon st., through Joralemon street to Court street, through Court street to Myrtle avenue, and down Myrtle avenue to Fort Greene.

Order of exercises on Ft. Greene.
1. National Salute by Artillery Co. of Capt. Dillon.
2. Music. Brooklyn Brass band; W. Granger, leader
3. Prayer
4. Reading of Declaration of Independence, by Wm. Rockwell
5. Ode, written by Rev. T.B. Thayer.
6. Oration, by Alvin C. Bradley.
7. Ode, written by Walter Whitman.
8. Benediction
At Fort Greene ample accommodations will be provided for seating at least three thousand persons; and seats will be reserved for ladies and all going to the procession.

After the exercises, the procession will move down Myrtle avenue to Jackson street, through Jackson to York, through York to James street and through Market street to Fulton street, and thence to the quarters of the respective companies and societies.

*   *   *


TO BE SUNG ON FORT GREENE; 4th of July, 1846.
Tune: “Star Spangled Banner.”


O, God of Columbia! O, Shield of the Free!
More grateful to you than the fanes of old story,
Must the blood-bedewed soil, the red battle-ground, be
Where our fore-fathers championed America’s glory!
Then how priceless the worth of the sanctified earth,
We are standing on now. Lo! the slope of its girth
Where the Martyrs were buried: Nor prayers, tears, or stones,
Marked their crumbled-in coffins, their white, holy bones!


Say! sons of Long-Island! in legend or song,
Keep ye aught of its record, that day dark and cheerless—
That cruel of days—when, hope weak, the foe strong,
Was seen the Serene One—still faithful, still fearless,
Defending the worth, of the sanctified earth
We are standing on now, &c.


Ah, yes! be the answer. In memory still
We have placed in our hearts, and embalmed there forever!
The battle, the prison-ships, martyrs, and hill,
—O, may it be preserved till those hearts death shall sever;
For how priceless the worth, &c.


And shall not the years, as they sweep o’er and oer,
Shall they not, even here, bring the children of ages—
To exult as their fathers exulted before,
In the freedom achieved by their ancestral sages?
And the prayer rise to heaven, with pure gratitude given
And the sky by the thunder of cannon be riven?
Yea! yea! let the echo responsively roll
The echo that starts from the patriot’s soul!

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Image Details:

Ballou's Pictorial


Period Tinting




The Heights