Pages Navigation Menu

This Town Is Beat (Zebulon Zebulon)




This Town is Beat (Zebulon, Zebulon)

words and music Mike Ford


From the Scarborough Bluffs – Yankee schooners on the lake

Headed straight for Little York – that’s town that they would take

Now for some of these ships it was a shakedown cruise - but with numbers like that, how could  Yankees lose?

The town said ‘Oh my goodness’ , had a cozy snooze - dreamt that City Pulse was showing post-invasion news:







The Yankee landers – Made amphibious assault at Sunnyside

Blending in like salamaders – ‘The Amphibians Are Coming!’ someone cried

Little York’s defenders trickled slowly to the shore – too slowly to repel the US army-navy corps

No-one knows what held them up – a Timmy’s double-double or they took the 505, shoulda took the 504




Bodies dropping in the fray – Little York was losing ground

Sheaffe ordered his troops to Run Away! Run Away! – when he heard the marching Yankee Doodle sound

He said ‘Destroy the Magazine’ and to get the burning done – Old Tito was the man, but he had no saucisson

He had no saucisson, not a sausage, not a one – it exploded none the less – mushroom cloud, time to run!




Now the regulars were fleeing – Off to Kingston, in defeat

The invaders went to town for some plunder – burn the Parliament and find some food to eat

And some would say their general got what he deserved

– Poor Pike was pickled in a pack of rum to be preserved

They stayed about a week until winds had swerved – and 200 hundred years along it’s kinda sorta unobserved




Well this town has had a couple days of panic in the past

– called the army in a blizzard, remember that? What a gas!

There was Hurricane Hazel and now of course the Brothers Ford

But there’s no reason for the day the Yankees came to be ignored



Nothing gets my attention more in history study than events that happened right where I live.  On April 27th, 1813, Toronto (or Little York, as it was then known) was invaded by the USA’s first ever combined Army-Navy force – 15 boats carrying over 1,700 soldiers – twice the amount of people - including soldiers - who were in York at the time.  York was Upper Canada’s capital at the time.  A 30-gun boat was being built there (The Isaac Brock, named for the heroic general who fell the previous year) and it was believed the capture of that ship, as well as other boats thought to be in the harbour, would help win Lake Ontario for US forces.

After the ships were spotted from The Scarborough Bluffs, British, Canadian and First Nations (Mississauga & Chippewa) defenders sought to repel the US landing.  Defence troops were sent west from Fort York, towards the present site of The CNE, but many of them, for some reason, took a different route northwest, and were not present at the crucial moment of landing (hence the song’s reference to TTC Streetcar Routes 504 and 505).

US forces, supported by shelling from their ships off shore, marched towards the Fort and town, facing dwindling defence.   The British General Sheaffe ordered his soldiers to retreat and evade capture, as well as ordering the burning of The Isaac Brock in the harbour (to keep the ship out of US hands) and the destruction of the main gunpowder Magazine (storehouse).  An older French Canadian soldier, Tito LeLievre, was given the task for both torchings.  The term saucisson in the song, while being a French word for sausage, refers here to a military device of the time – a long tube filled with gun-powder and tree pitch, used for detonations.

When the Magazine exploded, it resulted in the largest explosion of its time on the continent, and could be heard across the lake at Niagara.  Huge chunks of rock, wood and soldiers’ bodies were sent flying through the air, resulting in massive casualties.  One of these was the US general Zebulon Montgomery Pike, who was mortally crushed by a large stone.  It is said his soldiers filled his casket with rum to preserve his body for burial back home.

The town lay in a confused state, with surrender and looting overlapping.  The US soldiers and ships had trouble leaving for many days as weather patterns prevented them from setting sail.  By the time they made it across the lake to attempt further invasions on British Niagara, their ranks were tired, weak and overwhelmed by sickness and fever.  The invasion did cripple Little York’s ability to keep supplies flowing further west to Sandwich (Windsor) and Detroit, weakening the British Navy’s chances of holding on to Lake Erie in battle the following September.

Discussion Questions

1. How is Toronto of 2012 different than Little York of 1812?

2. How much advance warning would the town have had?

3. When scouts on the Scarborough Bluffs saw the US Forces sailing across the lake, what communication technology would have been used to alert the soldiers at Fort York?

4. 60% of the population of Little York in 1812 was under 16 years old. Yet in historical accounts about the invasion, including Mike Ford’s song, there is no mention of the youth. What would they have experienced?



Related Activities

1.Using a modern map of Toronto, show where the landing of US forces occurred, the direction their soldiers then took, the location of the exploding Magazine, the route of escaping Britsh soldiers, etc.

2. If Toronto were invaded to day, what form would it take? Create 2 newspaper front pages - one all about the invasion of 1813, one describing a future invasion. Consider what such pages would have for headlines, photos, stories, etc.

3. MUSIC: Create a song or Rap describing the invasion of Little York from the point of view of a 13-year-old or younger.