This ballad may rightly be classed as a folk ballad. No only did it survive in oral tradition, but the earliest editions have important variations in text. Although he writes in the first person, there is no evidence that the author was actually in the battle. He may have found the details in newspaper reports. The last line suggests that he was writing in 1777 or 1778. Like General Burgoyne’s Lamentation, this too praises General Gates but it does not have the political overtones of that text. Other officers are mentioned favorably, including Washington. Verse 19 praises the enemy soldiers, an unusual touch in American broadside verse but an eighteenth-century tradition—conquering a courageous foe was more meaningful than beating a coward. A unique copy of this text is in the Harris Collection at the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University, titled The Northern Campaign; or, The Downfall of Burgoyne and His Whole Army, Composed by a Soldier in the Continental Army. Tune of Brave Captain Barber. Perhaps the earliest version of the text, thought to have been printed in 1778, it lacks this gratuitous verse.
Frank Moore evidently found two other editions of the text when he was assembling his Songs and Ballads of the American Revolution (176-84). He gives the title as “A Song for the Red-Coats” but says it was also known as “Gates’s Song” and “North Campaign.” Where he found the first two titles is unclear; the third is perhaps a reference to the Harris Collection version, The Northern Campaign.
Moore states without further documentation that the text “has been attributed to a private of Colonel [John] Brook’s [7th Massachusetts] regiment, and also to the author of ‘American Taxation,’” which may have been Peter or Samuel St. John, possibly information written or printed on the other sources he located.
The tune indicated on the Harris Collection copy, “Brave Captain Barber,” has proven difficult to pin down. Two editions of a sea song on a slip ballad titled “Captain Barber, A New Song” are in the Madden Collection at Cambridge University Library. The opening lines are
Come all you Britons bold, that plows the raging main,
Come listen to my ditty, these words I will explain.
While they are close to the Thomas ballad, the scansion is a bit different and there are no common textual expressions. No tune with this name has emerged as yet.
 The title “Song for the Red-Coats” suggests a later ballad. The text Moore prints does not have the rough edges of the early broadside texts. It may have been improved and retitled by a later editor. See also Song Made on the Taking of General Burgoyne (1777), possibly Coverly’s model. A sophisticated song entitled “General Gates’s March” composed “on the memorable event of the reduction of General Burgoyne and his Army, but never before printed” appeared in the Philadelphia Independent Gazette on August 31, 1782. The first lines are
Sound, sound the music, sound it, let hills and dales rebound it,
Let hills and dales rebound it, in praise of Liberty.
The meter is entirely different, but the existence of this song supports the possibility that “Gates’s Song” was a period title for a version of broadside text.