Author: Nathaniel Niles

Born in Rhode Island, Nathaniel Niles (1741–1828) was a lawyer, politician, and inventor. He studied law, medicine, and theology at Harvard College and Princeton College. Following the American Revolution, Niles relocated to Vermont where he served as a member of the state House of Representatives and then as justice for the Vermont Supreme Court. With Vermont’s admittance to the Union, Niles was elected to two terms in Congress as the representative of Vermont’s Second District. During the Revolution, Niles is credited with having written the haunting poem, “A Sapphick Ode,” also known as “Bunker Hill,” which captures the tension between heroism and death during wartime.

The American Hero: A Sapphick Ode

Nathaniel Niles

This somber 15-stanza ode, also known as “Bunker Hill,” was widely sung during the Revolution. Written by Nathaniel Niles (1741–1828), a lawyer, congressman, inventor, and occasional preacher, it was inspired by the Battle of Bunker Hill and the burning of Charlestown (1775).