Celebrating 17 years

Yankee Doodle and the Country Dance from Lexington to Yorktown

                                                            A Song, a Shot, and a Shock

                  On April 19, 1775, as British Regulars under General Hugh Percy marched out of Boston to reinforce those under fire from Lexington to Concord, they taunted the rag-tag Minutemen by playing "Yankee Doodle."

Among the Minutemen was Thomas Ditson, who had been tarred and feathered by British soldiers a month earlier and paraded through Boston to the song.[1]  By the end of the day, with the Regulars in full retreat, Ditson and the Americans were the ones singing "Yankee Doodle." According to the May 20, 1775, Massachusetts Spy, "When the second brigade marched out of Boston to reinforce the first, nothing was played by the fifes and drums but Yankee Doodle. . . . Upon their return to Boston, one asked his brother officer how he liked the tune now—‘D--n them!’ returned he, ‘they made us dance it till we were tired.’—Since which Yankee Doodle sounds less sweet to their ears."  The metaphor of the Americans making the English dance to the song in retreat was instantly a popular satire.[2] 

"Yankee Doodle"  became the unofficial national anthem.  On October 19, 1781, during Cornwallis’s surrender at Yorktown, Washington’s army and his French allies were still playing "Yankee Doodle,"[3] while the shocked British played "The World Turned Upside Down."  They had "learned to appreciate the true spirit of this American folk song, which portrays the Americans as cowards, yokels, and naifs, or which makes sexual jokes, or describes typical American holidays" (Lemay 461).  "Yankee Doodle"  became an expression of  patriotic pride, national humor, and the Spirit of ’76. It helped win the Revolution.[4]  It accompanied the shot heard round the world and the day George III’s empire was turned on its ear.  It is our nation’s birthsong, our entrance music, our primal refrain, our song of ourselves before Walt Whitman’s barbaric yawp. Archibald Willard’s iconographic, cartoonish image, painted for the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition, captures this spirit (Figure 1).

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Figure 1.  Yankee Doodle by Archibald MacNeal Willard (c. 1875)

When Willard painted this picture, every schoolboy knew the familiar (but not first) first verse from the "Visit to the Camp" version of "Yankee Doodle," printed c. 1775-1785 (Lemay 453):

           

Father and I went down to camp,

                             Along with Captain Gooding,

And there we see the men and boys

                             As thick as hasty pudding.

Every schoolboy knew the chorus, first printed in 1767 (Barton 54-55):

           

Yankee Doodle keep it up,

                                         Yankee Doodle dandy,

                                    Mind the music and the step,

                                         And with the girls be handy.

Every schoolboy enjoyed singing the seemingly silly "standard stanza" that "probably dates from the vogue of the macaroni in the early 1770s" and that became the most popular verse, but not printed until 1842 (Lemay 439):

                                    Yankee Doodle came to town

                                         Riding on a pony,

                                    Stuck a feather in his hat

                                         And called it Macaroni.

After the Revolution, "Yankee Doodle" continued to be expanded and parodied.[5]  New stanzas were invented, and original pre-Revolution and Revolution-era stanzas were forgotten, or their meanings lost. Everyone still sensed the spirit and the satire, but some of the old words (doodle, dandy, macaroni) and references (Captain Gooding, hasty pudding) had become obscure.  If the 19th-century schoolmarm understood the 18th-century origins of the song, the cultural allusions, the etymologies, and the first-person voice (Father and I), she would have been shocked at what her pupils were singing (keep it up . . . And with the girls be handy).  Even today, websites on "Yankee Doodle" are littered with misinformation and misinterpretations, some from the 1800s.

                                    Lucy Locket, Dolly Bushel’s Fart, and Oliver Cromwell   

In his 1909 Report for the Library of Congress, Oscar Sonneck traces the tune of "Yankee Doodle" to an English folk melody used for the popular "Kitty Fisher’s Jig" in New England twenty years before the Revolution. The words to the jig are preserved in the nursery rhyme "Lucy Locket" (Sonneck 100-101):

                                    Lucy Locket lost her pocket,

                                         Kitty Fisher found it,

                                    Nothing in it, nothing in it,

                                         But the binding round it.

Lucy Locket was a proverbial whore who appears in John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera (1728). Kitty Fisher (1738-1767) was an infamous London courtesan who gained celebrity through high-profile affairs starting in 1756. So, Royalists and Freemasons in New England may have popularized the jig to tease their Puritan neighbors. However it came to America, the tune was a familiar and obvious choice as the music for an original American song. The connection between "Lucy Locket" and "Yankee Doodle" is fixed by a verse printed in 1775:  

Dolly Bushel let a fart,

     Jenny Jones she found it,

Ambrose carried it to mill

     Where Doctor Warren ground it. (Lawrence 52)

Though ignoring the Kitty Fisher echoes (lost/let, pocket/fart, Lucy/Kitty/Dolly/Jenny, found it/round it/ground it), both S. Foster Damon (1) and Leo Lemay (437-38) did use this parody to date the verse to just before Joseph Warren’s death at Bunker Hill on June  17, 1775.

            The origins of the words to "Yankee Doodle" are not so easily discovered.  Sonneck quotes numerous 19th-century accounts, including John W. Watson’s Annals of Philadelphia (1844), which he calls a "bouquet of historical gossip and blunder" (97).  Several of Watson’s sources trace the tune and one verse back to as early as the first English Civil War (1642-1646) and a Cavalier song satirizing Oliver Cromwell.  To support this implausable, anachronistic hearsay, which is now perpetuated across the internet, Watson cites "a writer in the Columbian Gazette" who claimed to have seen a song called "Nankee Doodle"  in a collection "of a gentleman at Cheltenham in England, called ‘Musical Antiquities of England’, to wit":

Nankee Doodle came to town

                                         Upon a little pony

                                    With a feather in his hat,

                                         Upon a macaroni.

According to Watson, the allusion is to Cromwell going into Oxford (Sonneck 98), perhaps in June 1646 to accept the surrender of the Royalists, riding on a small Kentish horse "with his single plume fastened in a sort of knot called a ‘macaroni’."  Even if Nankee Doodle were a nickname the Cavaliers gave to Cromwell and the Roundheads (though no contemporary record supports this claim), it is hard to imagine Cromwell, the Puritan of Puritans, wearing feathers.  None of the dozens of Google images of Cromwell shows him sporting a feather in his hat. Furthermore, macaroni is an 18th-century term for European affectations in dress, hairstyle, and manners, not a 17th-century knot.[6]  Even early on,  Edward F. Rimbault in his article "American National Songs" (1876) had doubts: "We must own to an entire want of faith in this story. The probability is that the tune is not much older than the time of its introduction into America" (Sonneck 103).  Despite numerous undocumented web sites that identify Nankee Doodle as Cromwell, modern scholarship must conclude that they too are an internet "bouquet of historical gossip and blunder."  Is Cromwell Yankee Doodle?  No. Cromwell has nothing to do with "Yankee Doodle." As Sonneck said 101 years ago, "The ante-Cromwellian origin of ‘Yankee Doodle’ and its anti-Cromwellian use with all the embellishments that imaginative minds have added during the last seventy years may definitely be laid to rest" (114). Damon agrees, "The theory . . . has been discredited" (12).

                        Brother Raccoon, Pastor Pike, Ben Franklin, and the Freemasons

            The first published text of "Yankee Doodle" is in the earliest American play, a ballad opera, The Disappointment; or, The Force of Credulity. A New American Comic-Opera, of Two Acts by Andrew Barton, Esq (by Thomas Forrest), printed in New York and Philadelphia in April 1767 (Lemay 442).  The scheduled performance in Philadelphia was cancelled when management learned that it mocked some local personalities, including some Freemasons.[7]  In Act I. Scene III of this satire of men’s gullability for get-rich-quick schemes, a dupe called "brother Racoon" (Barton 45) kisses his mistress and exits singing, to dig for buried treasure (Barton 52-55):

                                         AIR IV. Yankee Doodle

                                    O!  how joyful shall I be,

                                         When I get de money,

                                    I will bring it all to dee;

                                         O! my diddling honey.

                                    Yankee doodle keep it up,

                                         Yankee doodle, dandy;

                                    Mind the music and the step

                                         And with the girls be handy.

                                    (Exit, singing the chorus, yankee doodle, &c.)

The stage direction ("chorus, yankee doodle, &c.") assumes everyone’s familiarity with the song.  The "O! how joyful shall I be" stanza was no doubt composed by Forrest and illustrates the power of the catchy tune to inspire new stanzas, sometimes dirty. The "Yankee doodle, dandy" refrain looks related to the seminal lines "Boston is a Yankee town, / Sing Hey Doodle Dandy" first printed on "The Lexington March" broadside in 1775.  Raccoon’s air proves that the song and chorus were popular beyond New England a decade before the Revolution. 

How old and mysterious its origins are we can only imagine from the 1730 manuscript tune-book of Reverend James Pike, pastor in Somersworth, New Hampshire.  One page contains two musical scores.  The first is to "Freemason’s March," and below it is "Yankey Doodle" (Figure 2).

Figure 2.  A pair of songs in Pastor Pike’s 1730 tune-book (Lawrence 33)

Pike’s score for "Yankey Doodle" is very different than the score for Raccoon’s "Yankee Doodle" in The Disappointment (Figure 3).  Surprisingly, however, the first 24 notes above Raccoon’s verse almost match the first 19 notes of Pike’s "Freemason’s March." 

Figure 3. Raccoon’s song (1767) in The Disappointment (Barton 52-54)

Remarkably, Pike’s entire score to "Yankey Doodle" almost exactly matches the notes on an early broadside (Figure 4).

Figure 4. The musical score to "Yankee Doodle" c. 1782-1794 (Lawrence 52)

Pike’s scores could be a missing link between "Yankee Doodle" and the Freemasons. Was "Yankee Doodle" a Masonic march? Maybe.  Masonic bands still play it today.  The connection between the song and Freemasonry deserves investigation.  For instance, the first line on the earliest broadsides is "Brother Ephraim sold his cow," which could suggest that he is a member (Brother) of the fraternity. Then right away he is characterized as "an arrant Coward."   Similarly, in The Disappointment, Raccoon is a cowardly, scheming Freemason. In Act I. Scene IV, Hum says, "we are all to meet at the Ton, precisely at six" (60). In Act II. Scene I, Moll Placket tells another of her lovers, Topinlift, how Raccoon learned of Blackbeard’s treasure:

Plac.  . . . the papers were preserv’d in the family, till they were sent to Mr. Hum—and you must know Raccoon is a free-mason, so he is to assist him, and they are to go shares.

Top.  How the devil do you know that Hum’s a free-mason.

Plac.  Why I suppose so, for they always call one another brother—and they keep this business as secret as their masonry—but I wheedled him out of it, in spite of all their cunning.  (Barton 86).

 Referencing Patricia Virga’s dissertation "The American Opera to 1790" (1980), Carolyn Rabson raises questions about the play that could also be asked about "Yankee Doodle":

The significance of the Masonic symbols and rituals that occur throughout the play has yet to be explained.  Virga has documented the strong correspondence between places and events in The Disappointment and Masonic activities in Philadelphia, and between the play’s characters and members of the Tun Tavern Lodge. Whether this is meant as a satirical thrust against Freemasonry or against only certain Masonic lodges, or whether it is intended to extol the Masonic movement as an agent of social progress is difficult to determine. (23)

Initiated in 1731, Ben Franklin was a Grandmaster at the Tun Tavern Lodge (though in England in 1767).   When he walked into Philadelphia on October 6, 1723 at age 17, he looked like Yankee Doodle, except with a bread roll stuck under each arm rather than a feather stuck in his hat.  Was Franklin Yankee Doodle?  Yes and No.  On April 5, 1774, Franklin wrote "An Open Letter to Lord North" in the persona of A Friend to Military Government, who proposes that Prime Minister North impose martial law on the colonies.[8]  This Friend assures North that the colonialists are cowards: "The Yankey Doodles have a Phrase when they are not in a Humour for fighting, which is become proverbial, I don’t feel bould To-day."  Franklin is satirizing British ignorant contempt for Americans, not mocking his brothers and fellow patriots. 

Other famous Freemasons show up in early texts. For example, Joseph Warren, who ground Dolly Bushel’s fart in "The Lexington March," was a Freemason. Some verses in "A Visit to the Camp" satirize a Virginia Freemason not yet beloved in New England:

                                    And there was captain Washington,

                                         And gentlefolks about him,

                                    They say he’s grown so tarnal* proud,                      *eternal

                                         He will not ride without them.

 

                                    He got him on his meeting clothes,

                                         Upon a slapping stallion,

                                    He set the world along in rows,

                                         In hundreds and in millions.

                                    The flaming ribbons in his hat,

                                         They look’d so taring* fine ah,                              *tearing; grand

                                    I wanted pockily* to get,                                            *particularly?

                                         To give to my Jemimah. (Lawrence 61)

As "Yankee Doodle" became a symbolic battlefield, the British added verses, some threatening Freemasons leading the rebellion:

                                    Yankee Doodle’s come to town

                                         For to buy a firelock

                                    We will tar and feather him,

                                         And so we will John Hancock. (Damon 5)

Others, more angry, were added after the British Pyrrhic victory at Bunker Hill:

                                    But as for that King Hancock,

                                         And Adams, if they’re taken,

                                    Their Heads for signs, up high we’ll hang,

                                         Upon a hill call’d Bacon. (Lawrence 57)

Was Yankee Doodle a Freemason? To be one, he needed but ask one.

                        Dr. Schuckburgh, "The Lexington March," and Ephraim Williams

According to the earliests accounts (Sonneck 95-97), Dr. Richard Shuckburgh, a British army surgeon during the French and Indian War, composed the first verses to "Yankee Doodle" to ridicule the motley colonial militia that straggled in to join the British at Albany in 1755.  This attribution is an arguable assumption now repeated matter-of-factly across the internet.  Sonneck’s source was "The Origin of Yankee Doodle" published in a Farmer and Moore’s Collections in July 1824 (vol. 3, 217-18) by an anonymous reporter whose source was "an old file of the Albany Statesman, edited by N. H. Carter," who cites "the recollection of some of our oldest inhabitants" and "my worthy ancestor, who relates to me the story."[9]  The reliabilty of this thrice-removed hearsay is doubtful.

            Sonneck  provided a facsimile of the earliest broadside he knew (234-35), printed in London by Thomas Skillern, entitled "Yankee Doodle; or, (as now christened by the Saints of New England) The Lexington March"[10]  (Figure 5).   Sonneck expurgated the text because "Stanzas sixth and seventh are too obscene for quotation" (132), and he dated the broadside 1777-1799. Lemay dated it 1782-1794 and found Skillern’s source on a broadside in the Huntington Library, "printed in London in the early summer of 1775, when news of the battles at Lexington and Concord was still the latest word from America, and before the news of the battle of Bunker Hill reached London in mid-August" (437-38).[11]  The Huntington and Skillern broadsides are almost identical.[12]

The sundry attempts to explicate these stanzas need not be surveyed here. Most on-line commentaries just repeat earlier questionable, undocumented interpretations.  For example, "Brother Ephraim" is commonly identified as Colonel Ephraim Williams of the Stockbridge,  Massachusetts militia, who was killed on September 8, 1755, at Lake George, New York:

                        Brother Ephraim sold his Cow          

                              And bought him a Commission,

                        And then he went to Canada

                             To fight for the Nation;

                        But when Ephraim he came home

                             He prov’d an arrant Coward,

                        He wou’dn’t fight the Frenchmen there,

                             For fear of being devour’d.

However, not Sonneck, Damon, nor Lemay connect this "arrant Coward" to the French and Indian War hero.  Ephraim Williams was neither a coward nor a Freemason, or a hot-headed yokel who needed to sell his cow to pay for a commission in the British army. Was Ephraim Williams Yankee Doodle? Yes and No.  The facts do not fit the character.

Figure 5.  The c. 1782-1794 Skillern broadside (Lawrence 52)

In fact, Damon (2) and Lemay agree that the stanzas about Ephraim going to Canada, as well as the related stanza about simple-minded Aminadab returning with news of an American victory at Cape Breton, refer to the capture of Fort Louisburg during King George’s War on June 16, 1745.  Lemay concludes that the stanzas "were in oral circulation as a song by the end of the 1740s" and that "their intention is to burlesque the English attitudes toward the American militia" (447).  In 1745 Ephraim Williams was a captain defending Fort Massachusetts, not a deserter cowering at home in fear of reported cannibalism by the French and their native allies.  Removing all association, later versions replaced the respected name Ephraim with a man, as in the "Yankee Song" broadside:

                        There is a man in our town,

                                         I’ll tell you his condition,

                                    He sold his Oxen and his Cows

                                         To buy him a commission.

                                    When a commission he had got

                                         He prov’d to be a coward,

                                    He durst not go to Canada

                                         For fear of being devoured.

Damon believes that these stanzas are pre-Revolution because "the ‘coward’ lines were not yet taboo" (4).  As he points out, when the Yankees reclaimed their song during the Revolution, "the ‘coward’ lines were omitted.  In Royall Tyler’s The Contrast (acted 1787, published 1790), Jonathan starts singing the song, but when he comes to the forbidden lines, he interrupts himself with a ‘No, no, that won’t do’" (5). Jonathan’s verse starts, "There was a man in our town, / His name was—" (Act Third, Scene I), but he realizes the bad taste of the joke and says to Jenny, "you would be affronted if I was to sing that."  Was the man’s name Ephraim Williams?  No. Over time, the association of the word coward with the name Ephraim was all but forgotten.

What remains to explain is the pose of the Yankee as a cowardly, stupid bumpkin. Quoting a letter dated "Roxbury [Massachusetts], April 26, 1775," which refers to "Yankee Doodle" as "a song composed in derision of the New Englanders, scornfully called Yankees" (95), Sonneck supports this traditional interpretation: "no disagreement seems possible on the point that this text was not written by a New Englander, but can only have been penned by either an American Tory or a Britisher" (133). In disagreement, nonetheless, Lemay argues that the tone is ironic and that the "ostensible satire of the provincial American militia is a perfect example of a dominant tradition of American humor" (444).  Citing such examples as "New England’s Annoyances" (c. 1643) and Ebenezer Cook’s The Sot-Weed Factor (1708), Lemay concludes, "Americans learned to reply to English snobbery by deliberately posturing as unbelievably ignorant yokels. Thus, if the English believed the stereotype, they would be taken in by the Americans.  And, of course, if they were taken in, the Americans had reversed the snobbery and proven the English were credulous and foolish" (444-45). In other words, the British speaker seemingly satirizing America is actually the subject of American satire of English smugness, as in Franklin’s "An Open Letter to Lord North." Damon’s theory that "the explanation of the original fondness of the British for the song lies undoubtedly in the ‘coward’ lines" (5) supports Lemay’s argument for an American burlesque of English condescension.

To bolster his evidence for the American origins of  "Yankee Doodle," Lemay points to stanzas from "The Lexington March" that "describe activities at early American frolics" (447) and "the eating, drinking, and sexual escapades that went on at all frolics" (450):

                        Christmas is a coming Boys

                             We’ll go to Mother Chases,

                        And there we’ll get a Sugar Dram,

                             Sweeten’d with Melasses.

                        .  .  . .  .  . .  .  . .  .  . .  .  . .  .  . .

Punk in Pye* is very good                                          *Pumpkin pie

                             And so is Apple Lantern;

                        Had you been whipp’d as oft as I,

                             You’d not have been so wanton.

As Lemay says, such stanzas are "characteristic folk poetry, . . . simultaneously poetry, music, and dance" (451):

                                    Stand up Jonathan

                                         Figure in by Neighbor,

                                    Vathen* stand a little off                                            *Vather; Father

                                         And make the Room some wider.

"To suppose that these stanzas dealing with colonial holidays were composed by some British officer in derision of the Americans is simply absurd. . . . These stanzas of indubitably American folk origin were evidently, like the Cape Breton group, in popular circulation by the late 1740s" (Lemay 451).  Damon’s explanation of some errata supports an American original (1):

The publication would seem to be part of the pro-American propaganda in England which was very active in 1775.  The source of the text was Boston, as several references to that city indicate; and the other references to Cape Cod, Nantasket, and Lynn are all from Massachusetts Bay.  But the English printer was not familiar with the Yankee dialect. Twice he misread "Vather" (father) as "Vathen", which he supposed was somebody’s name; and he had no idea what the "Punk" was that was so good "in Pye".

                                    "Yankee Song," Rum, Molasses, Corn, and a Riddle

            Other  American holidays and folk customs are described in related stanzas and in the chorus of "Yankee Song," a broadside which Lemay dates to the 1810s (Figure 6), "But the text, which may have been printed from an earlier broadside or manuscript, is pre-Revolutionary" (441).[13] 

One stanza in particular in "Yankee Song" connects the two broadsides:

                                    Lection time is now at hand,

                                    We’re going to uncle Chace’s,

                                    There’l be some a drinking round

                                    And some a lapping lasses.*                           *molasses

Figure 6.  Pre-Revolution verses in the c. 1810s "Yankee Song" broadside (Lawrence 34).

            Mother Chase’s Christmas parties in "The Lexington March" and uncle Chace’s election-day parties seem to have been local traditions, probably at a family tavern also referred to in The Contrast.  Jonathan says, "if I was with Tabitha Wymen and Jemima Cawley down at father Chase’s, I shouldn’t mind singing this all out before them." So, "Yankee Doodle" was also a drinking song. Punch made from rum and molasses was a colonial favorite.  Lawrence follows this interpretation: "the ‘lasses’ that were lapped at the ‘lection’ festivities at ‘uncle Chace’s’ were the kind from which rum was distilled" (33). No doubt the local lads did lap up shots (drams) of rum and ’lasses, but considering the many sexual jokes and puns in the folksong, they might also have enjoyed "lapping" the girls.

The most archetypal American festival in "Yankee Song" is the corn-husking bee:

                                    Husking time is coming on

                                    They all begin to laugh sir—

                                    Father is a coming home

                                    To kill the heifer calf sir.

                                    .  .  . .  .  . .  .  . .  .  . .  .  . .

                                    Now husking time is over

                                    They have a duced* frolic,                              *deuced; devilish

                                    There’l be some as drunk as sots

                                    The rest will have the cholic.

CHORUS.

                                         Corn stalks twist your hair off,

                                         Cart wheel frolic round you,

                                         Old fiery dragon carry you off,

                                         And mortar pessel pound you.

Lemay shows that "husking frolics had developed into a colonial institution with their own nomenclature by the late 17th century," and he cites ample "evidence for husking as a social and nationalistic festival" (448). For example, as the English visitor Edward Ward wrote in A Trip to New England (1699), "Husking of Indian-Corn, is as good sport for the Amorous Wag-tailes in New England, as Maying amongst us is for our forward Youths and Wenches" (Lemay 448). This harvest festival, descended from ancient fertility rituals and related to American Indian harvest songs and legends of the Corn Mother (Lemay 449), further proves that "Yankee Doodle" was composed by Americans, not an English satirist. Lemay continues, "The Corn Stalks chorus is especially interesting because of its ritualistic identification with the corn. . . .  The spirit of the corn itself is speaking, describing the death and transmutations which it undergoes to bring life to man" (448).  The chorus is a riddle, the answer to which is corn. The first line, ". . . twist your hair off," refers to detasseling or desilking the corn. The "Cart-wheel frolic" is both the busy wheel carts and the couples dancing around the corn.  The "Old fiery dragon"  is the burning of the husks and cobs, or parching the kernels, or drinking corn whiskey.  The "mortar pessel" pounds the dry kernels into cornmeal. "There can be no doubt that the Corn Stalks chorus celebrates the ritual sacrifice of the god of the harvest—and that in New England in the eighteenth century this was enacted at a frolic rather than at a religious ceremony" (Lemay 450).  This interpretation also connects to "Father is a coming home / To kill the heifer calf sir."

               "The Farmer and his Son’s return from a Visit to the CAMP," Edward Bangs, and "I"

The final American motifs in "Yankee Song" are also in related verses on the c. 1775-1785 broadside of "The Farmer and his Son’s return from a visit to the CAMP" (Figure 7).[14]  Sonneck (135-36), Damon (5-8), and Lemay 452-53) reference a quick succession of a dozen broadsides of  "A Visit to the Camp," most retitled "The Yankee’s Return from Camp."  Its 15 verses became the standard text in American literature anthologies in the 20th century as the supposedly original and thenceforth canonical "Yankee Doodle."[15]

Figure 7.  The c. 1775-1785 "Visit to the Camp" broadside (Lawrence 61)

Like "The Lexington March" and "Yankee Song," "A Visit to the Camp" has been read as English satire, but Sonneck (140-42) and Damon (5) liked the tradition that it was by a Minuteman named Edward Bangs in 1778.  Accepting the "authority of Edward Everett Hale," Damon declares, "This version came from a single pen and can definitely be attributed to a Harvard sophomore, Edward Bangs" (5).  Sonneck observed: "If we turn to the text itself, it clearly reveals an American origin.  It is so full of American provincialisms, slang expressions of the time, allusions to American habits, customs, that no Englishman could have penned these verses" (141).  Lemay agrees (453-54):  "they would never have been written as a satire on the Americans—not because they are so knowledgeable about Americans but because they are so good-natured and because they really mock the condescending attitudes toward Americans."

The attribution of these verses to Edward Bangs rests on a note from Judge Thomas Dawes to Edward Everett Hale’s father, editor of the Boston Daily Advertiser (Lemay 455):

                                                                                    Boston, 25th June 1824

Sir: —The Eleven Yankee-Doodle stanzas in your paper of yesterday and perhaps the additional ones were the sudden effusions of my departed classmate, Edward Bangs, father of the present secretary of Massachusetts, written when a student under Theophilus Parsons, in 1778. I think he wrote them when on a visit to Cape Cod, his native place.

                                                                                                Yours with much regard

                                                                                                            Thomas Dawes

Edward Bangs answered the call in Middlesex on April 19, so the story makes good myth, but Lemay has doubts.  Was Edward Bangs Yankee Doodle?  Yes and No.  Eight stanzas in "A Visit to the Camp" are versions of verses in "Yankee Song." As Lemay notes, the stanzas common to both texts "are usually better, aesthetically, in the Yankee Song broadside. Therefore, if Bangs did revise the stanzas, he made them worse rather than better.  The logical conclusion is that the stanzas were not revised by Bangs, but that the versions in the usual Visit to camp broadsides represent the result of deterioration while in the oral tradition" (460). Damon concedes:

Bangs was credited with the entire song, but now it is evident that he built his poem on the earlier "Yankee Song", locating the camp at Cambridge, and mounting Washington on the slapping stallion. He pulled the whole narrative together into a unit, omitting any superfluous stanzas about the Yankee relatives and customs. The hero is now definitely not an ignorant yokel but a naïve, inquisitive, and timid boy who flees home in a panic, thus bringing the song to a satisfactory conclusion and giving it the popular title of "The Yankee’s Return from Camp." He also added stanzas 2 and 3 about ’Squire David (which were not too successful), and stanza 7 about Cousin Simon. Bangs also provided the new chorus. (5)

The chorus, of course, comes long before in The Disappointment (1767). Lemay closes the question of authorship of this folksong:

knowing that the stanzas in the Yankee Song broadside are evidently pre-Revolutionary, I see little reason to believe that Edward Bangs had anything to do with any "Yankee Doodle" texts. Judge Dawes may have learned a Visit to Camp version of "Yankee Doodle" from Bangs, and he evidently believed (over forty years later) that Bangs said he wrote "Yankee Doodle." I conclude that the Visit to Camp stanzas—like the Cape Breton stanzas and the Corn Stalks stanzas—are traditional, that they antedate by at least two decades their supposed composition by Edward Bangs in 1778 at Cape Cod, and that they are of American origin. (460)

The stanzas tell a scared yet curious country boy’s story of his first day initiation at a Continental army camp. Sonneck pointed to the stanzas about Washington and wrote, "With this allusion the conjecture becomes fairly safe that the text of ‘Father and I went down to camp’ originated at or in the vicinity of the ‘Provincial Camp,’ Cambridge, Mass., in 1775 or 1776" (142).[16]   Lemay puts the setting in context: "The persona and locale reflect two traditions in colonial American humor" (452).  First is the same pose as an unbelievably naive bumpkin used in the Cape Breton stanzas of "The Lexington March." Second is the comical description of a colonial militia training day, "a standard subject for humor."[17] 

            The comedy in "A Visit to the Camp" is not so much the setting and military images as it is the first-person speaker’s narrative, language, metaphors, and character development. The first verse sets the tone of his voice and his situation:

                                    Father and I went down to camp,

                                         Along with Captain Gooding,

                                    And there we see the men and boys

                                         As thick as hasty pudding.

The boy has joined his family and the rest of Captain Gooding’s local militia company for joint training with other units.  He is proud to serve under Captain Gooding, who personifies the good American officer.  He is proud to due his duty like the many other men and boys. The crowd at the camp so impresses him that he must try to convey his wonder, but he has only his childhood experiences on the farm for comparison, so he uses a distintly American simile, "As thick as hasty pudding" (cornmeal mush).  Likewise, almost in riddles, he describes a cannon as "a swamping gun, / Large as a log of maple," a bayonet as "a crooked stabbing iron," a mortar as "a pumpkin shell, / As big as mother’s bason," and his future instrument, a drum:

                                    I see a little barrel too,

                                         The heads were made of leather,

                                    They knock’d upon’t with little clubs,

                                         And call’d the folks together.

Though cautious, he must investigate the big gun that "makes a noise like father’s gun, / Only a nation louder."

                                    I went as nigh to one myself,

     As ’Siah’s underpinning;

And father went as nigh again,

     I thought the duce* was in him.                             *deuce; the devil

Cousin Simon grew so bold,

     I thought he would have cock’d it,

It scar’d me so I shriek’d it off,

     And hung by father’s pocket.

"Yankee Song" goes, "I went so nigh to get a peep / I saw the under-pinning," which makes more sense, but the sharp boy’s courage is the same, even if he naturally hid behind his father when they prepared to fire it.

            His initiation ends with a glimpse of the cost of war and of his own mortality:

                                    I see another snarl of men,

                                         A digging graves they told me,

                                    So tarnal long, so tarnal deep,

                                         They ’tended they should hold me.

                                    It scar’d me so I hook’d it off,

                                         Nor stopt as I remember,

                                    Nor turn’d about ’till I got home,

                                         Lock’d up in mother’s chamber.

The joke is that the eternal long and deep graves are probably just trench latrines, and the snarling men are just teasing the boy as part of his rite of passage.  When he gets the joke, he will see his youth. For now he returns to "mother’s chamber," where he first heard "Yankee Doodle" as "the nurse’s lullaby" (Sonneck 109). Psychologically, he returns to the safety and security of the womb.  But, he then "turn’d about," that is, thinks back on his experience. When he emerges tomorrow and goes back to camp, he will be a step closer to the boy in Archibald Willard’s painting.  This boy will be like the kid remembered in William Gordon’s History of the Rise, Progress, and Establishment of the Independence of the United States (1788). As Lord Percy’s brigade marched toward Lexington to the step of "Yankee Doodle," a farmer’s son spoke up: "A smart boy observing it as the troops passed through Roxbury, made himself extremely merry with the circumstance, jumping and laughing, so as to attract the notice of his lordship, who, it is said, asked him at what he was laughing so heartily; and was answered, ‘To think how you will dance by and by to Chevy Chace.’  It is added, that the repartee stuck by his lordship the whole day" (vol. I, 312.  Web). Aptly, the boy was alluding to a ballad about the defeat of Henry "Hotspur" Percy (Lord Percy’s ancestor) by the Scots in 1388.  This Yankee Doodle boy will be reborn from mother’s chamber as a future Thomas Ditson, Edward Bangs, Captain Gooding, Ben Franklin, or George Washington.

Song, Society, and the American Self

Folksongs and country dances unite regional groups.  Singing and dancing are communal activities that symbolize cultural harmony and social order.  "Yankee Doodle" helped bring together an aspiring nation of people on the move, men and women, white and black.  Demonstrating its popularity with both sexes, in The Contrast Jenny assures Jonathan, "Oh! it is the tune I am fond of; and if I know anything of my mistress, she would be glad to dance to it." When he stops singing after three verses from "A Visit to the Camp," she says, "Is that all!  I assure you I like it of all things." Jonathan replies, "No, no; I can sing more, some other time, when you and I are better acquainted, I’ll sing the whole of it—no, no—that’s a fib—I can’t sing but a hundred and ninety verses; our Tabitha at home can sing it all."[18]  Moreover, in his ode "Independence Day" (1796), Royall Tyler includes "our brother negroes" in the celebration:       

To day we dance to tiddle diddle.

—Here comes Sambo with his fiddle;

                                    Sambo, take a dram of whiskey,

                                    And play Yankee doodle frisky.

Yankee Doodle is the young American everyman.  His song is self-expression, a song of his growing self-awareness of himself as distinct from his Old World heritage. It is a song of self-confidence and self-satire, sung as proudly as James Cagney sang and danced in 1942,

                                    I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy,

                                    Yankee Doodle, do or die,

                                    A real live nephew of my Uncle Sam,

                                    Born on the Fourth of July.

                                    .  .  . .  .  . .  .  . .  .  . .  .  . .  .  . .

                                    I am the Yankee Doodle Boy.[19]

Works Cited

Barton, Andrew.  The Disappointment: or, The Force of Credulity (1767). Ed. by Jerald C.

Craue and Judith Layng.  Recent Researches in American Music, vol. III & IV.  Madison: A-R Editions, 1976: 52-55.

Cohen, Joel.  "Program Notes" to Liberty Tree: American Music 1776-1861.  Boston Camerata. 

Mechanics Hall, Worcester, MA.  15-19 September, 1997.  CD. Web.

Damon, S. Foster.  Yankee Doodle.  Providence, RI, 1959.

Franklin, Benjamin.  "An Open Letter to Lord North."  The Public Advertiser (London, April 15,

 1774).  Web.

Fischer, David Hackett.  Liberty and Freedom.  Oxford University Press, 2005.

Lawrence, Vera Brodsky. Music for Patriots, Politicians, and Presidents: Harmonies and

 Discords of the First Hundred Years.  New York: Macmillan, 1975.

Lemay, J. A. Leo. "The American Origins of "Yankee Doodle."  William and Mary Quarterly 33

(July 1976): 435-64.

Rabson, Carolyn.  "Disappointment Revisited:  Unweaving the Tangled Web, Part I." American

Music 1 (Spring 1983): 12-35.

Sonneck, Oscar George Theodore. "Yankee Doodle." Report on "The Star-Spangled

Banner""Hail Columbia" "America" "Yankee Doodle." Washington: Government Printing Office, 1909: 79-156.

Tyler, Royall.  The Contrast: A Comedy.  New York:  Dunlap Society, 1887. Web.

"Yankee Doodle."  The Literature of the United States.  Eds. Walter Blair et al.  Chicago:  Scott, Foresman, 1946.  277-78.



Endnotes

[1]  Thomas Ditson, a member of the Billerica, Massachusetts militia, was cheated and accused of buying guns for the rebels.  In a sworn deposition on March 9, 1775, Ditson described being tarred and feathered and paraded up and down the streets by 40 or 50 Regulars and "a Number of Drums and Fifes."  According to legend, as they rode Ditson through Boston,  the soldiers sang an occasional verse:

Yankee Doodle’s come to town,

 For to buy a firelock,

We will tar and feather him,

 And so we will John Hancock.

His mistreatment by the 47th Regiment on March 7 & 8 almost caused a riot and another Boston Massacre.  The incident outraged the patriots.  In a letter on March 21st, Samuel Adams described it as "inhuman and barbarous." On April19, Ditson’s company routed the British at the Battle at Meriam’s Corner, a.k.a. "Ditson’s Revenge" (Web).  Was Thomas Ditson Yankee Doodle?  Yes and No.

[2]  Lemay cites references to the English troops being forced  to "dance" a retreat to "Yankee Doodle" in the Pennsylvania Journal; and the Weekly Advertiser  (May 24, 1775, and June 28, 1775), the London Chronicle (July 11, 1775), and William Gordon’s account in the Pennsylvania Gazette  (June 7, 1775):  "the Brigade under Lord Percy marched out, playing, by way of contempt, Yankee Doodle; they were afterwards told, they had been made to dance to it" (436).

     On November 27, 1781, the Pennsylvania Packet printed a song that extends the metaphor of this "doodle dance" to its conclusion at Yorktown (Lawrence 93):

                                                                 THE DANCE

                                              A Ballad, to the tune of "Yankey Doodle."

CORNWALLIS led a country dance

    The like was never seen, sir,

Much retrograde, and much advance,

     And all with General Greene, sir.

They rambled up, and rambled down,                Now hous’d in York he challenged all, 

                 Join’d hands, then off they run, sir,                 At minuet or all’mande,

Our General Greene to Charlestown,                 And lessons for a courtly ball,

                 The earl to Wilmington, sir.                                        His guards by day and night conn’d.

Greene, in the south, then danced a set,                        This challenge known, full soon there came,

                 And got a mighty name, sir,                                          A set who had the bon ton,  

Cornwallis jigg’d with young Fayette,               De Grasse, and Rochambeau, whose fame,

     And suffer’d in his fame, sir.                                         Fut brilliant pour un long tems.

   

Then down he figur’d to the shore,                  And Washington, Columbia’s son,

                 Most like a lordly dancer,                                 Whom easy nature taught, sir,

And on his courtly honour swore,                     That grace, which can’t by pains be won,        

                 He would no more advance, sir.                        Or Pluto’s gold be bought, sir.

Quoth he—my guards are weary grown,                        Now hand in hand they circle round,

                With footing country dances,                                       This ever dancing peer, sir,

            They never at Saint James’s shone,                  Their gentle movements soon confound,

                 At capers, kicks or prances.                                         The earl as they draw near, sir.

Though men so gallant ne’er were seen,                       His music soon forgets to play—

                 While saunt’ring on parade, sir,                        His feet can move no more, sir,

Or wriggling o’er the park’s smooth green,       And all his hands now curse the day,

                 Or at a masquerade, sir.                                    They jigg’d it to our shore, sir.

Yet are red heels, and long lac’d skirts,             Now tories all, what can ye say?

                 For stumps and briars meet, sir,                        Come—is not this a griper?

Or stand they chance with hunting shirts,                     That while your hopes are danc’d away,

                  Or hardy vet’ran feet, sir.                               ’Tis you must pay the piper.

[3]  According to A. Levasseur, a French observer of the surrender at Yorktown, British General O’Hara, standing in for Cornwallis, who "pleaded indisposition," offered his sword to General Rochambeau rather than to Washington. Seeing the ploy, Lafayette "ordered the music of the light infantry to strike up Yankee doodle, an air which the British applied to a song composed to ridicule the Americans at the beginning of the war, and which they uniformly sung to all their prisoners. This pleasantry of Lafayette was so bitter to them, that many of them broke their arms in a rage in grounding them on the glacis" (Lawrence 93).

[4]   Thomas Anburey, a British officer present at General Burgoyne’s surrender at Saratoga on October 17, 1777, wrote: "the name [Yankee] has been more prevalent since the commencement of hostilities. The soldiers at Boston used it as a term of reproach, but after the affair at Bunker’s Hill, the Americans gloried in it. Yankee Doodle is now their paean, a favorite of favorites, played in their army, esteemed as warlike as the Grenadier’s March—it is the lover’s spell, the nurse’s lullaby. After our rapid successes, we held the Yankees in great contempt, but it was not a little mortifying to hear them play this tune, when their army marched down to our surrender" (Sonneck 109).

     On February 21, 1779, on his march to capture the British fort at Vincennes. Indiana, George Rogers Clark faced a crisis when his men were afraid to cross neck-deep water.  Clark wrote:  "I viewed their confusion for about one minute, whispered to those near me to do as I did immediately put some water in my hand, poured on powder, blackened my face, gave the warwhoop and marched into the water, without saying a word. The party gazed and fell in, one after another without saying a word, like a flock of sheep. I ordered those near me to begin a favorite song of theirs.  It soon passed through the line and the whole went on cheerfully" (Web).   Legend says the song could only have been "Yankee Doodle."

[5]   Vera Brodsky Lawrence’s Music for Patriots, Politicians, and Presidents has photos of broadsides and sheet music of over a dozen post-Revolution songs that build upon or are sung to the tune of "Yankee Doodle." They are beyond the scope of this study of the song up to and during the war.

[6]   The macaroni stanza also hides a little secret, which  perhaps is why it was not printed until 1842, after the full meaning of macaroni had been forgotten. When Yankee Doodle "Stuck a feather in his hat / And called it Macaroni," he was using a term coined in the 1760s to refer to English gentlemen who had been to Europe, particularly Italy, and brought back continental haute coutre.  The traditional interpretation of the song as English satire of Americans sees the joke being about a New England dandy who thinks that a feather in his hat makes him as fashionable as a British man à la mode. However, following the interpretation of the song as American satire of British haughtiness, Yankee Doodle calling his feather "macaroni" is sarcasm making fun of English aristocrats using their own word.  The macaroni was an easy target for satire (Figures 8, 9, 10).  

The Macaroni Painter, or Billy Dimple Sitting for his Picture (Fig. 8) is especially noteworthy because it could be a previously unnoticed source for Tyler’s The Contrast.  Although Tyler does not use the term macaroni in his play, his comical villain is an anglified fop named Billy Dimple, who "has thought fit to soften his name [from William Van Dumpling], as well as his manners, during his English tour." 

Figure 8. The Macaroni Painter, or Billy Dimple Sitting for his Picture by Robert Dighton (1772)

Sonneck gathered several sources that explain the origin and definition of  macaroni  (127-28).  In 1763, Horace Walpole referred to "the Macaroni Club, which is composed of all the traveled young men, who wear long curls and spying glasses." Macaronis "affected immense knots of artificial hair, ludicrously small cock-hats, enormous walking sticks with long tassels, and jackets, waistcoats and breeches of very close cut."  In November 1772, Scots Magazine published an account of how the term came to be applied to members of this club:

like many other foreign fashions, it [pasta] was imported by our connoscenti in eating, as an improvement to the subscription-table at Almack’s. In time, the subscribers to those dinners became to be distinguished by the title of Macaroni; and as the meeting was composed of the younger and gayer part of our nobility and gentry, who, at the same time that they gave in to the luxuries of eating, went equally into the extravagences of dress, the word Macaroni changed its meaning to that of a person who exceeded the ordinary bounds of fashion, and is now justly used as a term of reproach to all ranks of people, indifferently, who fall into this absurdity.

Figure 9.  The Macaroni.  A real Character at the late Masquerade by Philip Dawe (1773)

Figure 10.  The Macaroni by Samuel Hieronymous Grimm (1774)

[7]   Joseph MacPherson of Philadelphia identified the real-life models for the characters in a letter dated May 30, 1767, to William Patterson of New Jersey (Barton vii): "Perhaps you may not have heard who were the actors in the real farce, & yet may be acquainted with some of them, Quadrant is intended for an old Instrument maker, by name of Cappock, Hum for one Yeates a Tavern Keeper, Parchment for Reily the dec’d Scrivener, Rattletrap for one Rudiman Robeson, formerly a Commander of a Vessel, Raccoon for Swan the Hatter, Washball for an old dec’d Barber called Dixon, Trushoop for a merry countryman of Yours, & McSnip for a foolish one of mine" (Barton vii).

 

[8]    Franklin’s satiric proposal to the Prime Minister was published in The Public Advertiser  (London) on April 15, 1774.  A fictitious Loyalist represents the scornful view of Americans satirized in "Yankee Doodle":  "The Colonists are a dastardly Set of Poltroons; and though they are descended from British Ancestors, they are degenerated to such a Degree, that one born in Britain is equal to twenty Americans."

 

[9]   "In the early part of June, the eastern troops began to pour in, company after company, and such a motley assemblage of men never before thronged together on such an occasion, unless an example might be found in the ragged regiment of Sir John Falstaff, of right and facetious memory.  It would, said my worthy ancestor, who relates to me the story, have relaxed the gravity of an anchorite, to have seen the descendants of the Puritans, marching through the streets of our ancient city, to take their station on the left of the British army—some with long coats, some with short coats, and others with no coats at all, in colours as varied as the rainbow, some with their hair cropped like the army of Cromwell, and others with wigs whose curls flowed with grace around their shoulders.  Their march, their accoutrements, and the whole arrangement of the troops, furnished matter of amusement to the wits of the British army. The musick played the airs of two centuries ago, and the tout ensemble, upon the whole, exhibited a sight to the wondering strangers that they had been unaccustomed to in their own land. Among the club of wits that belonged to the British army, there was a physician attached to the staff, by the name of Doctor Shackburg, who combined with the science of the surgeon, the skill and talents of a musician.  To please brother Jonathan, he composed a tune, and with much gravity recommended it the officers, as one of the most celebrated airs of martial musick. The joke took to the no small amusement of the British corps.  Brother Jonathan exclaimed it was nation fine, and in a few days nothing was heard in the provincial camp but the air of Yankee Doodle" (Sonneck 96-97).

[10]   Copies of the Skillern broadside are at the British Museum, Boston Public Library, and Brown University Library. The following transcription (with minor punctuation corrected) is from what Lemay cites as "the best reproduction of the Skillern broadside" (437) in Music for Patriots, Politicians, and Presidents (52):

                                                                               

             YANKEE DOODLE, or

                                      (as now Christened by the Saints of New England)

       THE LEXINGTON MARCH

     NB. The Words to be Sung thro’ the Nose, & in the West Country drawl & dialect.

Brother Ephraim sold his Cow

                                         And bought him a Commission,

And then he went to Canada

                                         To Fight for the Nation;

But when Ephraim he came home

                                                     He prov’d an arrant Coward,

He wou’d’n’t fight the Frenchmen there,

     For fear of being devour’d.

Sheep’s Head and Vinegar,                                Punk in Pye is very good        

     Butter Milk and Tansy,                                    And so is Apple Lantern,

Boston is a Yankee town,                                 Had you been whipp’d as oft as I

                 Sing Hey Doodle Dandy:                                  You’d not have been so wanton:

First we’ll take a Pinch of Snuff                                   Uncle is a Yankee Man

                 And then a drink of Water,                              I’faith he pays us all off,

And then we’ll say How do you do,                  And he has got a Fiddle

                 And that’s a Yanky’s Supper.                           As big as Daddy’s Hogs Trough.

                                   

Aminidab is just come Home                            Seth’s Mother went to Lynn

                 His Eyes all greas’d with Bacon,                       To buy a pair of Breeches,

            And all the news that he cou’d tell                   The first time Vathen put them on                 

                 Is Cape Breton is taken:                                   He tore out all the Stitches;

            Stand up Jonathan                                            Dolly Bushel let a fart,

                 Figure in by Neighbor,                                      Jenny Jones she found it,

            Vathen stand a little off                                               Ambrose carried it to Mill

                 And make the Room some wider.                     Where Doctor Warren ground it.

Christmas is a coming Boys                              Our Jemima’s lost her Mare

     We’ll go to Mother Chases,                                         And can’t tell where to find her,

            And there we’ll get a Sugar Dram,                    But she’ll come trotting by and by

                  Sweeten’d with Melasses:                                 And bring her Tail behind her;

            Heigh ho for our Cape Cod,                              Two and two may go to Bed,

                 Heigh ho Nantasket,                                                    Two and two together,

            Do not let the Boston wags                              And if there is not room enough,

                 Feel your Oyster Basket.                                  Lie one a top o’to’ther.                                                                                      

 

[11]  Lemay:  "I reason that no sales-conscious publisher would call the first edition of this broadside ‘The Lexington March’ (rather than, say, ‘The Bunker Hill Song’) unless the battle of Lexington were the most recent news from America. . . . I here follow Damon’s reasoning, who adds, ‘the reference to Dr. Warren  . . . is too light-hearted to have been written after his death, and he was killed at Bunker Hill’ [1]" (438). 

[12]   Lemay reports, "The punctuation of the Huntington broadside of the ‘Lexington March’ is uniformly cruder than that in the Skillern broadside. I reason that no one would deliberately revise the Skillern punctuation into that of the Huntington copy, but that almost any conscientious engraver or publisher would correct and add punctuation to the Huntington copy.  The one substantive difference between the two engravings is found in the quatrain beginning ‘Uncle is a Yankee Man / ‘Ifaith he pays us all of’; the Skillern version correctly concludes ‘off’"   (438).

[13]                                                                                       YANKEE SONG.

            There is a man in our town,                             I saw a man talking there

            I’ll tell you his condition,                                 You might heard to the barn sir,

            He sold his Oxen and his Cows                         Hallooing and scolding too—

            To buy him a commission.                               The deal of one would answer.

                        CHORUS.                                            There he kept a riding round

                 Corn-stalks twist your hair off,                     Upon a spanking Stallion,

                 Cart-wheel frolic round you,                                   And all the people standing round,

                 Old fiery dragon carry you off,                    A thousand or a million.

                 And mortar pesssel pound you.

                                                                                    He had a ribbon on his hat,

            When a commission he had got                                    It looked nation fine sir!

            He prov’d to be a coward,                                I wanted it most ducedly

            He durst not go to Canada                                To give to my Jemima.

            For fear of being devoured.

                                                                                    My Jemima’s very sick,

            But farther and I went down to camp               I’m sure there’s something ails her

            Along with Captain Goodwin,                           She use’d to eat her supper up

            And there we saw the men and boys                 But now her stomach fails her.

            As thick as Hastypudding.

                                                                                    Brother Si is gone to town

            And there they had a little kegg,                                  With a load of shingles,

            The heads were made of leather,                                  And if he can’t have lasses for’t

            They rapt upon’t with little clubs                                 He vows he’ll breed a wrangle.

            To call the folks together.

For brother Jo is come to town,

            There I saw a swamping gun                             He’s gon’t to nock them all off,

            As big’s a log of maple,He plays upon a swamping fiddle

            Put upon two little wheels                                As big as Father’s hog trough.

            A load for Father’s cattle.

                                                                                    Husking time is coming on

            Every time they fired it off                              They all begin to laugh sir—

            It took a horn of powder,                                 Father is a coming home

            It made a noise like Farther’s gun                     To kill the heifer calf sir.

            And rung a nation louder.

                                                                                    Lection time is now at hand,

            I went so nigh to get a peep                             We’re going to uncle Chace’s,

            I saw the under-pinning                                            There’l be some a drinking round

            Father went as nigh again,                                And some a lapping lasses.

            I thought the duce was in him.

                                                                                    Now husking time is over

            Brother Si he grew so bold                                They have a duced frolic,

            I thought he would have cock’d it,                   There’l be some as drunk as sots

            He hook’t around the other side                                   The rest will have the cholic.

            And hung by Father’s pocket.

                                                                                                CHORUS.

            There they had another thing,                              Corn stalks twist your hair off,

            Father call’d a mortar;                                          Cart wheel frolic round you,

            It look’d like mother’s porrage pot,                      Old fiery dragon carry you off,

            It held a pail of water.                                           And mortar pessel pound you.

[14]                                        The Farmer and his Son’s return from a visit to the CAMP

            Father and I went down to camp,                     And captain Davis had a gun,

            Along with Captain Gooding,                           He kind of clapt his hand on’t,

            And there we see the men and boys                  And stuck a crooked stabbing iron                               

             As thick as hasty pudding.                               Upon the little end on’t.

                                                                                     Yankey doodle, &c.

            Yankey doodle keep it up, yankey doodle        And there I see a pumpkin shell,

            Dandy,                                                              As big as mother’s bason,

             Mind the music and the step,                           And every time they touch’d it off,

            And with the girls be handy.                             They scamper’d like the nation.

                                                                                                Yankey doodle, &c.

            And there we see a thousand men,

             As rich as ’squire David,                                       I see a little barrel too,

            And what they wasted every day,                          The heads were made of leather,

             I wish it had been saved.                                        They knock’d upon’t with little clubs,

                  Yankee doodle, &c.                                                       And call’d the folks together.

                                                                                                Yankey doodle, &c.

            The ’lasses they eat every day,

             Would keep an house a winter;                                    And there was captain Washington,

            They have as much that I’ll be bound,              And gentlefolks about him,

              They eat it when they’re mind to.                 They say he’s grown so tarnal proud,

                        Yankey doodle, &c.                             He will not ride without them.

                                                                                                Yankey doodle, &c.

            And there we see a swamping gun,

             Large as a log of maple,                                             He got him on his meeting clothes,

            Upon a ducid little cart,Upon a slapping stallion,

             A load for father’s cattle.                                He set the world along in rows,

                Yankey doodle, &c.                                      In hundreds and in millions.

                                                                                       Yankey doodle, &c.

            And every time they shoot it off,

                 It takes a horn of powder,                           The flaming ribbons in his hat,

            And makes a noise like father’s gun,                They look’d so taring fine ah,

             Only a nation louder.                                      I wanted pockily to get,

                 Yankey doodle, &c.                                                To give to my Jemimah.

                                                                                                Yankey doodle, &c.

            I went as nigh to one myself,

            As ’Siah’s underpinning;                                                I see another snarl of men,

            And father went as nigh again,                         A digging graves they told me,

             I thought the duce was in him.                          So tarnal long, so tarnal deep,

                        Yankee doodle, &c.                               They ’tended they should hold me.

                                                                                                Yankey doodle, &c.

            Cousin Simon grew so bold,

             I thought he would have cock’d it,                  It scar’d me so I hook’d it off,

             It scar’d me so I shriek’d it off,                                    Nor stopt as I remember,

             And hung by father’s pocket.                          Nor turn’d about ’till I got home,

                        Yankey doodle, &c.                             Lock’d up in mother’s chamber.

                                                                                                Yankey doodle, &c.

                       

[15]   These early college anthologies established the canonical text and approach to the song.  For example, The Literature of the United States (1946) introduces the "Visit to the Camp" verses as "Yankee Doodle" with the following head note:

            "The Yankee’s Return from Camp" was the title first given to this song, later generally known by its present title.  Since it is an authentic ballad, there is no way of determining just who wrote it, when it was written, and what the original words were.  The tune was known in the colonies as early as 1767, but the words—which varied in different versions—were composed later, probably by British soldiers or Tory sympathizers who wanted to ridicule the crude Yankees.  The contrary Yankees in time apparently used it as a battle song of their own.  It is interesting not only for its wartime history and for its lasting appeal to Americans but also for the way it created an American bumpkin by letting him talk his own dialect, later to be a very important procedure in the humor and fiction of the United States (277-78).

[16]   An allusion in one of the stanzas is evidence that the camp was before Lexington and Concord:

And Captain Davis had a gun,

                                                 He kind of clapt his hand on’t,

                                                And stuck a crooked stabbing iron

 Upon the little end on’t.

"This was Captain Isaac Davis, the Yankee gunsmith whose company of Acton Minutemen were put in the front of the American formation at Concord’s North Bridge, because they were one of the few units with bayonets. Davis was shot dead at the head of his men and became an American hero" (Fischer 218).

[17]   In his Short History of New England (1694) Increase Mather denounced training days as "little other than Drinking Days," and in A Trip to New England Edward Ward joked that they were "Holy-days" (holidays) known as the "Rutting Time" (452).

[18]   Jonathan then sings a verse that is not on any of the original broadsides:

Marblehead’s a rocky place,

And Cape-Cod is sandy;

Charleston is burnt down,

Boston is the dandy.

Sonneck comments, "the verse "Marblehead’s a rocky place" can not have been written before June 17, 1775, the day on which Charlestown was burned down by General Gage. Nor would there have been any sense in writing them after 1785, when the town was rapidly rising from the ashes." He calls it "a local interpolation not belonging to the original text" (135).

[19]    "The Yankee Doodle Boy" (1904) by George M. Cohan, a Freemason