FOR THE DAILY SOUTHERNER
At the December meeting of The Daughters of American Revolution Micajah Pettaway Chapter,
Regent Dottie Barrett presented the program on “Yankee Doodle Went to Town.”
“Yankee Doodle” is an old song popular in America since colonial days. It may have begun in southern Europe in the Middle Ages was popular in Holland, in about 1500, where the harvesters sang it. The verses began with the meaningless words: “Yanker dudel doodle down.”
The song was sung to small children in England during Shakespeare’s time and was later used for a rhyme that began: “Lucy Locket lost her pocket, Kitty Fisher found it; nothing in it, nothing in it, Save the binding round it.”
Another English form of the Yankee Doodle tune was sung by the cavaliers in the 1600s. They made up words to poke fun at Oliver Cromwell when he rode from Canterbury to take charge of the Puritan forces.
“Yankee Doodle came to town upon a Kentish pony. He stuck a feather in his cap and called it macaroni.”
At that time, “macaroni” was used to mean the young men of London who dressed in odd Italian styles.
From 1754-1763, British troops and American colonists fought against the French and Indians with the colonies stretching from New Hampshire to Georgia belonging to Great Britain. In 1770, many colonists were upset over paying extra taxes to help pay for the war and British control.
The American troops liked “Yankee Doodle” and the song soon became popular. “Yankee Doodle” was well-known all through the American colonies by the time of the Revolutionary War.
The words of “Yankee Doodle” in the United States were written by a British army surgeon, Dr. Richard Schuckburgh. He wrote the song after seeing Col. Thomas Fitch, Jr., the son of Connecticut Gov. Thomas Fitch and his troops. “Yankee Doodle” is the state song of Connecticut.
Unlike the most powerful Red Coats or British military, these minutemen were farmers and town folks, ill-equipped, poorly dressed and not well-trained. The song made fun of the trained American troops during the French and Indian War.
The first printed notice of “Yankee Doodle” in America appeared in the New York “Journal” on Oct. 12, 1768.
The last major battle of the Revolutionary War took place near Yorktown, Va. in 1781 and some witnesses reported that “Yankee Doodle” was sung at the British surrender. The Treaty of Paris officially ended the war and was signed two years later.
Singing songs were important instruments of satire and mockery during the time. The colonists used them to make fun of public figures, pass ugly rumors or insult their enemies. The song now sung as a ditty was at one time a song of mockery and then a song of war.