Yankee Doodle.

By Mark Tully

The original version of Yankee Doodle was supposedly written by the British as a way of mocking the American militia. The words are as follows:

The Yankey's return from Camp.

Father and I went down to camp,
Along with Captain Gooding,
There we see the men and boys,
as thick as hasty pudding
Yankee doodle keep it up,
Yankee doodle, dandy,
Mind the music and the step,
And with the girls be handy.
And there we see a thousand men,
as rich as Squire David;
And what they wasted every day,
I wish it could be saved.
Yankee doodle, &c.
The 'lasses they eat every day,
Would keep a house a winter:
They have as much that I'll be bound
They eat it when they're mind to.
Yankee doodle, &c.
And there we see a swamping gun,
Large as a log of maple,
Upon a ducid little cart,
A load for father's cattle.
Yankee doodle, &c.
And every time they shoot it off,
it takes a horn of powder --
It makes a noise like father's gun,
Only a nation louder.
Yankee doodle, &c.
I went as nigh to one myself,
as 'Siah's underpinning;
And father went as nigh again,
I though the deuce was in him.
Yankee doodle, &c.
Cousin Simon grew so bold,
I tho't he would have cock'd it:
It scar'd me so, I shrink'd it off,
And hung by father's pocket
Yankee doodle, &c.
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
Yankee doodle, &c.
And there I see a pumpkin shell
as big as mother's bason,
and every time they touched it off,
the scampered like a nation.
Yankee doodle, &c.
I see a little barrel too,
the heads were made of leather,
They knocked upon't with little clubs,
and call'd the folks together
Yankee doodle, &c.
And there was captain Washington,
And gentlefolks about him,
They say he's grown so tarnal proud,
He will not ride without 'em
Yankee doodle, &c.
He got him on his meeting clothes,
Upon a slapping stallion,
He set the world along in rows,
In hundreds and in Millions.
Yankee doodle, &c.
The flaming ribbons in their hats,
they looked so tarring fine, ah,
wanted pockily to get,
To give to my Jemimah
Yankee doodle, &c.
I see another snarl of men
A digging graves, they told me,
So tarnal long, so tarnal deep,
They 'tended they should hold me.
Yankee doodle, &c.
It fear'd me so, I hook'd it off
nor stopp'd, as I remember,
Nor turn's about till I got home,
Lock'd up in mother's chamber.
Yankee doodle, &c.1

As to the origins of the term Yankee, Thomas Anburey offers us the following: "The lower class of these Yankees -- a propos, it may not be amis here just to observe to you the etymology of this term: it is derived from a Cherokee word, eankke, which signifies coward and slave. This epithet of yankee was bestowed upon the inhabitants of New England by the Virginians, for not assisting them in a war with the Cherokees, and they have always been held in derision by it. But the name has been more prevalent since the commencement of hostilities; the soldiery at Boston used it as a term of reproach; but after the affair of Bunker's [Breed's] Hill, the Americans gloried in it. Yankee-doodle, is now their poean, 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 [at Saratoga]".2

There are hundreds of variations on these words, some of which might make a good tune for you Continental types to sing on your way into battle!


1) The words come from an old broadside (ASI The American Story; The Revolutionaries, by the editors of Time-Life Books, Alexandria, VA, 1996, page 31) and are said to be the original lyrics. Rumor has it that the British sang this tune on the morning of April 19, 1775 on their way to Lexington.
2) Anburey, Thomas, Travels Through the Interior Parts of America in a Series of Letters by an Officer, New York Times and Arno Press, 1969, Vol II, p 50-51, Nov 25, 1777.