"Yankee Doodle" Revisited.

By Paul Dickfoss, 3rd NY Reg't

The "original" words to Yankee Doodle are published in the October Courier. The words therein are from at least two broadsides published in America between 1775 and 1776. One was titled "The Farmer and his Son's Return From a Visit to the Camp"1 and the other "The Yankey's Return From Camp."2 The words to both songs are identical. However, sheet music of Yankee Doodle also appeared in London shortly after the news of Lexington and Concord reached England in 1775 and probably predates "The Yankey's Return From Camp". This version was a great success in England. Yankee Doodle was originally sung by the British to mock the American militia, and dates back to the 1760s but may date from the 1740s or 1750s. The words published here are probably closer to the "original" words than those published in the October Courier.

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 pov'd an arrant coward,
he wou'd'n't fight the Frenchmen
for fear of being devour'd.

Sheep's head and vinegar
butter milk and tansy,
Boston is a Yankee town
sing hey doodle dandy:
First we'll take a pinch of snuff
and then a drink of water,
and then we'll say how do you do
and that's a Yanky's supper

Aminadab is just come home
his eyes all greas'd with bacon,
and all the news that he cou'd tell
is Cape Breton is taken:
Stand up Jonathan
Figure in by Neighbour,
Nathen stand a little off
and make the room some wider
Christmas is a coming boys
well go to Mother Chases,
and there we'll get a sugar dram,
sweeten'd with melasses:
Heigh he for our Cape Cod,
heigh he Nantasket,
do not let the Boston wags,
feel your oyster basket.

Punk in pye is very good
and so is apple lantern,
had you been whipp'd as oft as I
you'd not have been so wanton:
Uncle is a Yankee man
'I faith he pays us all off,
and he has got a Fiddle
as big as Daddy's hogs trough.

Seth's Mother went to Lynn
to buy a pair of breeches,
The first time Vathen put them on
he tore out all the stitches;
Dolly Bushel let a fart,
Jenny Jones she found it,
Ambrose carried it to mill
where Doctor Warren ground it.

Our Jemima's lost her mare
and can't tell where to find her,
but she'll come trotting by and by
and bring her tail behind her
Two and two may go to bed;
two and two together,
and if there is not room enough,
lie one a top o'to'ther.

It should be noted that the above song has no chorus. The words to both "The Yankey's Return to Camp" and "The Lexington March" were later mixed in a broadside, probably dating from the early 19th century, called "Yankee Song." Which song derived from which is unknown. The chorus of "Yankee Song" was much different from the earlier songs:

Corn-stalks twist your hair off,
Cart-wheel frolic round you,
Old fiery dragon carry you off,
And mortar pessel pound you.

As to the origin of the name Yankee Doodle, Thomas Anburey is just one of many who have attempted to attribute the name not only to the Cherokee but also the Basque, Dutch, English, Hessian, Hungarian, and Irish. The truth to the matter is that the origins are buried in an interesting history. Let this be known before our interpreters promulgate another 18th-century misnomer.

Reproductions of broadsides of both The Lexington March and "The Yankey's Return to Camp" and other late 18th-century favorites will be sold for publication costs at the 1997 Chiwaukee Fair by the ballad peddler.

If the British forces were to march onto the battlefield singing the insulting words of "The Lexington March," the Continental line could take up the words printed in October's Courier drowning out the Brits!


1) Music for Patriots, Politicians, and Presidents: Harmonies and Discords of the First Hundred Years, by Vera Brodsky Lawrence, Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc., NY, 1975.
2) The American Story; The Revolutionaries, by the editors of Time-Life Books, Alexandria, VA, 1996.

And There's More ...

Yankee Doodle came to town
Upon a Kentish Pony.
He stuck a feather in his hat
And called it Macaroni.

This verse and others were written during English Civil War of mid-1600's about Prince Rupert of the Palatinate, a dashing military leader (and one of the founders of Hudson Bay Company, I think.).

If you're interested see The Real Personages of Mother Goose, written by Katherine Elwis Thomas in 1930. This book is a scholarly discourse on the true meaning of nursery rhymes. The Yankee Doodle article begins page 259.

Larry Burns
Holder's Company
Boonesborough Militia