Mar 182013

Yesterday, as I researched the origin of Uncle Sam as a national personification, I found a reference to him in the 13th verse of one version of the song “Yankee Doodle.” Who knew there were 13 verses to that song? In fact, I find it to be a rather quirky tune. How did it come to be thought of as a patriotic song?

Well, the first thing to know is that there are many versions of the song. The version which I referenced yesterday is different from the song sheet that I found on the Library of Congress’s website (which is today’s attached image). The verses in the image do, however, reference Captains Washington, Gooding and Davis. I stopped counting after finding literally dozens of different versions of Yankee Doodle online.

The song has been referenced across the history of our country. It was sung in the Colonial period (as described below). In 1942, James Cagney stared in the film Yankee Doodle Dandy, and it can currently be heard in the theme of the children’s program Barney & Friends.

The exact origin of the song is not known, but is it thought to be based on a nursery rhyme entitled Lucy Locket. Songs were used in the colonial period as both a means of communication and expression. “Yankee Doodle” is thought to have originated within the ranks of the British army, and the song was originally intended to mock members of the colonial resistance movement which eventually became the Continental Army. After all, a “doodle” was another name for a fool, and a macaroni was a stylish, but effeminate, wig. Early versions of the song mock members of the Massachusetts militia, Philadelphians, and man named Thomas Ditson. Ditson was tarred and feathered after purchasing a musket in Boston from Sargent John Clancy of the 47th Regiment of Foot on March 7, 1775. British troops publicly humiliated Ditson by parading him through Boston in a cart and then released him. He was a member of the Billerica Minute Men who later fought in the Battle at Concord. The verse which includes the reference to Thomas Ditson also threatens to tar and feather John Hancock. After the Battle of Lexington and Concord, the song became a rallying cry for the colonial resistance as much as it was for the British troops. The British documented their defeat at Battle of Bunker Hill with a verse of Yankee Doodle, and the song was played after the Continental Army defeated the British at the Battle of Saratoga. By the time that the British surrendered at Yorktown, Yankee Doodle had become somewhat of a national anthem.

One verse I found, which was created after Massachusetts ratified the Constitution, might be particularly enjoyable for my fellow conservatives: 

Now politicians of all kinds,
Who are not yet decided,
May see how Yankees speak their minds,
And yet are not divided.
So here I end my Fed’ral song,
Composed of thirteen verses;
May agriculture flourish long
And commerce fill our purses!

You can read the entire version, as well as other versions and sound bites of Yankee Doodle on my website at:


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