August 14, 2013

Yankee Doodle went to town

The popular American military marching song originated in the 1750s as a British satire of the amateur American colonial militia. The most popular chorus for the song Yankee Doodle is:

            Yankee Doodle went to town
Riding on a pony;
He stuck a feather in his hat,
And called it macaroni.

Fort George Fife and Drum Corps
The ‘doodle’ word in the song is thought to derive from a German word meaning fool or simpleton. The ‘macaroni’ wig was extremely popular in fashion in the 1770s and became slang for foppishness or foolish. In general, the British were saying that the American colonials were effeminate and foolish looking.

Although the song was originally used by the British to mock the Americans, the song was quickly adopted by the colonials who made it their unofficial anthem during the American Revolution. By the time of the War of 1812, Yankee Doodle was perhaps the most popular song in the United States and American soldiers played it often. It was heard during the Battle of York in April 1813, at the Battle of Fort George in May 1813, and during the Niagara campaign in 1814. The song would have been played daily in American military camps and one version from 1812 goes:

            To meet Britannia’s hostile bands
            We’ll march, out heroes say, sir,
            We’ll join all hearts; we’ll join all hands;
            Brave boys we’ll win the day, sir.
                        Yankee doodle, strike your tent, yankee doodle dandy,
                        Yankee doodle, march away, and do your parts right handy.

            Full long we’ve borne with British pride,
            And sue’d to gain our rights, sir;
            All other methods have been tried;
            There nought remains but fight, sir.
                        Yankee doodle, march away, yankee doodle dandy,
                        Yankee doodle, fight brave boys, the thing will work right handy.

If you are interested in hearing some military music, make sure you head to Fort George this weekend for their annual Fife and Drum Muster and Soldiers’ Field Day. The event features military bands and infantry units from across Canada and the United States, and the event also features a sunset tattoo ceremony on Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. Click here to learn more about this event.

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