[Ads-l] Yankee Doodle, 1775

Joel Berson berson at ATT.NET
Sun May 21 00:35:12 EDT 2017

[Apologies for the previous rendition.  I hope this is more harmonious.]

An early quotation for “Yankee Doodle”, and some contemporaneous context for its passing from the British to the Americans.  I have not looked at John Picker’s article in Harvard's New Literary History of America, which JL in 2010 called of uneven value, nor consulted other research.

In Peter Force, American Archives: Fourth Series, Vol. 2 (Washington, October, 1839), “Account of an Attack on the Inhabitants of Massachusetts by the British Troops, Acting Under the Orders of General Gage, on the 19th of April, 1775,” datelined “Worcester, Massachusetts, May 3, 1775,” pp. 488--490.  This is by an anonymous Patriot; I hypothesize it’s Isaiah Thomas, who had moved with his press to Worcester on April 16.  Page 488:  

“During this time an express from the Troops was sent to General Gage, who, thereupon, sent out a reinforcement of about fourteen hundred men, under the command of Earl Percy,with two field-pieces.*” 

"* When the Second Brigade marched out of Boston to reinforce the First, nothing was played by the Fifes and Drums but Yankee Doodle, (which had become their favorite tune ever since that notable exploit, which did such honour to the Troops of Britain's King, of tarring and feathering a poor countryman in Boston, and parading with him through the principal streets, under arms, with their bayonets fixed.)  Upon their return to Boston, one asked his brother officer how he liked the tune now? 'Damn them, (returned he,) they made us dance it till we were tired.'  Since which Yankee Doodle sounds less sweet to their ears."  

For “Yankee Doodle,” sense 1, the OED begins with the following two quotations:  

1768   Jrnl. of the Times (Boston) 29 Sept. in Lossing Pict. Field-bk. Revol. (1851) I.480   Those passing in boats observed great rejoicings, and that the Yankee Doodle Song was the capital piece in the band of music. 

1775   Pennsylvania Evening Post 22 July 317/2   General Gage's troops are much dispirited;..and..disposed to leave off dancing any more to the tune of Yankey Doodle.  

The American Archives text is a single quotation that calls attention to the transfer of “Yankee Doodle” from the British to the Patriots, which is implicit in the two separate OED quotations above.  In 1768, the British rejoiced to it (I imagine the quotation refers to the arrival of British troops to start the occupation of Boston); in 1775, they became indisposed to it.  The American Archives quotation is earlier than the OED’s quotation of 1775 July 22 and makes a similar reference to disillusionment with dancing.   

I wonder whether the American Archives quotation could replace the Pennsylvania Evening Post quotation.  



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