The words to the "Yankey Song" were originally written by British army surgeon Richard Shuckburgh in September 1755 at Fort Crailo NY, set to the "Doodle-doo" song from "The Beggar's Opera" by John Gay in 1728. The words were composed as Dr. Shuckburgh cared for the wounded and observed the rag-tag colonial militia as it returned to Albany after the victory of William Johnson's army over the French at the Battle of Lake George. The satirical verses were meant to entertain the British officers and his hosts, the Rensselaers, whose daughter Katrina married Capt. Philip Schuyler who had fought with Johnson's British regulars and Col. Phineas Lyman's Connecticut militia.
Father and I went up to camp
Along with Captain Goodwin,
And there we see the men and boys
As thick as hasty pudding.
I see a man a-talking there,
You might've heard to the barn, sir,
Halooing and a-scolding, too,
The devil if one would answer.
He had him on his meeting clothes,
Upon a slapping stallion,
He set the world along in rows,
There must've been a million!
He had a ribbon on his hat,
It looked so nation fine, sir!
I wanted it most deucedly
To give to my Jemima.
And there I see a pumpkin shell
As big as Mother's basin,
And every time they touched it off
We scampered like the nation.
I see a little barrel, too,
The heads were made of leather,
They knocked upon't with little clubs
To call the folks together.
The troopers, too, would gallop up
And fire right in our faces;
It scared me almost half to death
To see them run such races.
I see another snarl of men,
A-digging graves, they told me,
So tarnal long, so tarnal deep,
They 'tended they should hold me!
It scared me so, I hooked it off,
Nor stopped, as I remember,
Nor turned about till l got home,
Locked up in Mother's chamber.
As the British army picked up this song and drilled to its music, another verse was added referring to the colonial militia putting feathers in their hats and acting like "Macaronis" that was the word used for foppish dandies in Britain. The word "Yankey" was a derogatory term used by the British to refer to the Scots, and now was applied to the American colonial militia. Other verses referred to the earlier "Cape Breton" campaign that captured Louisbourg, and to "Brother Ephraim" that was a reference to Col. Ephraim Williams of western Massachusetts who died a hero in the eyes of the militia at the Battle of Lake George.
Yankee Doodle came to town
Riding on a pony,
Stuck a feather in his hat
And called him Macaroni.
Brother Ephraim sold his cow
To buy him a commission
And then he went to Canada To fight for the nation.
But when Ephraim he came home
He proved an arrant coward,
He wouldn't fight the Frenchmen there
For frar of being devoured.
The British troops added new verses when they landed in Boston in 1768 under the command of General Thomas Gage:
Sheep's head and vinegar,
Buttermilk 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 Yankee supper.
The British troops sang verses in 1775 on their way to Lexington and Concord about the rebel leaders John Hancock and John Adams and Dr. Joseph Warren:
Yankee Doodle came to town
For to buy afirelock.
We will tar and feather him,
And so we will John Hancock.
As for their king, that John Hancock,
And Adams, if they're taken,
Their heads for signs shall hang up high
Upon that hill called Beacon.
Dolly Bushel let a fart,
Jenny Jones, she found it,
Ambrose carried it to the mill,
Where Doctor Warren ground it.
Mistress Hancock dreamed a dream;
She dreamed she wanted something.
She dreamed she wanted a Yankee king
To crown him with a pumpkin.
But when the fighting started and the British troops retreated to Boston April 19, 1775, the American militia began to play the song and would add their own anti-British lyrics during the American Revolution:
Yankee Doodle is the tune,
That we all delight in;
It suits for feasts, it suits for fun,
And just as well for fighting!