Connecticut State Library with state seal

Yankee Doodle, the State Song of the State of Connecticut

According to the Connecticut State Register and Manual (1998), the words to Connecticut's State Song are:

"Yankee Doodle went to town, Chorus:
Riding on a pony, Yankee Doodle keep it up, "
Stuck a feather in his hat, Yankee Doodle dandy
And called it macaroni Mind the music and the step,
And with the folks be handy."

There are several popular traditions relating to the origins of the song. One of them is that Col. Thomas Fitch of Norwalk, Connecticut and his troop of Connecticut militia inspired the song during the French and Indian War (1758-59). For background on Norwalk and the Fitch tradition, please see The Birth of Yankee Doodle by Ferenz Fodor (New York: Vantage Press, 1976).

While the song may have been applied to Fitch and his men, its origins are further back. "The American Origins of 'Yankee Doodle'," a scholarly article by J. A. Leo Lemay in the William and Mary Quarterly (3rd series 33 (July, 1976)3:435-64) extensively examines the beginnings and spread of this popular song. Lemay finds that the tune is colonial American in origin, with at least two versions existing by 1745, indicating an earlier song that had had time to evolve. In 1745, however, it first became prominent as it was used to make fun of the rag-tag appearance and ill-equipped state of colonial troops as they left to fight the Battle of Louisburg (Cape Breton area, Nova Scotia), which they won.

Lemay states that there were military and non-military versions of Yankee Doodle, but the military versions were basically anti-American, ridiculing the non-uniformed appearance, the lack of training, and the poor quality of the equipment of colonial American soldiers, as seen through educated British eyes. So entrenched was this song as one of derision that the fife and drum corps of the British reinforcements played it while marching into battle at Lexington, MA on April 19, 1775. The British were defeated there, and as the Pennsylvania Gazette reported on June 7, 1775: "'the Brigade under Lord Percy marched out, playing, by way of contempt, Yankee Doodle; they were afterwards told, they had been made to dance to it.'" (Lemay, p. 436)

With the American Revolution, Yankee Doodle became a quintessential American song, one that said that Americans were proud of being who they were. Since then, it has been considered one of the most American of all American folk songs, a symbol of the initiative and spirit of the people that make up the United States of America.

Prepared by the History and Genealogy Unit, Connecticut State Library. Revised 2-04.