“A seasoned performer, Bobby Horton is a multi-instrumentalist, a composer, producer, and music historian. For more than 30 years he has traveled throughout The United States and Canada performing with the musical-comedy group Three On A String. He has also produced and performed music for ten Ken Burns films, including ‘The Civil War’, ‘Baseball’, and ‘Mark Twain’, two films for the A & E Network, plus sixteen films for The National Park Service. His series of recordings of authentic “period” music has been acclaimed by historical organizations and publications throughout America and Europe.”
The founding of this country is one of the most amazing events in the history of man. The colonists began the process in the 1760’s, declared their independence in 1776, and defeated the most powerful army and navy in the world over a period of eight years!
Presented here are songs that were sung and played by these brave, dedicated, and inspired people. The tunes consist of pre-war songs designed to motivate people to desire independence from Great Britain; songs to celebrate victories and thereby bolster morale; tunes that “make fun” of the enemy; and “pop” tunes that were enjoyed by the common folk.
Like all of my other recordings, I did all the playing and singing myself, and recorded here in my home production studio. I do hope you will enjoy these wonderful historic tunes which meant so much to the incredible people who founded this great nation!
“In Good Old Colony Times”
The roots of this early American tune can be traced to the early 1600’s and “The Noble Acts of Arthur and the Round Table”. According to folk tradition millers have been credited with all types of crime, from petty larceny to murder; weavers are unsociable people; while it takes nine tailors to “make a man, it only takes one to make mischief.” Though this song had apparently been sung in America for quite a few years, it was not published until 1800.
“To The Ladies”
As the relationship between The Colonies and England began to sour, militants in Boston encouraged colonists to boycott British made products. Because textiles were on Parliament’s taxation list, women were encouraged to make their own clothes from cloth of “their own make and spinning.” Apparently the boycott had an effect, for British imports to the Colonies dropped by more than $3 million from 1768 to 1769.
“The Liberty Song”
This is considered by many historians to be one of the first patriotic American songs. The tune is an English air entitled “Hearts of Oak” written by Dr. William Boyce in 1759. In 1768, John Dickinson of Virginia wrote these influential lyrics that encouraged Americans to give their money in defense of their liberty. At the time, Mr. Dickinson was not an advocate of independence. Later, he would become a member of The Continental Congress, a soldier in the Continental Army, and a governor of Pennsylvania. This important song served to emphasize the growing tensions between The Colonies and England at the time of its composition.
“The Destruction of the Tea”
In response to the crown’s taxing of tea imported into the colonies, colonists, disguised as Mohawk Indians, boarded ships and dumped 342 chests of tea (worth approximately $90,000) into the waters of Boston Harbor. In response to this event, Parliament passed “The Intolerable Acts.” One of the provisions of this punitive legislation effectively closed Boston Harbor until the money was repaid. Instead of being intimidated, the colonies united to support the rebels in Massachusetts. This event set in motion a series of confrontations that eventually led to The Declaration of Independence and finally – war. This song was written anonymously shortly after the event. The melody is the, then popular, “Hozier’s Ghost.”
“The Banks of the Dee (Parody)”
As tensions mounted between the colonies and England, the British commander, General Thomas Gage, called for reinforcements. In 1775, a popular song was written about a homesick English soldier who was stationed in America. Later, colonist Oliver Arnold wrote this clever parody which became quite popular.
As people migrated to the colonies from The British Isles they brought many popular songs with them. This wonderful old song, claimed by Scotland and Ireland, was one of those “pop” tunes.
“Yankee Doodle (The Yankee’s Return from Camp)”
“Yankee Doodle” is perhaps the most popular and well known song from the period. The melody was used as a dance tune in the mid 1700’s and is most likely much older. There are several lyrical versions using this melody, including an English version that belittles the colonists (many historians believe the word “Yankee” comes from the Indian pronunciation of the word “English” – while a “doodle” is a derogatory term for a person with a low I.Q.). This version was written by a Harvard Sophomore and Minuteman named Edward Bangs. Presented here are eight of his fifteen lyrics.
“The Irishman’s Epistle”
British General Thomas Gage marched his troops out of Boston on the night of April 18, 1775 on a raid to capture the rebels’ store of arms and ammunition at Concord. The next two days saw fighting there and at Lexington. As the British Army withdrew back to Boston, Yankee sharpshooters “picked off” many of the Redcoat soldiers. This popular song celebrates the rebel victory in this, the first two battles of the war.
“Sir Peter Parker”
Charleston, South Carolina was the most important city in the southern colonies. On June 29, 1776 the British began their efforts to capture this important harbor town. Sir Peter Parker, Admiral of the British Fleet, attempted the destruction of the rebel defenses on Sullivan’s Island through a naval bombardment while the British infantry, under Sir Henry Clinton, awaited the proper moment to launch the land phase of the battle. The artillery barrage was ineffective because the cannonballs could not penetrate the palmetto log breastworks; plus, the rebels mounted a spirited counter-fire that ultimately caused the fleet to withdraw. As he observed the battle from his flagship, The H.M.S. Bristol, Sir Peter Parker’s pants were shot away. The anonymous author of this song sarcastically puts words in the mouth of Sir Peter.
Formal Dance Set: “Congress Minuet” / “Constancy”
In America, dances were an integral part of the social life of the community. The minuet was a popular form of dance and “Congress Minuet” was one of the most oft played tunes.
The contra-dance was another popular type of dance and “Constancy” was one of the more popular tunes played for this style of dance.
“The Battle of Trenton”
Early on Christmas morning in 1776, General George Washington and his army secretly crossed the ice filled Delaware River in row boats. In a surprise attack the rebels killed 106 Hessian mercenaries and captured the remaining 900. This timely American victory was an important morale booster for the colonists and it greatly enhanced the reputation of General Washington.
“Johnny Has Gone for a Soldier”
This is one of the finest folk songs written during The Revolutionary War. It was based on the beautiful 17th century Irish ballad “Shule Aroon.”
“The Riflemen of Bennington”
John Stark of New Hampshire was one of the most famous, legendary characters to fight in the war. He and his men played a crucial role in defeating General John Burgoyne’s British Army at the critical battles at Bennington, Vermont and Saratoga, New York. These American victories effectively ended the British northern invasion of the colonies.
This popular “period” tune was often played by American fifers and drummers as a retreat.
In the first century of colonial history all of the music that was published in America was of a religious nature. This well loved song tells of an elderly lady who, when young, was beautiful and quite popular – now she is alone and largely ignored. This was the first secular song to be published in the colonies.
“The Fate of John Burgoyne”
In 1777 General John Burgoyne developed a plan to invade New York from Canada while General Howe would move northward out of New York City. If all went well, they would meet in Albany and thus deny the rebel army the use of The Hudson River; plus, they would cut the northern colonies in half.
The rebels harassed General Burgoyne’s army as it tried to move to the south – their march was so slow, supplies began to run out and their communications with Montreal became stretched to the breaking point. The weary and demoralized British Army was defeated at the battles of Bennington and Saratoga. These disastrous events ended Burgoyne’s northern campaign and the war in the north became a stalemate. The colonists were ecstatic and Burgoyne was disgraced. The author of these lyrics is unknown and the tune is “The Girl I Left Behind Me.”
William Billings was a tanner with one short leg and very poor eyesight. More importantly he was a self-taught musician who spent most of his adult years establishing singing schools and teaching the fundamentals of music. Though he called himself a “musical enthusiast,” he was the first true American composer. “Chester” is a fiercely patriotic song and was also his most popular. Soldiers in the Continental Armies knew and loved this one – it was so beloved, many people refer to is as America’s first national anthem.
General Francis Marion was born in Berkeley County, South Carolina around the year 1732. He fought as a Lieutenant in the militia during the Cherokee War of 1761; he voted in favor of The War of Independence as a member of the South Carolina Provincial Congress; and he led a volunteer army during The American Revolution.
After the British had whipped the armies of General Horatio Gates and Thomas Sumter at The Battle of Camden (South Carolina), Marion’s army was the only one left to face the Redcoats in all of South Carolina.
He divided his men into small guerilla units and used the swamps as their bases of operation. His lightning raids were so effective, the British mounted many unsuccessful attempts to capture or destroy him and his forces. He was a truly a legendary character and was affectionately known as “The Swamp Fox.”
“The Surrender of Cornwallis”
On August 16, 1781, the British Army of General Charles Cornwallis decisively defeated the Americans at The Battle of Camden. Though Lord Cornwallis was charged with controlling South Carolina and Georgia, he decided (on his own initiative) to move his army into North Carolina and Virginia to finally crush all rebel opposition in the south.
Throughout these operations the rebels under the command of General Nathaniel Greene and (later) General George Washington used a series of harassing, guerilla style attacks that eventually trapped the redcoats in Yorktown, Virginia. After a siege of thirteen days Lord Cornwallis and his entire army was forced to surrender.
Medley: “Flannagan’s Favorite” / “The World Turned Upside Down”
The surrender of Lord Cornwallis’ Army at Yorktown was a cause for celebration throughout the colonies. The happy sound of the fiddles playing dance tunes, such as “Flannagan’s Favorite,” were a part of many of these celebrations.
According to tradition, British military musicians played the popular song “The World Turned Upside Down” as the redcoats marched to the surrender site. Historians have come to believe this probably did not happen – we do not know for sure. With the surrender of Cornwallis, the major redcoat armies in America were either surrendered or stymied. There would be skirmishes and small affairs in South Carolina, Kentucky and the “back country” through the remainder of 1781 and most of 1782 – however, the war was effectively over after Yorktown. A “rag-tag” bunch of outnumbered, out-supplied, out-disciplined rebels (along with their French allies) had defeated the greatest military power in all the world – the world was truly turned upside down!