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Rally ‘Round the Flag

Yes, we’ll rally round the flag, boys,
We’ll rally once again,
Shouting the battle cry of Freedom,
We will rally from the hillside,
We’ll gather from the plain,
Shouting the battle cry of Freedom.

The Union forever,
Hurrah! boys, hurrah!
Down with the traitors,
Up with the stars;
While we rally round the flag, boys,
Rally once again,
Shouting the battle cry of Freedom.

We are springing to the call
Of our brothers gone before,
Shouting the battle cry of Freedom;
And we’ll fill our vacant ranks with
A million free men more,
Shouting the battle cry of Freedom.


We will welcome to our numbers
The loyal, true and brave,
Shouting the battle cry of Freedom;
And although they may be poor,
Not a man shall be a slave,
Shouting the battle cry of Freedom.


So we’re springing to the call
From the East and from the West,
Shouting the battle cry of Freedom;
And we’ll hurl the rebel crew
From the land that we love best,
Shouting the battle cry of Freedom.


“The Battle Cry of Freedom” or “Rally ‘Round the Flag” was written in 1862 by the American composer, George F. Root. At the time, “The Battle Cry of Freedom” was the Union soldiers’ preeminent war song.

With all of its popularity, it may come as a surprise that the song was written hastily. It was, in fact, written in response to President Abraham Lincoln’s July 1862 call for 300,000 volunteers. It was written in a single day.

This rally song was first performed on April 24, 1962 and quickly became another rallying song, building up the morale of the Union soldiers. In fact, from then on out, “The Battle Cry of Freedom” was, in fact, become what “Yankee Doodle” had been during the Revolutionary War. “It was played and sung with gusto by virtually every Federal regimental brass band and many others throughout the remainder of the war” (Source).

The song was performed again on July 24th & July 26th for massive rallies. Then it was used yet again during 1984 campaign for the Lincoln-Johnson ticket. It was so popular, that it was used again during the 1880 Garfield campaign, as well as during other presidential campaigns.

“Public response to ‘The Battle Cry of Freedom’ was overwhelming’ (Source). The music publishers could not keep up with the demands. In fact, there were as many as 14 different printing presses trying to keep up – and failing! It is estimated that anywhere from 500,000 to 700,000 copies were produced, the demand was so great.

Why was the song so popular? Well, it seems that Root’s timing was impeccable. Root, after all, was thought of as one of the most popular composers of the Civil War era. His themes just seemed to inspire those in the Union ranks. According to historian Christian L. McWhirter, it probably had something to do with Root’s references to abolitionism and unionism. It spoke to the soles of those who were opposed to secession and slavery. Overall, the song’s strongest theme, freedom, spoke to the masses. And, according to the historian and author of Lincoln and the Music of the Civil War author, Kenneth A. Bernard, the reason was simple enough: Timing. It spoke to the sentiments these men needed to hear. It lifted their morale, just has “Yankee Doodle” had done nearly a century earlier.

At this point, it may not even come as a surprise that Southerners adopted the song themselves, of course altering the lyrics to suit their own desired themes and sentiments.

Our flag is proudly floating on the land and on the main,
Shout, shout, the battle cry of Freedom;
Beneath it oft we’ve conquered and will conquer oft again,
Shout, shout, the battle cry of Freedom.

Our Dixie forever, she’s never at a loss
Down with the eagle and up with the cross.
We’ll rally ‘round the bonny flag, we’ll rally once again
Shout, shout the battle cry of Freedom.

Our gallant boys have marched to the rolling of the drums,
Shout, shout the battle cry of Freedom;
And the leaders in charge cry, “Come boys, come!”
Shout, shout the battle cry of Freedom.


They have laid down their lives on the bloody battle field,
Shout, shout the battle cry of Freedom;
Their motto is resistance—“To tyrants we’ll not yield!”
Shout, shout the battle cry of Freedom.


While our boys have responded and to the field have gone,
Shout, shout the battle cry of Freedom;
Our noble women also have aided them at home.
Shout, shout the battle cry of Freedom.


[Below: Movie poster for Rally ‘Round the Flag, Boys]

Image result for rally round the flag boys 1958


Themes and sentiments remained alive in well. In 1958 – just on the heels of WWII and the Korean War and smack in the middle of the worst years of the Cold War, the song’s second title was adopted into the title of the move, Rally ‘Round the Flag, Boys! starring the favorite couple Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward – which probably makes it a must see.

See, Harry and Grace Bannerman (appropriately named – flag/banner . . . okay, anyways . . . ) are living in a small town that has just been named the home town of the newest missile base. Grace, in a desperate attempt to prevent the building, joins the town committee – but not just joins, but insists on attempting every single meeting, which annoys her husband to no end. This many not seem like a big deal on the surface, except that Harry has been chosen the liaison for the military, meaning that Grace’s antics are causing him no end of trouble! The film premiered in New York City on December 23, 1958.

Then, in 1979, M*A*S*H played off that title with their season 7 episode 22 “Rally ‘Round the Flagg, Boys,” which, of course, is a play off the 1958 movie and ever-hilarious Col. Samuel Flagg. In this particular episode, Flagg is at it again. This time, however, he has accused Hawkeye of being a Communist sympathizer! Why? Because Hawkeye operated on a Korean soldier before an American one. To make the situation even more absurd, Flagg tries to hire on Winchester, of all people, to act as spy! But, turns out, Winchester gets the better of Flagg. Not that anyone is surprised. It is Flagg, after all. As far as M*A*S*H episodes are concerned, this is one of the best! Especially when Flagg becomes like the wind and vanishes.

[Below: Winchester & Flagg in“Rally ‘Round the Flagg, Boys”]

The Battle Cry of Freedom or Rally ‘Round the Flag

Up Next:

Semper Fidelis

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The Liberty Song

Come, join hand in hand, brave Americans all,
And rouse your bold hearts at fair Liberty’s call;
No tyrannous acts shall suppress your just claim,
Or stain with dishonor America’s name.
In Freedom we’re born and in Freedom we’ll live.
Our purses are ready. Steady, friends, steady;
Not as slaves, but as Freemen our money we’ll give.

Our worthy forefathers, let’s give them a cheer,
To climates unknown did courageously steer;
Thro’ oceans to deserts for Freedom they came,
And dying, bequeath’d us their freedom and fame.
In Freedom we’re born and in Freedom we’ll live.
Our purses are ready. Steady, friends, steady;
Not as slaves, but as Freemen our money we’ll give.

The tree their own hands had to Liberty rear’d,
They lived to behold growing strong and revered;
With transport they cried, Now our wishes we gain,
For our children shall gather the fruits of our pain.
In Freedom we’re born and in Freedom we’ll live.
Our purses are ready. Steady, friends, steady;
Not as slaves, but as Freemen our money we’ll give.

Then join hand in hand, brave Americans all,
By uniting we stand, by dividing we fall;
In so righteous a cause let us hope to succeed,
For heaven approves of each generous deed.
In Freedom we’re born and in Freedom we’ll live.
Our purses are ready. Steady, friends, steady;
Not as slaves, but as Freemen our money we’ll give.

In Freedom we’re born and in Freedom we’ll live.
Our purses are ready. Steady, friends, steady;
Not as slaves, but as Freemen our money we’ll give.

Not quite as poplar as “Yankee Doodle” – and likely not at the top of your list of favorite patriotic songs, but “The Liberty Song” was certainly popular during the Revolutionary War.

Written in 1768 by John Dickinson, the Liberty Song was set to the British Navy tune “Heart of Oak.”

But it was hardly a noble British song. In fact, Dickinson “set out to reflect on the political strife caused by the Townshend Acts of 1767, the latest in a series of British crown taxes levied on the Colonies” (Source).

The song also commented on John Hancock’s ship the Liberty. The Liberty had been seized for smuggling. “This seizure, along with anger over the acts, precipitated riots and led to the declaration of a suspension of English imports by Boston merchants in August 1768, to begin December 31” (Source).

John Dickinson, a political activist, had become something of a triple threat – even before publishing his song. He was a successful lawyer, a businessman, a militia officer in the Revolutionary War, a member of both the First and the Second Continental Congresses, one of the primary drafters of the Articles of Confederation, a delegate to the Constitutional Convention of 1787, as well as the stated president of both Delaware (1781) and Pennsylvania (1782). Dickinson was also “known as the ‘Penman of the Revolution’ for his ‘Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania,’” an extremely popular political (Source).

“The Liberty Song” first appeared in the Pennsylvania Journal on July 7, 1768, and 9 other prominent publications throughout July. Then, on September 5, 1768, it also appeared in the Boston Chronicle.

From the beginning, it was widely popular, “sung throughout the colonies at political meetings, dinners, and celebrations” (Source). It united the Colonists as they confronted the many new laws placed upon them by England. Likewise, it, like “Yankee Doodle” became a popular anthem throughout the Revolution.

A year after it’s publication, (August 14, 1769) John Adams recorded in his diary that he and some other 350 Sons of Liberty sang The Liberty Song “at a Dorchester tavern where Dickinson’s younger brother was a guest of honor” (Source). In fact, in the mini-series John Adams, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and others can be seen singing this popular song of the era at a spectacularly flamboyant party while the two were visitors to France.

[Below: The Liberty Song  in John Adams]

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Yankee Doodle

Yankee Doodle went to town
A-riding on a pony,
Stuck a feather in his cap
And called it macaroni .
Yankee Doodle keep it up,
Yankee Doodle dandy,
Mind the music and the step,
And with the girls be handy.

Surprisingly, “Yankee Doodle” was not initially an American song. In fact, it was written by a British army physician named Dr. Richard Schuckberg during the French and Indian War.

And, despite the pride Americans have taken in singing this song since the dawn of the American Revolution, the song actually mocks Americans. Just one verse of the initial version looked something like this:

Brother Ephraim sold his cow
And bought 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 fear of being devoured (Source).

Basically, the British thought that the Americans were unsophisticated simpletons. That is basically the exact translation of a Yankee Doodle. But the derogatory remarks got worse as the verse went on. The phrase ‘stuck a feather in his hat and called him macaroni’ implied that the Americans were such simpletons that they believed “that merely sticking a feather in his hat would turn him into a suave sophisticate like a European” (Source). See, macaroni did not refer to pasta, but to an English dandy with affected fashions and mannerisms. A dandy is, essentially, an immaculately and fashionably dressed man.

Then, in 1775, a minuteman by the name of Edward Bangs wrote a new version of the song. This told the story of a young boy visiting an army camp after George Washington had taken command.

And there was Captain Washington
And gentle folks about him;
They say he’s grown so tarnal proud
He will not ride without them. (Source).

Despite the negative connotations about the American Colonists, they’d come to enjoy the tune. And, during the Revolutionary War, they learned that, really, anyone could make up verses for Yankee Doodle. One of their very favorite versions went as follows:

Yankee Doodle is the tune
That we all delight in;
It suits for feasts, it suits for fun,
And just as well for fightin’.

In short, Yankee Doodle had become, well, a Yankee Anthem. The men could make up verses as they marched, and delighted in singing them loudly.


As the British marched to their surrender, “they marched with their heads turned toward the French troops. They were trying to pretend the Americans did not exist” (Source). So, Frenchman, Marquis de Lafayette, the commander of the Light Infantry Brigade, ordered the band to play Yankee Doodle. “With a blast of drums and a swirl of fifes, the musicians hurled themselves into their favorite song. Every British head was jerked around, and they stared into the faces of their former subjects” (Source).

[Below:  Yankee Doodle Band]

Image result for yankee doodle revolutionary war


The song remained popular throughout the Civil War, where the South took a cue from the British and made up unflattering lyrics about the North. Then, in 1904, the song took on a new look, when George M. Cohan wrote the lyrics to “The Yankee Doodle Boy” for his play Little Johnny Jones. The play was about a American jockey, Johnny Jones, and his horse Yankee Doodle, riding in the English Derby. And then in 1942 – during WWII – this version of the song was used in James Cagney’s Yankee Doodle Dandy, a musical about the life of George M. Cohan.

I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy
A Yankee Doodle, do or die
A real live nephew of my uncle Sam’s
Born on the Fourth of July
I’ve got a Yankee Doodle sweetheart
She’s my Yankee Doodle joy
Yankee Doodle came to London
Just to ride the ponies
I am a Yankee Doodle boy

The filming for Yankee Doodle Dandy began before Pearl Harbor, and it was released mere months afterward, meaning the timing was perfect for a good patriotic-themed movie. In fact, according to a story by Joan Leslie, the cast was “standing around the radio on set listening to the broadcast when Pearl Harbor was attacked,” after the broadcast, “Cagney called for a prayer and then director Michael Curtiz [exclaimed] ‘Well, we’ve got a great story to tell here about America. Let’s get to work and do a good job on it, and make it representative of our spirit today’” (Source).

Yankee Doodle Dandy premiered at New York’s Hollywood Theatre on Memorial Day weekend (May 29), where “tickets were available only to those who bought War Bonds” (Source). At this point in history, what Americans needed most was the flag-waving, the patriotic songs, and most of all, the “teary-eyed love for America” (Source).

Fact is, we need that today as much as we did during WWII or the Revolution. So, next time we hear “Yankee Doodle,” let’s remember our Forefathers and all those men who gave their lives, and let’s sing it out with the same pride our minutemen did.

[Below: Yankee Doodle Dandy premiere.]

Image result for yankee doodle dandy premiere

Yankee Doodle Dandy featuring the Army Chorus

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Up Next:

The Liberty Song

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