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Music and the American Revolution

John Adams thought that a third of the colonists supported the Revolution, a third remained loyal to Britain, and a third was undecided or neutral. The popular songs of the Revolutionary reflect a deep divided within the colonial population.

Loyalists were those Americans who affirmed Britain's authority over the colonies. Although revolutionaries vilified them as elitists who personally benefited from British colonial rule, many were genuinely commitment to maintaining a colonial bond with the mother country. Not only did loyalists risk their lives and property in opposing the Revolution, but at the end of the conflict 80,000 or more chose to go into exile. Among these were many ordinary farmers, artisans, and shopkeepers, as well as several thousand African Americans who migrated to Nova Scotia.

While members of the Church of England were particularly likely to remain loyal to the Crown, many members of the more radical Protestant sects, including the Mennonites, Quakers, and Methodists opposed the revolutionaries' resort to violence. Many loyalists and feared the disruptive effects of the revolutionary's radical ideology.

Activity 1: Compare a song, Yankee Doodle and a poem, The Battle of Bunker Hill.

Activity 2: Compare Loyalist and Revolutionary songs

Select one loyalist and one revolutionary ballad.
Analyze the songs' arguments and the differences in ideologies.

For more information, use the Primary Source Tools such as the worksheet developed by the Library of Congress, Thinking About Songs as Historical Artifacts.

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Loyalist Songs
Patriot Songs

The Rebels (1778)   The Ballad of Major Andre
Tradesmen's Song for his Majesty's Birthday (1777)   The Battle of the Kegs
The American Times
by Jonathan Odell (1780)
  The Battle of Saratoga
Song (1779)  

The Dying Redcoat

The Congress (1776)

  Free America

The American Vicar of Bray (1779)


How Happy the Soldier

The Pausing American Loyalist
(A poem)
  Johnny's Gone for a Soldier
    The Liberty Song
    Paul Jones
    Young Ladies in Town
    The World Turned Upside Down, or, The Old Woman Taught Wisdom (1767)


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