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July 4 celebratory historic USA Independence Day Music from 1748 to 1824

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Part 1 of Revolutionary and other works in chronological order

Classical Music History: Anniversaries and Great Moments, by these authors, will be a daily website and/or a book for every day of the calendar year. It will feature the major events that happened that day world-wide in First Performances or Premieres of major musical works of art. We begin with July 4, Independence Day in the USA and Independence Day-related musical works. Some are very well known but many are no longer familiar to modern audiences and are very rarely if ever played, even at July 4 concerts by American orchestras.

By Keith A. Forbes and his wife Lois Ann Forbes at Both disabled, they live in Sovereign Harbour North, Eastbourne, East Sussex, England and write, administer and webmaster this website. Keith is a member of the UK's The Society of Authors and a consumer activist for the elderly and the disabled.

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Yankee Doodle

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Photo by author Keith A. Forbes

British soldiersFirst American song. Hear it at On Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, Canada, New Englanders under the command of militia General William Pepperrell, stormed the French fortress of Louisburg - and captured it. But, on October 18, 1748 - to the disgust of American colonial soldiers who did all the fighting - the British returned the fort and Cape Breton to the French as part of the treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle. On July 26, 1758 Louisburg was re-captured by a British force of mostly English troops. They were under the command of General Jeffrey Amhurst and Major General James Wolfe (a a year before he was killed in battle during the conquest of Quebec). There were 9,000 British Army troops and 500 American Colonials at Louisburg. But this second action was not admired by the British. Either British attitudes had changed considerably or a less capable or trained American force had been sent. The British were so disgusted that they and their Canadian allies concocted a wicked version - not the original but a special Cape Breton version of what became ultimately a venerated American song. General Wolfe himself reflected the condescending attitude of the British soldiers towards their American Colonial brethren in his letter to Amherst of June 19, 1758. In it, he said that the Yankees are far better for ranging and scouting than either work or vigilance and that they were the dirtiest, most contemptible, cowardly dogs you can conceive.

Interestingly, the song was written much earlier - perhaps even as early as 1740 - by a Dr. Shuckburgh. He was an American by residence, not by birth. Born in Britain, he emigrated to America in 1735 while still a young man. He lived mostly in New England (when not serving on the frontier) nearly all his adult life, raised a family in America, spent most of his Army service on the frontier, was acknowledged by his contemporaries as an Indian expert - and served in his later years as Sir William Johnson's Secretary for Indian Affairs. He could not possibly have written any of the known early stanzas of Yankee Doodle if had had not been very thoroughly Americanized. Of course, this assumes that he wrote the original verses, not necessarily the music as well.

This military version is: 

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. 

Aminadab is just come Home, his eyes all greased with bacon. 

And all the news that he could tell Is Cape Breton is taken.

The tune was also played by the band of the British troops as they marched out of Boston, Massachusetts. On April 19 1775, under Lord Percy, they mockingly played the song for the first known time publicly by a British or American military band. But in later going to the relief of Colonel Francis Smith's regiment, some were cut to pieces by American militia as Smith retreated from Lexington and Concord, in the first serious clash of the American Revolution. When the British retreated, they in turn were mocked by the music of the tune. (Variations on this song were written much later by the distinguished 19th century Belgian composer Henri Vieuxtemps). 

My Days Have Been So Wondrous Free

Discover more details about this song at

American Song. By the American composer, lawyer, poet and patriot Francis Hopkinson. It premiered on July 4, 1759 to great applause.

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Photo by author Keith A. Forbes

The Disappointment, or The Force of Incredulity

Ballad Opera. by the American composer "Andrew Barton" (Thomas Forrest). It was supposed to have been first performed on April 20, 1762 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, two years after King George III, of the House of Hanover, was crowned in London. 

King George III

King George III

But at the very last minute there was a withdrawal, for fear of offending. If performed as expected, it would have been the first American comic opera on the American stage. Forrest's work is a satirical comedy in two acts with a prologue and epilog. It was scheduled to be performed by the American Company in what was then America's capital. But it was withdrawn when the management of the theater learned that it satirized people from Philadelphia. It was inspired by "the infrequency of dramatic compositions in America, the necessity of contributing to the entertainment of the city, and to put a stop (if possible) to the foolish and pernicious practice of searching after suppressed hidden treasures. " The satire was directed at the seekers of the treasures supposed to have been buried by the pirate Blackbeard

The opera contained eighteen songs and was arranged with seven scenes in the first act and five in the second.

Even the composer's nom-de-plume of "Andrew Barton" was satirical as it alluded to the old British piracy ballad "Sir Andrew Barton." Astonishingly, this work did not get a full production in America until October 29, 1976, when a reconstructed score, with a specially composed overture and three instrumental interludes, by the American composer Samuel Adler, orchestrated for a full Baroque ensemble, was produced at the Library of Congress in Washington, as part of the Bicentennial celebrations of the United States of America. But the work claimed a double distinction as the first American theatrical work ever to have a reference to - and include the music of - the song Yankee Doodle referred to earlier. Note the year again - 1767. It was eight years and one day before the song had its first public outing in a military version not intended by its writer.

Li Napoletani in America

A comic opera by the Italian composer Niccolo Piccini, first performed at the Teatro Fiorentini, in Naples, Italy, on June 10, 1768.

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Photo by author Keith A. Forbes

The Liberty Song. In Freedom We Are Born. 

Hear a nice version of this song at 

First patriotic American song. By the American lyricists John Mein and John Fleming after John Dickinson. The latter occupies a prominent position in the early history of the Revolution. He was a member of the Pennsylvania Assembly in 1764; of the Congress of 1765, and also of the first Continental Congress, which met in Carpenter's Hall at Philadelphia on the fourth of September, 1774. Of the important and eloquent state papers of that Congress, he wrote the principal part. Though so little a republican at the commencement of the Revolutionary difficulties, as to oppose the Declaration of Independence, because be doubted the policy of Congress, "without some preclusory trials of our strength," he fully proved the sincerity of his attachment to the liberties of his country by marching to Elizabethtown, at the head of his regiment, a short time after the declaration, to repel the invading enemy. In November, 1767, the first of a series of communications written by him, entitled "Letters from a farmer in Pennsylvania, to the inhabitants of the British Colonies," appeared in the Pennsylvania Chronicle. Dickinson died February 14, 1808. Set to the British military tune Hearts of Oak by the 18th century British composer William Boyce. Published in the Boston Gazette of July 18, 1768.

Come join band 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.

Their generous bosoms all dangers despis'd,
So highly, so wisely, their birthrights they priz'd;
We'll keep what they gave, we will piously keep,
Nor frustrate their toils on the land or the deep.

The Tree, their own hands had to Liberty rear'd,
They lived to behold growing strong and rever'd;
With transport then cried, - " Now our wishes we gain,
For our children shall gather the fruits of our pain."

How sweet are the labors that freemen endure,
That they shall enjoy all the profit, secure, -
No more such sweet labors Americans know,
If Britons shall reap what Americans sow,

Swarms of placemen and pensioners' soon will appear, Like locusts deforming the charms of the year:
Suns vainly will rise, showers vainly descend,
If we are to drudge for what others shall spend.

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.

All ages shall speak with amaze and applause,
Of the courage we'll show in support of our laws;
To die we can bear, - but to serve we disdain,
For shame is to freemen more dreadful than pain.

This bumper I crown for our sovereign's health,
And this for Britannia's glory and wealth;
That wealth, and that glory immortal may be,
If she is but just, and we are but free.
In freedom we're born, &c.

Anniversaries and Great Moments in Classical Music History

Photo by author Keith A. Forbes


Also known as L'Americano Incivilito and L'Americano Ingentilito. An intermezzo or farsetta, again by the Italian composer Niccolo Piccini, first performed at the Teatro Capranica, in Rome, Italy, on February 22, 1772.

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The Girl I Left Behind Me, Or The American Volunteer

Hear a version of this song at

Old song, probably of Irish origin, popular in the original 13 American colonies before the American Revolution. As The Girl I Left Behind Me, it was sung during the Revolution by American militiamen during campaigns, as reminders of their wives or sweethearts. During the American Civil War, a new set of words was adapted to the melody and it became known as The American Volunteer. It is still employed as the graduating class song at the United States Military Academy at West Point.

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Photo by author Keith A. Forbes

British and American relations before the Revolutionary War

Details of the troubled history (but not the musical history).


An American Revolutionary song, by the American composer William Billings, written in 1778. Although the melody is hymnal, it was adapted to the ringing words Let Tyrants Shake Their Iron Rod. In this mode, it became a hit of the day. Hear a nice version of it at by the Canadian Brass.

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Photo by author Keith A. Forbes

Loyalist Songs of the American Revolution

Chorus Sung Before General Washington

A choral work, for three voices, pianoforte and harpsichord, written in 1789 by the British born American naturalized composer Alexander Reinagle. It was one of his musical tributes to his adopted New World homeland and sung in Philadelphia to honor, and in the presence of, General Washington, to whose adopted step-daughter, Nellie Custis, Reinagle taught music.

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Photo by author Keith A. Forbes

America Independent - or The Temple Of Minerva

Oratorical entertainment, one of the first American operas. Lyrics were by the American composer, lawyer, poet and patriot Francis Hopkinson. Music was 'borrowed' from other composers. Premiered July 4, 1781

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Photo by author Keith A. Forbes

Begin Unto My God

British Anthem of Thanksgiving, for the official British end of the American War of Independence. Written in 1784 by the British composer and organist Edmund Ayrton (1734-1808), a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal in London in 1764. It was sung in St. Paul's Cathedral in London, England, on June 29,1784 at the official British Thanksgiving Service to mark the end of the War of American Independence. It became his most notable work.

Anniversaries and Great Moments in Classical Music History 09

Photo by author Keith A. Forbes.

America, Commerce And Freedom!

American patriotic song. By the British born, American naturalized, Philadelphia based composer Alexander Reinagle. It was included in his Collection of 32 Favorite Songs, in 2 volumes, circa 1789.

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Photo by author Keith A. Forbes.

The Battle of Trenton

For piano. One of the many pro American Revolutionary War pieces by the British born American naturalized composer, singer and publisher Benjamin Carr.

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Photo by author Keith A. Forbes.

Tammany, or The Indian Chief

The first serious opera produced in the United States. It was published in 1794, by the British born American naturalized composer and publisher James Hewitt.

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Photo by author Keith A. Forbes

La Famille Americaine (The American Family)

An opera-comique, written in 1796 by the French composer Nicolas-Marie Dalayrac, as his 13th in the genre. It was one of the first works by any European based composer to focus specifically on life in the young and vibrant new republic of the United States of America in the New World that had secured its political freedom from Britain.

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Photo by author Keith A. Forbes

The Fourth Of July

Piano sonata of 1796 by the British born American naturalized composer James Hewitt. It premiered on July 4, 1796.

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Mrs. Madison's Minuet

A chamber work for pianoforte and harpsichord, circa 1796, by the British born, American naturalized, Philadelphia based composer Alexander Reinagle. It was in honor of prominent socialite and music patroness Mrs. Dolly Madison (wife of James Madison, later 4th President of the United States of America) who commissioned the work.

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Columbus, Or The Discovery Of America

Melodrama, composed in 1796-1797. By the British born, American naturalized, Philadelphia based composer Alexander Reinagle. It was one of his musical tributes to his adopted New World homeland. It premiered in Philadelphia on January 30, 1797.

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Monody on The Death Of Washington

For solo voices, chorus, chamber orchestra. To commemorate and mourn the death of his patron, General and retired President George Washington. It was by the British born, American naturalized, Philadelphia based composer Alexander Reinagle. The work premiered in Philadelphia on December 23, 1799, two weeks after Washington's death and was received with acclaim. Unfortunately, it is no longer extant.

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Jefferson's March

A march, for military band, circa 1801, in honor of Thomas Jefferson, who took office in 1801 as the 3rd President of the United States. By the British born, American naturalized, Philadelphia based composer Alexander Reinagle.

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Madison's March

A march, for military band, circa 1802, in honor of James Madison, then Secretary of State in the Cabinet of President Thomas Jefferson (and from 1809 the 4th President of the United States of America). By the British born, American naturalized, Philadelphia based composer Alexander Reinagle.

18th century musician

The Star Spangled Banner

See The Star-Spangled Banner. Hear it at

National anthem since 1831.  In its first life, it was sung to the tune of To Anacreon in Heaven, then the official drinking song, popular at the time even in America, of a London, England based organization known as the Anacreontic Society. The music is by the British composer John Stafford Smith. The lyrics were originally by Ralph Tomlinson, a London lawyer, then the President of the Anacreontic Society. The revised patriotic words are by the American lawyer and patriot Francis Scott Key (after the American lawyer, patriot, statesman, poet and composer Francis Hopkinson). 

In the early morning of September 14, 1814, the 35 year old American lawyer and poet Francis Scott Key, of Carroll County, Maryland, was absent from his legal practice in Georgetown, Washington, DC. On that morning, the British Fleet (which had begun its invading journey earlier from the British mid Atlantic colony of Bermuda) was in the Chesapeake Bay off Baltimore, after the successful sortie on Washington, DC. British forces had entered the city, burned the public buildings and stores and during their planned retreat back to their ships on the Pawtuxent River, had taken William Beanes, a physician of Upper Marlboro, Maryland, as a prisoner.

Francis Scott Key, as an attorney, was persuaded by friends of Beanes to negotiate his release. With Colonel J. S. Skinner, a United States government agent for the exchange of prisoners, Key boarded a sloop in Baltimore Harbor to go out to meet the British fleet. They were received courteously by the British and the release of Beanes was agreed. 

But because the attack on Baltimore had been discussed in the presence of the American visitors, with British troops landed to begin their assault, Key, his client Beanes and Skinner were detained on the British ship to prevent them from communicating intelligence to the Americans in the city. During the night of September 13 to morning, Key remained on deck, watching the British bombardment of Baltimore's Fort McHenry through the mist and drizzle that partially obscured the fort.

Frances Scott Key was inspired to write, in these conditions of acute national and personal distress, the now immortal words of the beautiful American national anthem.

At daybreak on September 14 he wrote emotionally in patriotic fervor on the back of an envelope of the sight of the stripes and stars of his nation's extra large flag still flying defiantly over the fort. When the British fleet withdrew without being able to take the fort, the American detainees were released to go ashore. Francis Scott Key went to a hotel in Baltimore, where he made a more legible copy of his emotional poem. The next day, he visited the Baltimore home of Judge and Mrs. J. H. Nicholson, relatives of his wife, to show them the copy.

The Nicholsons had handbills made quickly by the Baltimore based printers established as a subsidiary of Carr's Musical Repository, founded originally in 1793 in Philadelphia, which branched out to Baltimore and New York. The printing house was owned by the British born American naturalized composer, singer and publisher Benjamin Carr, who later sold the New York branch to the British born American naturalized composer and publisher James Hewitt. (It was Hewitt who wrote the patriotic The Battle of Trenton for piano in 1792, plus the first serious opera produced in the United States, Tammany, or The Indian Chief, in 1794 and the piano sonata The Fourth of July in 1796. Hewitt had left Britain for America in 1792 at the age of 22. Carr, 2 years older, did likewise in 1793 (followed later by his brother and father).

The actual first printing by Carr's Musical Repository was handled personally by James Carr, co owner, with his brother Benjamin. Those handbills so produced, published by the Nicholsons with Francis Scott Key's poem, were titled The Defense of Fort McHenry.

On September 21, 1814, the newspaper Baltimore American published a story about how a "gentleman" had chanced to write the verses during the attack - and quoted the verses verbatim. No special title and no author's name were quoted, but it was marked, Tune: Anacreon in Heaven.

Four weeks later (on October 19, 1814) it was sung publicly for the first time, at the Halliday Theater in Baltimore, then producing the play Count Benyowski. The announcement read: "After the play, Mr. Harding will sing a much admired new song, written by a gentleman of Maryland, in commemoration of the gallant defense of Fort Mc'Henry, called, The Star Spangled Banner."

It was received by the theater audience with acclaim. But with anti British sentiment then prevailing in America, the original lyrics were scrapped in favor of two American versions, the first of which (the version Francis Scott Key undoubtedly had in mind) was by the statesman, lawyer, poet, patriot and composer Francis Hopkinson. (A later version, under the title of Adams and Liberty, by the American patriot Robert Treat Paine, Jr., also circulated). However, it has been established and confirmed that the composer of the original melody was the British 18th century London based composer and musician John Stafford Smith, a leading member of the Anacreontic Society, who composed To Anacreon in Heaven for that organization.

He was born on March 30, 1750, and died on September 21, 1836. His song was first published in 1779-1780 by Longman & Broderip of 26 Cheapside, London. The first edition stated it was "Sung at the Crown and Anchor Tavern in the Strand." There is a report, which cannot be confirmed, that Smith himself did not drink, or was a tippler only in moderation - and wrote mischievously the high notes of his melody as a test to see whether his singing drinking friends were too drunk to reach and sustain them. These high notes remain today as a challenge to any singer.

Interestingly for American historians and music lovers, one-time captain of engineers in the French Army and later composer Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle, or de L'Isle (1760-1836), composer and lyricist in 1792 of the French National Anthem La Marseillaise, wrote an undated autographed one page manuscript, as a French translation of an English poem of twelve lines headed: "Imitation from the English of Thy vain pursuit, fond youth, give over what more, alas! can Flavio do!" - with one three word correction in his hand.

With this rare manuscript is a printed copy, circa April 1917, of The Star Spangled Banner and La Marseillaise. The cover is printed in red, blue and black and is titled at the top "For all lovers of the allied Sister Republics France and America." This was obviously issued when the USA entered World War I. There is no explanation of how de Lisle's autographed manuscript came to be attached to this document, but these items were advertised as being for sale for $250 in issue number # 956 of 1992 of The Collector, an American magazine for autograph and historical collectors.

The Tars Of Columbia (Columbia Triumphant: Perry's Victory)

American patriotic song, commemorating the defeat of the British on Lake Erie in 1814 by Commodore Perry. By the prolific British born, American naturalized, Philadelphia based composer Alexander Reinagle. It was included in his Collection of 32 Favorite Songs, in the second of two volumes (the first bearing the date of 1789).

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Part 1. Also see Part 2.

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2019. Revised: February 14, 2019