"World Turned Upside Down, The"

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"World Turned Upside Down, The"

"WORLD TURNED UPSIDE DOWN, THE." The 1828 edition of Garden's Anecdotes of the Revolution is responsible for the much-repeated statement that, following surrender, the forces of British General Charles Cornwallis marched out of Yorktown, Pennsylvania, with their bands playing a piece called "The World Turned Upside Down," and implied that the tune was played frequently throughout the war years. The only thing that can be said with certainty is that a piece of music by this name did exist—in fact, there were several tunes known by this name—and that at least one of them was popular during the Revolution. It also seems certain that various pieces of music were played during the surrender ceremonies, and that bands and pipers participated, not just drummers.

Commager and Morris report that "[t]he version which has the strongest support in tradition and which … we would like to believe was played appeared in the Gentleman's Magazine of 1766, beginning 'Goody Bull and her daughter fell out'" (where the words are reproduced but not the music). Nothing about "the world turned upside down" appears in the words of this song, however. The same authorities give another song for which a case has been made, and in which the words do appear:

     If Buttercups buzzed after the bee,
     If boats were on land, churches on sea,
     [If] Summer were spring and the t'other way round,
     Then all the world would be upside down.

Freeman has examined this mystery with assistance from the Music Division of the Library of Congress. He reproduces the score of a piece titled "When the King Enjoys His Own Again," from which numerous other songs and ballads were adapted, including one called "The World Turned Upside Down." According to the Library of Congress, Freeman's suggested score is generally assumed to be the tune played at the Yorktown surrender, and Freeman furnishes additional support for this theory (pp. 388-389).

According to Bass, the British soldiers were amused by this choice of music, "for they knew the tune as the old Jacobite serenade to Prince Charlie: 'When the King Enjoys His Own Again'!" (p. 4). The British are also supposed to have played this tune when they retreated from Salem, Massachusetts, on 26 February 1775.

SEE ALSO Culloden Moor, Scotland.


Bass, Robert D. The Green Dragoon: The Lives of Banastre Tarleton and Mary Robinson. New York: Holt, 1957.

Commager, Henry Steele, and R. B. Morris. Spirit of 'Seventy-Six. New York: Crown, 1958.

Freeman, Douglas Southall. George Washington. New York: Scribner, 1948–1957.

Garden, Alexander. Anecdotes of the American Revolution. Charleston, S.C.: A. E. Miller, 1828.

                               revised by Harold E. Selesky

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