O! Say Bonny Lass: About the Song

Historical Background

Women during the American Revolution were responsible for doing at least double the work to maintain the household with the men away fighting. As part of the Homespun Movement, Patriot women took up spinning and weaving to make their own clothing in support of the boycott against British goods.

Some women, known as camp followers, traveled with the Continental Army. They served soldiers and officers as nurses, cooks, washerwomen, seamstresses, and supply scavengeners. Occasionally women served as spies and soldiers.

Song History

A young officer in the Continental army named George Bush (no relation to the U.S. presidents) kept journals of songs that were played and sung during the American Revolution. This song was found in one of his journals. It is a dialogue between a soldier and his sweetheart.

Lyrics

O, say, bonny lass, can you lie in a barrack
And marry a soldier and carry his wallet
O, say, will you leave both your Mammy and Daddy
And follow to the camp with your soldier laddy

O, yes, I will do it and think nothing of it
I’ll marry my soldier and carry his wallet
O, yes, I will leave both my Mammy and Daddy
And follow to the camp with my soldier laddy

O, say, bonny lass, will you go a-campaigning
Endure all the hardships of battle and famine
When wounded and bleeding, will thou draw near me
And kindly support me and tenderly cheer me

O, say, bonny lass, will you go into battle
Where the drums are beaten and cannons loud rattle
O, yes, my bonny lad, I will share all thy harms
And should thou be killed I will die in thy arms

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