Concerning the exploits of a New England backwoodsman who joins Washington's colonial army. He sees many wonders his mind cannot comprehend. He is steadily teased: "Yankee Doodle keep it up, Yankee Doodle dandy...."
There is a reference to "Yankee Doodle" in a comic opera of 1767 ("The Disappointment, or The Force of Credulity" by Andrew Barton), but given the references in the common version to the continental army and "Captain Washington," the piece as commonly sung can hardly predate the Revolutionary War.
Krythe gives an extensive summary of the stories told about the song's origins, including a similar piece of doggerel allegedly dating to the time of Cromwell (died 1658). Most of them must be regarded as folkloric. Similarly Spaeth, in his _A History of Popular Music in America_, devotes thousands of words (pp.15-21) to the known history and alleged antecedents of the song. The sum, as Spaeth makes abundantly clear, tells us very little. We must confess that we really don't know the history of the song.
Laura Ingalls Wilder had a curious version (_Little House in the Big Woods_, chapter 2) with a chorus I have not seen elsewhere: "And I'll sing Yankee Doodle-de-do, and I'll sing Yankee Doodle" (x2). This portion of the Little House books is fictional (Laura did not live in Wisconsin at the age described), and so we cannot date the song, but it is presumably traditional.
This "Yankee Doodle" is obviously not to be confused with the 1812 song "The Constitution and the Guerriere," sometimes titled "Yankee Doodle Dandy-O." - RBW
I have not listed all the [broadside] variants ("Yankee Doodle No.2," "Yankee Doodle No.3," and others including an "Original Yankee Doodle") You can find them among the Bodleian and LOCSinging collections.
Broadside LOCSinging sb40592b: H. De Marsan dating per _Studying Nineteenth-Century Popular Song_ by Paul Charosh in American Music, Winter 1997, Vol 15.4, Table 1, available at FindArticles site.
Broadsides LOCSinging hc00037b and Bodleian Harding B 31(128) are duplicates. - BS