RE: Songs of the Revolutionary War
"Buttermilk Hill" aka "Johnny Has Gone For A Soldier" is derived from the Irish song "Shule Aroon" (and several other titles and spellings). Shule Aroon came out of the 1688 Irish rebellion against England that was broken by the English King William of Orange. According to the treaty of Limerick in 1691, Irish rebels could take an oath of allegiance to England or leave Ireland for exile. A majority of the leaders chose exile, many joining the French army to fight against the British, hoping one day to return victorious to Ireland. One of the early verses in Shule Aroon reflected this situation:
Now my love has gone to France
To try his fortune to advance
If he e'er comes back, 'tis but a chance...
Many of the young Irish men who stayed behind were drafted into the British army. Some were shipped to North America to fight in the French and Indian War in the 1700's. They brought the song with them and adapted it to fit the battles there. Other colonist picked up the plaintive tune and the words became more anglicized as a farewell song for soldiers off to fight for independence in America. The Gaelic refrain became a set of nonsense syllables or disappeared entirely. The song was definitely common during the American Revolution, but has had surges of popularity at other times of national struggle, notably during the American Civil War.
Some sources for other Revolutionary era songs, check your area libraries:
The Early American Songbook by Lee Vinson (1974 Prentice-Hall)
The Ballad of America by John Anthony Scott (1966 Bantam Books, reprinted 1983 Southern Illiinois Univ. Press)
Songs of Independence by Irwin Silber (1973 Stackpole Books)
Music for Patriots, Politicians, and Presidents by Vera Brodsky Lawrence (1975 MacMillan Publishing)