Click on the title for info on the song.
The year is 1776. The setting, the Murray mansion in the Manhattan Woods in New York. Mrs.Robert Murray, of Murray Hill, and the young ladies of her fashionable school, are sewing uniforms for Gen.George Washington, Commander-in-Cheif of the Colonial Army, and his officers, while lamenting the absence of their own gallant young men. Mrs.Murray warns her charges to beware of the British soldiers but the young ladies seem not to terribly terrifed.
Jane Murray, one the Murray daughters, is the first to encounter the British Capt.John Tryon, who is seeking lodging for his superior, Gen.Sir William Howe and his staff. When the other British officers arrive, they are homesick but are cheered by the thoughts of some female companionship which Mrs.Murray seeks to discourage by instructing the girls to dress like frumps in order to make themselves determinedly unattractive.
Washington, meanwhile, has sent word to Mrs.Murray that sahe must somehow detain Howe and his men overnight so that Gen.Israel Putnam can lead American troops bottled up on the southern tip of Manhattan to join him on the heights of Harlem.
With this, Mrs,Murray hastily instructs her girls to change their tactics, and all are happy to do so except for her niece, Betsy, who has no time for the British and even less for Sir John Copeland who's responsible for providing her with the barrel inh which she comes home after a dog stole her clothes while she was swimming.
Mrs.Murray tells the British officers about stranger who lives in the far-off Bronx while Betsy, let in on the secret by the older woman, tries to be nice to Sir John and soon discovers she is falling in love with him,
Thus charmed by the ladies, the British accept the invitation to spend the night at the mansion.
That evening, Mrs.Murray gives an impromptu ball for the British officers and Betsy confidesa to Jane that she's in love with Sir John. Mrs.Murray promises to show the Generals some of ghe beauties of the local countryside even as Betsy and Sir John dream of being together when the war is over, and Gen Tryon tells the others that youth isn't everything.
When Mrs.Murray's messenger boy is captured, Betsy volunteers to go to Gen.Washington in the boy's place, and she leaves that ball as the other girls and officers relate the sad tale of Peter Stuyvesant,
Meanwhile, Betsy has been told to return to the mansion ansd, when the coast is clear for Putnam to move, ti light a candle, count to ten and then put it out. Thankfully, Sir John is waiting for Betsy, and the confess their love for each other.
As soon as Sir John is asleep, Betsy lights he signal. Putnam's men march to safety. Sir John is taken prisoner and it seems Betsy will never see him again but all ends happily (it is a musical, after all) when, after the war, Gen.Washington, himself, reunited the young lovers.
Larr Hart got the idea for the musical after reading a plaque in Manhattan about Mary Lindley Murray and her detaining the British troops during the American Revolution.