The Grand Old Duke of York he had ten thousand men
He marched them up to the top of the hill
And he marched them down again.
When they were up, they were up
And when they were down; they were down
And when they were halfway up
They were neither up nor down.
Looking at this one, I'm definitely thinking of huge historical underlings.
Lets see what my favorite website says.
This rhyme is believed to date back to the 15th century with the defeat of some guy named Richard, who, just so happened to be the Duke of York. There was a "War of the Roses" where the houses of York and the houses of Lancaster were fighting for more than 30 years in something that resembled the Civil War.
So Richard held claim to the English throne and was deemed Protector of England during the Battle of Wakefield in Dec of 1460. Here, the Duke and his army marched to his castle and took up the defense against the Lancaster army. The Duke's castle, called Sandal Castle was atop a hill and pretty much awesome in terms of safekeeping. In a random moment of madness though, the Duke decided to leave his stronghold to go down the hill and make a direct attack on the Lancaster army. The Duke and his men were overwhelmed and killed. The end.