The White Cockade

Tradition tells us that, when the militias began the march down Punkatasset Hill toward the North Bridge of Concord on that fateful day, the piper (Luther Blanchard) played a little tune called The White Cockade.  This tune was said to have been the signature tune of the Acton Minutemen, Captain Isaac Davis’s men.

This would have been an in-your-face affront to the Redcoats at the bottom of the hill.  Why?  Well, the White Cockade was a well known Jacobite tune.  It was a Scottish tune referring back to the the rebellion of Bonnie Prince Charlie during the uprising of ’45. In 1970, Robert Burns put words to the tune.

The uprising of ’45 was an attempt by the Bonnie Prince to take over the English thrown for the House of Stewart.  The Highland Scots were huge supporters of Charlie and, when the uprising was quelled by the English army, it ended with one of the bloodiest battles in all of history at Culloden.  Of note, one of the reasons General Gage was so determined to quell the resistance in the Colonies was because he’d been at Culloden and was just so tired of bloodshed.  Totally understandable.

This began the Highland clearances that send thousands and thousands of Scots to America.  Interestingly, part of the town of Lexington was, at one point, called Scotland.  The Scots/Irish were said to have made up at least forty percent of the Colonial Army. The Munroe Clan (of Munroe Tavern fame) lost the most members on April 19th.  Many other families had deep Scottish roots as well.

Here are the works Robbie Burns penned to the tune.

The White Cockade


My love was born in Aberdeen,
The bonniest lad that e’er was seen;
But now he makes our hearts fu’ sad,
He’s taen the field wi’ his white cockade.

O he’s a rantin, rovin blade,
He’s a brisk and a bonny lad,
Betide what may, my heart is glad,
To see my lad wi his white cockade.

Oh leeze me on the philabeg
The hairy hough and garten’d leg;
But aye the thing that blinds my ee,
The white cockade aboun the bree.

I’ll sell my rock, I’ll sell my reel,
My rippling-kame and spinning wheel,
To buy my lad a tartan plaid,
A braidsword, dirk, and white cockade.

I’ll sell my rokelay and my tow,
My good grey mare and hawkit cow,
that every loyal Buchan lad
May tak the field wi the white cockade.

Lyrics by Robert Burns.