At the time of the Revolutionary War, men pinned cockades on the side of their tricornes or cocked hats or on their lapels. Women also wore them on their hats or in their hair.
During the American Revolution, the Continental Army initially wore cockades of various colors as a form of rank insignia. On July 23, 1775, General George Washington wrote: “As the Continental Army has unfortunately no uniforms, and consequently many inconveniences must arise from not being able to distinguish the commissioned officers from the privates, it is desired that some badge of distinction be immediately provided; for instance that the field officers may have red or pink colored cockades in their hats, the captains yellow or buff, and the subalterns green.”
After a time, the Continental Army reverted to wearing the black cockade they inherited from the British. Later, when France became an ally of the United States, soldiers pinned the white cockade of the French Ancien Régime onto their old black cockade; the French reciprocally pinned the black cockade onto their white cockade, as a mark of the French-American alliance. These cockades became known as the "Union Cockade." By the time of the War of 1812, however, Americans had reverted to black cockades.
A fantastic step-by-step demonstration of "How to Make an 18c Cockade" can be found on the blog, American Duchess, Historical Costuming at http://americanduchess.blogspot.com/2010/04/how-to-make-18th-c-cockades.html
According to some historians, on April 19, 1775, when colonial militias confronted British troops at Concord’s North Bridge, they marched to the tune of “The White Cockade.” This was a traditional Scottish tune that celebrated the attempt by Bonnie Prince Charlie to reclaim the British throne for the House of Stuart. Colonists were familiar with this “rebellious” tune as a country dance and a fife and drum piece.
You can hear this tune by going to this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=me_LOrsFLsE
Susan F. Craft is the author of the award-winning novel, The Chamomile, a Revolutionary War romantic suspense that takes place in Charleston, SC, during the two years that the British occupied that city.