Uniform & Equipment of the 17th Regiment: Clothing & Necessaries
This article is the first in a series on the uniform, dress and equipment of the “other ranks” of the battalion companies of the 17th Regiment during the American War of Independence, but is also pertinent to other regiments in the British army of the late 18th Century, and serves as a summary of sources and a rationale behind our decision to reproduce these items in the way that we have (or have made by a trusted supplier) for re-enactment.
The uniform of a soldier of the 17th Regiment as he may have appeared in the summer of 1776, by Don Troiani We have four main resources to use in respect of recreating the uniform of the 17th Regiment in the American Revolutionary War:
- Surviving examples,
- Written records (primary sources),
- Period artwork,
- Secondary sources.
It's quite rare for military clothing to survive 250 years, and for the most part it hasn't. It's even rarer for there to be surviving clothing from our specific regiment. But there is a corpus of research collecting different examples from around the world and making educated guesses about their construction.
For written records, we have a far greater number to draw from. From the recommendations of officers, such as Bennett Cuthbertson in his “[...] System for the Complete Interior Management and Economy of a Battalion of Infantry,” letters between military administrators in the War Office and Board of Ordnance, inspection reports from general officers in the army, to Royal Warrants stating the specifications.
There's loads of period artwork of the military: whether contemporaneous doodles of men on parade or on campaign, or art commissioned by serving men, art is a key source in figuring out how things go together. Although we must be cautious as there is an amount of dramatic license an artist can add to a scene, especially if he is far removed from the event.
And then there is the work of scholars over the decades who have hit the shelves of the archives and gleaned all sorts of details and compiled them into digestible books for the enthusiast.
We try and draw from as many sources as possible for each item we recreate, and if we can't then we must justify why within the internal logic of an 18th Century soldier and his regiment.
Clothing & Necessaries
A soldier's clothing, provided by the government, is outlined in the “Royal Warrant for Regulating the Clothing of the Regiments of Infantry” from July 1768. National Archive WO 26/28. p.24. These items are a “good cloth coat, well lined, looped with worsted lace, a waistcoat, a pair of good cloth breeches, a pair of good strong stockings, a pair of strong shoes, a good shirt and a good neckcloth, and a good strong hat bound with white tape.” These uniform items would be replaced every year. Additionally, a soldier required “necessaries” (stopped from their pay) such as gaiters and half-gaiters (spatterdashes), additional shirts, neckstocks &c.
Extant coats from the 1st Guards regiment 1st Footguards Uniform Coat c1772. Charles Paget Wade Costume Collection. NT 1350640. 1st Footguards Uniform Coat c1780, National Army Museum collection (Accession 1963-11-22). 1st Footguards drummer's coat c1780, National Army Museum collection (Accession 1961-10-29-1).Photo of Paget Wade Coat © Clive Emerson. and period manufacturing specifications and orders show us that the regimental coats were made of “broadcloth” which is the period term for a heavy milled woollen fabric. As per the 1768 regulation National Archive WO 30/ 13B. Miscellany Book: Clothing Correspondence. His Majesty's Warrant for the Regulation of the Colours, Clothing, etc. of the Marching Regiments of Foot. 19th December 1768.. Transcript. , the coats were lined, and their buttonholes looped with worsted lace. Research by James Kochan and Sean Phillips has revealed the lining material to also be wool, but in a loosely woven “bay” or baize cloth. The 1768 regulation also gives us dimensions for the sleeves, pockets, and lapels:
“The men's coats to be looped with worsted lace, but no border. The ground of the lace to be white, with coloured stripes. To have white buttons. The breadth of the lace which is to make the loop round the buttonhole, to be about half an inch. Four loops to be on the sleeves, and 4 on the pockets, with 2 on each side of the slit behind.“
“The breadth of all the lapels to be 3 inches, to reach down to the waist, and not to be wider at the top than at the bottom. The sleeves of the coats to have a small round cuff, without any slit, and to be made so that they may be unbuttoned and let down. The whole to have cross pockets, but no flaps to those of the waistcoat. The cuffs of the sleeve which turns up, to be 3 inches and a half deep. The flap on the pocket of the coat to be sewed down, and the pocket to be cut in the lining of the coat.”
Cuthbertson said of the fit that “A Soldier's coat should always be tight over the breast for the sake of showing his figure to more advantage” Cuthbertson, B (1768). A System for the Complete Interior Management and Oeconomy of a Battalion of Infantry. p.69 and this style appears in most contemporary artwork. They fastened the coat not with the lapel buttons, but with a cloth loop or hook-and-eye, with the buttons only being employed in cold weather.
The skirt or tails of the coat were long, and usually tucked back with a hook-and-eye, except in inclement weather where they could be let down for the sake of warmth.
The coat buttons were made of white metal and had an iron wire shank. Numerous 17th-numbered buttons were found in New York where the regiment was garrisoned during the revolutionary war. Cuthbertson recommended that a leather thong was run through the shanks to attach them.
The lace loops were made of worsted, a woollen yarn with long smooth strands. The pattern is outlined in a 1768 warrant National Archive WO 30/13B General view of the facings, &c of the several Marching Regiments of Foot, as fixed by his Majesty, December 19, 1768. Transcript. and a sample remains in the Royal Library at Windsor.
According the the General view, the 17th regiment lace is “White, with two blue and one yellow stripe.” The lace loops, when fitted to the coat, expand to the full breadth of the lapel and cuff (the cuffs are larger; therefore, the lace is longer).
The lapels and sleeve cuffs were made in the “facing” colour of the regiment. The 17th's facing colour is described as “greyish white” in the warrant, but research from Kochan and Phillips suggests this is the same “natural” white colour as the other 4 regiments which had white facings. 32nd, 43rd, 47th and 65th regiments have white facings.
The coats had a single shoulder strap on the left shoulder fastened with a button, it's purpose was to hold the cartridge pouch strap in place. During the war, some regiments made alterations and added an additional strap on the right shoulder to accommodate the bayonet sling — this item was supposed to be worn around the waist, but shoulder slinging became practice in some regiments, Cuthbertson (1768) p.98.
20th Regiment, 4th July 1769 Inspection Return. Quoted in Strachan, H. (1975) British Military Uniforms 1768-1796. p.213.
“Lord George Lennox (1737-1805), Colonel of the 25th Regiment of Foot,” c.1771. Giuseppe Chiesa (1720-1789). &c
and later adopted army-wide. National Archive WO 3/26 p.147. 20th March 1784. Commander-in-Chief out letter. Circular letter to all Regiments of Infantry. “[...] the waist belts of the infantry, are to be worn over the right shoulder, instead of round the waist, as formerly.”
Some regiments also changed the look of the shoulder strap: some left it as the same red as the fabric of the coat, some used their facing colour, some added lace (there's artwork of all three methods). We don't have any specific data on the 17th, so we leave the shoulder strap in red. After the war, the facing colour on the shoulder straps was adopted army-wide:
“... it appearing likewise to the Board in inspecting the patterns for the three regiments of foot guards and many other regiments of infantry, that the shoulder straps were made of the colour of the facings instead of red (which conformable to the general regulations they ought to be). They would wish to know His Majesty's pleasure upon this alteration as they apprehend there should be an uniformity throughout the whole army in this part of the clothing.”
The next garment mentioned in the warrant is the waistcoat. Waistcoats were made of broadcloth, and were all white, except for regiments with buff-coloured facings who had buff-coloured waistcoats. National Archive WO 3/24, p.59. Commander-in-chief out letter. Adjutant-General to Colonel Cunningham. 2nd August 1768.
Buff faced regiments are the 3rd, 14th, 22nd, 27th, 31st, 40th, 48th, 52nd, 61st and 62nd. Unlike the warrants for previous decades, the waistcoats were to be plain, National Archive WO 30/ 13B. His Majesty's Warrant for the Regulation of the Colours, Clothing, etc. of the Marching Regiments of Foot. “The waistcoats to be plain, without either embroidery or lace.” with no decoration save for their regimental buttons.
From extant examples and artwork, we see the cut of the waistcoat is short, hip-length, coming so far down as the breeches buttons before cutting away. Extant examples Photographs of the other ranks waist coat circa 1788 from the now lost collection from the Zeughaus Museum in Berlin. and artwork suggest that the pockets to have been in a “welted” construction and sometimes with pocket-flaps (we have chosen the former).
According to the regulations, the old waistcoat fronts were used to make up the back of the new waistcoats each year, saving money on cloth. Some regiments seem to have ordered linen on occasion, particularly for summer, or on overseas service in warm climates. National Archive WO 3/24 p.59. Cuthbertson recommends “½ [yard] of frize, for backs.” Cuthbertson p.74. By the 18th century, “frize” was a term for linen cloth.
A reproduction waistcoat in white cloth by Graves Historical UniformsCuthbertson also recommended “baize” for lining the waistcoat (and in later editions, coarse linen). It's uncertain how many of these recommendations are used, as each regiment made their own decisions regarding clothing. It's likely that waistcoats were made wholly of broadcloth and lined in bay or linen.
The number of buttons varies in period artwork, and on extant examples of military wear from 10-14 buttons, probably depending on the size of the man. (Cuthbertson's calculations factored in 14.)
The 17th was seen to have numbered buttons on their inspection return of 1773. National Archive WO 27/29. 18th May 1773. Inspection Return by General Michael O'Brien Dilkes The excavations of the 17th Regiment's camp at Inwood in New York City revealed several waistcoat buttons made of white metal with wire shanks, decorated with an embossed “17” and a rope/cord motif on the perimeter. A small button of the 17th regiment found in New York, and now in the Newarke Houses Museum in Leicester, UK.
The buttons are slightly plano-convex in shape and approximately 0.7” (18mm) in diameter.
The 43rd Regiment's orderly book shows that these waistcoats were very warm, as they were deposited on wagons in the hot weather of the Carolinas in 1781 (the 17th were Brigaded with them). British Museum, London: MS 42,449. H. B. M. 43rd Regiment of Foot Orderly Book, 23 May-25th August, 1781.
A pair of “good cloth breeches” were specified by the 1768 warrant. National Archive WO 26/28. p.24. Cuthbertson and Simes Simes, T. (1776) The Military Guide for Young Officers, Containing a System of the Art of War p.191 both recommended an additional pair in “ticking,“ a tightly-woven linen fabric. The 17th Regiment were seen wearing their smart white linen breeches during their inspection at Chatham in 1769. National Archive WO27/15. Review of the 17th Regiment of Foot at Chatham by Major General George Cary, 17th May 1769. At points during the war, the 17th Regiment was also instructed to make up pairs of linen drawers to wear under them:
“Regimental Orders 17th October 1776. The officers Commanding Companies are desired to be particularly careful that the men have warm stockings and Drawers to wear under their breeches and leggings.”
A reproduction pair of breeches of the 33rd foot, in white cloth by Graves Historical Uniforms. Note the shape: splayed legs and the waistband sits higher at the back than the front — a common style of the time.Undoubtedly however, the primary legwear was breeches made of broadcloth, in the same “white” as the waistcoat. Period artwork and extant examples show that they had a front-fall flap at the front, fastened to a wide waistband with buttons, the waist band sitting higher on the back than the front. They were knee length, with the knee-band sitting just below the knee. The knee bands are shown in artwork to be either buckled or buttoned. Cuthbertson had a dim view of knee-band buckles:
“Buckles to the knee-bands of a Soldier's breeches are improper, both on account of the expense, and because their tongues are perpetually wearing out the straps.”
Instead, he recommends buttons, bringing the total to 5 on each leg. In addition, he recommends a cross-pocket, another feature found on extant breeches of the day. Additionally, a lining “between the thighs” Cuthbertson p.71 is mentioned by Cuthbertson, so they can be replaced before wearing out the breeches.
From notes in deserter adverts, buttons appear to be the same regimental buttons as the waistcoats, probably to be economical. There's a deserter advert for a soldier from the 17th Regiment, who deserted from the regiment, enlisted with the rebels, and then deserted from the 1st Virginia in 1777. It notes the use of numbered buttons on the breeches:
“Deserted from my recruits, James Orange and Larking Rogers, both of which enlisted with me in Caroline. […] had on when he went away a light cloth coat and breeches with pewter buttons numbered 17.”
“A pair of good strong stockings” is specified in the 1768 warrant. The 17th Regiment's Orderly Book from October 1776 tells the officers to take returns of “worsted stockings” and later in December, instructs the officers commanding companies to commission “3 pairs [of] good worsted stockings.” HM 17th Regiment Orderly Book, October 11- December 28, 1776.Original in the New York Historical Society, transcribed by Gilbert V. Riddle. 16th December 1776 entry. “He Expects that Each man be Completed with […] 3 pairs good worsted Stockings” A general memorandum written in the 17th Regiment's orderly book from March 1779 also mentions that they are made of worsted. NARA, microfilm M853 Roll 17 Volume 163 p.71. HM 17th Regiment of Foot Orderly Book, January 26- April 1, 1779
Stockings were made either by hand knitting or by frame-knitters in the late 18th century. Many extant stockings, such as those found on the wreck of the General Carleton of Whitby (1785) have the “common heel” style construction with a purl row back seam.
Cuthbertson notes that there should be uniformity between soldiers' stockings in the regiment, and that they should be white, or as a last resort, grey. Cuthbertson p.82 Records from the War Office support the wearing of white stockings generally. National Archive PRO 30/55, Vol.6 p.670. 16th September 1777. Headquarters Records of the British Army in America. The Carleton papers. Barrington to General Howe. Quoted in Strachan, H (1975) British Military Uniforms 1768-96. “white thread stockings”
It was common in both civilian and military costume to wear stockings and breeches, and there is abundant artwork showing their use. Some regimental orders suggest soldiers carried multiple pairs, H. B. M. 43rd Regiment of Foot Orderly Book, 23 May- 25th August, 1781. British Museum, London: Manuscript 42,449, transcribed by Gilbert V. Riddle. 23rd May 1781 entry “it is positively Ordered that no Soldier lands with more necessaries than [... ]Two pair of Stockings” and some of “thread” National Archive PRO 30/55, Vol.6 p670 rather than “yarn.” In other words, linen, or linsey rather than worsted wool.
Extant examples Pictured above: William Cowper shoes from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Other examples: English Buckle Shoe Recovered from the Wreck of the H.M.S. Invisible 1758, English Leather Buckle Shoe of Private James Simpson C. 1776, Restored English Buckle Shoes Recovered from the Wreck of the General Carleton 1785. and artwork indicate that the shoe rather than boot was the preferred choice for soldiers, as it has been for soldiers and commoners in the previous decades. Late 18thC “strong shoes” had black leather uppers, usually made from calf or kip skin with the rough “flesh” side on the outside. Bone black and tallow (black ball) would be used to polish the leather, hiding the rough texture of the leather when worked into the surface.
Shoes were commonly straight lasted, that is, not left or right footed. Cuthbertson says that men should “not always wear their shoes on the same feet, but that they change them day about, to prevent their running crooked.” Cuthbertson pp.113-114 It doesn't take long however before the shoe moulds to the foot.
The soles were made from stiff leather and sewn onto the uppers. The ironmongery associated with rural labourers such as hobnails and heel plates are absent, though Cuthbertson recommends strengthening the heels with nails. Ibid pp.81-82
Shoes were fastened with a simple brass latchet buckle, The 18th Century Material Culture Resource Center. Shoe Buckles. Online. of a rounded style common of the time.
Soldiers were expected to carry at least two pairs of shoes at points during campaigns, HM 17th Regiment Orderly Book, October 11- December 28, 1776, Original in the New York Historical Society, transcribed by Gilbert V. Riddle. “He Expects that Each man be Completed […] 2 pair good Shoes[…], and a pair of Shoe Buckles, uniform if they Can be purchased.” and a set of spare soles and heels. National Archive PRO 30/55, Vol.6 pp647-8. 21st August 1777. Headquarters Records of the British Army in America. The Carleton papers. Barrington to General Howe. “20,000 pairs of soles, with bristles, thread, etc.” “shoe soles and heels” Former shoemakers (cobblers) appear to have been common in the army, with one in the 17th Regiment being captured and put to work in a Continental Army shoe factory.
“Philadelphia, November 25.
Forty Dollars Reward. Deserted last Monday, the 22d inst. from the Continental Shoe Factory in the Barracks of this city, a certain John Workman, a British prisoner, and Serjeant in the 17th regiment of foot, by trade a shoemaker, about forty five years of age, about five feet six or seven inches high, fair complexion, thin visage, light coloured hair, and pitted with the small- pox; had on when he went away, a brown surtout coat, white cloth waistcoat and breeches, and laced hat. Whoever will apprehend and secure the aforesaid deserter in any gaol on the Continent, or bring him to the subscriber, shall receive the above reward and all reasonable charges, paid by Alexander Rutherford.”
Soldiers' shirts followed the fashion styles of the time, The 18th Century Material Culture Resource Center. The British Foot Soldier. Online. that of a simple, square cut, thigh length, linen shirt with a thin cuff fastened with shirt-buttons (cufflinks) or a simple thread-button, a high collar fastened with a thread-button, and a “ruffle” on the bosom. C1775 Standing Orders of thew 37th Foot. A manuscript volume that belonged to Ensign Buckeridge (who served 1774-76), in the Collection of the National Army Museum (6912/14/81) Quoted in Strachan (1975). pp.226-228. “One yard of cambric makes 14 ½ pairs of ruffles” Most shirts were made of white linen, Ibid “white cloth only to be worn” but there are records of men being provided with check shirts in some cases. National Archive PRO 30/55, Vol.40 p4570. 7th May 1781. Headquarters Records of the British Army in America. The Carleton papers. Colonel S. Townsend to Sir Guy Carleton. “Each man besides the usual necessaries of a soldier, is provided with a check shirt...”
A regimental order dated 16th December 1776 HM 17th Regiment Orderly Book, October 11-December 28, 1776, recommends that officers commanding companies provide a “pair of sleeve buttons” along with their “4 good shirts,” which confirms the use of cufflinks in the 17th Regiment.
Soldiers' shirts were marked up to identify its owner for when it went away to the laundry. One deserter report from Boston in 1775 mentions that the mark was the person's initials in red ink.
“Jane Garland (of the Marines) being sworn, Deposeth, that she missed a shirt out of the Tent belonging to John Morris, & that the shirt is marked with Red Ink I. M. The Shirt Produced above is sworn by the Deponent to be the shirt she lost. John Morris (of the Marines) being sworn deposeth that a few days before the Engagement at Charlestown he gave a shirt to be washed by Jane Garland & upon demanding it, he was told, that it was lost. That one day last Week the serjeant sent for him, & produced his Shirt to him. The Shirt produced in Court being compared to the one the Deponent is wearing, appears to be marked in the same Manner, and the Deponent says that it is his properly.”
Regimental orders show that men were provided with up to 4 shirts HM 17th Regiment Orderly Book, October 11- December 28, 1776, Original in the New York Historical Society, transcribed by Gilbert V. Riddle. “He Expects that Each man be Completed with 4 good Shirts” and soldiers were expected to put clean linen on at least twice a week (Sunday and Wednesdays), and always when they parade. Cuthbertson p.112
The quality of the linen varied. A letter from the field officers to the Board of Ordnance in 1779 complains that the linen is “course, thin and unfit for soldiers' shirts.” National Archive PRO 30/55 Vol 20 p2488. 17th December 1779. Headquarters Records of the British Army in America. Report of Field Officers held at New York… to enquire nto the state of the necessaries sent out from Europe.
The neck stock was an article worn around the neck, covering the raised collar of the shirt. Military neck stocks were made to be stiff and smart, made from horsehair National Archive PRO 30/55, Vol.6 pp.647-8. “A list of...articles to be paid for by the troops. This supply is to be in readiness for shipping by the 1st of September ... 20,000 Hair stocks, lined.”
“Recruiting Instructions for the 17th Foot,” Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research, Vol. 4, No. 16, Apr-Jun 1925, pgs. 84-90. “Standing orders [17th Regiment of foot, ca. 1768] Every soldier to be completed constantly with the following necessaries... 1 good black hair stock” or velvet. HM 17th Regiment Orderly Book, October 11- December 28, 1776, “one good velvet Stock and Either Buckell Or Clasp”
Orderly book, 17th Regiment of Foot, Clayton's company, Aug 1778-2 Jan 1779. 25 Nov 1778: “RO — "Each Man to be Provided immediately with 1 good Black Velvet Stock, and 3 fals Collars" Cuthbertson suggested that a soldier should have one of each kind:
“Black stock besides having a more soldierly appearance than white ones[...]two will be necessary for each man; one of horse-hair for common use; the other of Manchester Velvet for Dress[...]the ends for the clasps to fix in are best of leather...”
The stocks are fastened with a brass clasp or buckle. An extant stock from the grave of Private James Simpson of the 57th Regiment (c1784) has a buckle, and as Cuthbertson recommended, leather tabs to fix the buckle to the fabric. Another from c1770 (pictured) has a clasp with leather tabs.
Stony Point Stock Clasps c1775-79Military stock clasps were found at Stony Point where the 17th Regiment were garrisoned in 1779, so it's possible they used these.
Another curious feature was that the 17th Regiment used false collars, Orderly book, 17th Regiment of Foot, Clayton's company, Aug 1778-2 Jan 1779. 25 Nov 1778: “RO — "Each Man to be Provided immediately with 1 good Black Velvet Stock, and 3 fals Collars" probably attached to the stock with thread-buttons. This would provide a degree of uniformity and save on laundry should the collars become dirty from sweat.
It's also possible soldiers wore a simple 'neckcloth' or roller of linen for off-duty wear, of which there are several examples depicted in art, and numerous civilian extant examples. Certainly in the Royal Artillery, Extract of Artillery Brigade Orders. Philadelphia, 8 December 1777. Royal Artillery Museum. Quoted in Journal of The Company of Military Historians Vol. XXXV No. 3. Fall, 1983. “The NCOs are to be answerable that every man under their command are as clean dressed with White Shirts and Black or White Neck Cloths, as the nature of the Service will admit of; no coloured Handkerchiefs to be worn about the necks of the Men of the Artillery in the Day Time.” men were wearing colourful handkerchiefs around their necks at night, and were likely doing it by day unless prevented from so doing so — on campaign and away from Headquarters, they probably did so.
The regimental hat is made from stiffened wool-felt formed over a round block and cut, then having three sides “cocked” (pinned) to the bowl. It is edged in white worsted tape and had a black horsehair cockade. The warrant states:
“Those of the Corporals and private men to have a white tape binding. The breadth of the whole to be 1 inch and a quarter; and no more to be on the back part of the brim, than what is necessary to sew it down. To have black cockades.”
The size of the hats was regulated, but letters from the Adjutant General of the clothing board complains that regiments “that the hats of several regiments are of different sizes.” National Archive WO 30/13B. 4th February 1769. Adjutant-General to Mr. Fauquier. Cuthbertson suggests that the leaves of the hat be no more than four inches and a half in breadth and provides a pattern in his appendices to cut a hat round. However, many examples of hats in period art show a deeper rear leaf, and the regimental orders of the 40th regiment in May 1777 order the men to cut their hats (received in 1776) “round.” Captured British Army Orderly Book [40th Regiment of Foot] April 20, 1777 to August 28, 1777, George Washington Papers, series 6B, vol. 1, reel 117. Transcribed by John U Rees. “Regl Orders 12th May 1777. […] Hatts to be Cut Round, Lased and Cocked as Swon as Posable" This is perhaps because of wear, or simply to meet the regulation.
Sketches by Philip James de Loutherbourg (and other artists) show the hat is worn with the cockade over the left ear and tilted to the front right. This is not just a decorative function, but a practical one as well — if worn like the stereotypical pirate “tricorn,” any attempt to shoulder the musket on the left side (the practice at the time) would knock the hat off. Given this jaunty angle, Cuthbertson recommends a hook and eye to attached to the hair to stop it falling off.
Further decoration may have been added by way of a tassel and pompom hanging from the right of the hat, a plume of ostrich feathers, Not universally adopted it would seem, though shows up in artwork, such as c1771 depiction of the 25th Foot at Minorca, Johann Zoffany's The Death of Captain James Cook c1779 and Paul Sandby’s “The 'Old Swan,' Bayswater” from 1790, possibly based on an earlier scene as the white faced soldiers appear to be in 1768 warrant clothing. and a regimental button worn with the cockade.
Gaiters and Half-Gaiters
The clothing regulation also stipulates that men should be outfitted with “black linen gaiters, with black buttons, and small stiff tops, black garters and uniform buckles.” National Archive WO 30/13BThese are the long, over the knee gaiters, and the term is often used interchangeably in primary sources with “leggings.” Though as we'll see, they can be an entirely different garment to gaiters.
In 1771 the newly formed light companies wore half-gaiters, or “spatterdashes” National Archive WO 26/28. pp.377-378. “that it is proposed to be up to the calf of the leg and no higher;” and this item made its way to battalion companies too. Thomas Simes suggested in his Military Guide that soldiers were furnished with “1 pair of black long gaiters, with black tops for ditto; 1 pair of half spatterdashes.” Simes p.167
Cuthbertson suggests that “stout, grey linen makes the best gaiters for blackening” Cuthbertson p.60 and horn or metal buttons without shanks to fasten them. He was also a proponent of the spatterdashes, saying:
“As long gaiters confine and heat the Soldiers legs too much, upon a march, in warm weather, it will be prudent to furnish them with black short ones, to rise only to the swell of the calf; with a small peak at the top of the back seam, and made in every other particular, like the long gaiters.”
Period artwork shows soldiers wearing both forms, with Phillipe Jacques de Loutherbourg's sketches and paintings of the exercises at Warley camp over several years showing the design and fit of the items quite well. Paul Sandy and James Malton sketches show the smaller details, such as the garter strap holding the long gaiters up, and the “peak” of the rear of the spatterdashes.
A stirrup of linen or strong leather probably held the gaiter onto the foot to stop water getting underneath, and likely helped keep shoes from disappearing into thick mud! Ibid p.84
As to when regiments were ordered to wear these items, we have some clues. Cuthbertson preferred regiments to not to parade in long gaiters, though he thought that even if men were in common dress without any kind of gaiter, they should still wear “black leather garters, buckled below the knee, which, besides being in general an addition to the good appearance of the legs, assist in swelling out the calves of those men who have but thin ones.” Ibid p.114 He suggests they should be an inch wide, and polished like pouches.
The 17th paraded in black linen gaiters with black tops in 1769 and 1771, and in spatterdashes in 1774 and 1775 according to their inspection returns. National Archive WO27. In the winter of 1774, men in Boston were ordered to “mount guard in their leggings” National Archive WO 36/1. p.61 but in the spring of 1775 they were to “mount guard in half gaiters for the future; but to carry their leggings with them, that they may be put on, if a change of weather should require it, especially at night.” Ibid p.84 By November 1775 (shortly before the 17th arrived in Boston), General Howe's orders, state that “the guards to mount in leggings or cloth gaiters, till further orders. the corps that are not provided with them to provide themselves as soon as possible." National Archive WO 55/677
This seems to suggest that “leggings” are distinct from gaiters and may in fact refer to the “Indian” style leg wraps commonly used by provincial light infantry in the French and Indian war, or just a cloth version of the long gaiters without the stiff-top.
The word “cloth” above suggests that gaiters or leggings were made from wool. Lord Lieutenant of Ireland George Townshend sent a letter to Lord Rochford in 1772 laying out a plan of clothing light infantry soldiers using flannel socks and cloth gaiters instead of yarn stockings and linen gaiters. He attached a sample of black broadcloth for consideration. National Archive SP 63/434. (via Dr. Alexander S. Burns)
His plan wasn't entirely adopted, but later, the 37th Regiment, on the Irish Establishment, specified that cloth gaiters were to be made for when they were upon a march.
“Linen gaiters to be the regimental on every occasion, except upon a march, when those made of black cloth with round black cloth buttons are to be worn. The cut of the short ones must be according to the regimental form, and have nine buttons on them, and the tongue of the gaiter must always cover the shoe buckle.”
A large quantity of cloth for half-gaiters was ordered while the army was invading New York, showing this change was adopted by front-line regiments:
“A few Days ago a House in Leeds received Orders from Government for 60,000 Yards of coarse Broad Cloth to be dyed black, for Spatter-Dashes, for the Use of the Army in America; the greatest Part of which was sent off on Thursday and Friday last.”
...and again in 1777:
“...This supply is ready for shipping by the 1st September [...] 20,000 pairs half-gaiters, cloth for ditto...”
...And in 1780 for leggings and gaiters:
“The Clothing of the Brigade to be immediately fitted & the Commanding officers are particularly requested to have their Respective Battns. as uniform in their dress as possible; in order to assist which the Qr. Masters on delivering over the leggings of those Men who may have been removed from the 2d Battn. to the first will receive Black Cloth for Gaiters in return.”
In 1782, the 1st Battalion of the 1st Regiment of Foot possessed, "long black cloth gaiters," and an officer noted that, "their long gaiters" were, "to have 15 buttons each." Standing Orders, May 9th 1782 (Quoted in Strachan, p.203) By 1783, the 17th Regiment were noted for having lost “legging cloth” in America. National Archive PRO 30/55, Vol. 65. pp7164-6. Return of clothing and necessaries embezzled and lost. 19th March 1783
After the war, the clothing board reviewed much of the uniform and equipment of the army and changed wholesale to wool:
“The committee is likewise of opinion, that the black linen gaiter at present in use is extremely inconvenient, and prejudicial to the soldier: and earnestly propose a black woolen cloth gaiter with white metal buttons[...]”
Forage Cap and Stopper
While not strictly issued as part of the soldiers' necessaries, Simes Simes. pp.205-210. “A foraging-Cap and stopper, comfortable to a pattern-one, must be made out of the old coat” and Cuthbertson recommends making them straight away. They appear to be an expected part of campaign gear too, as complaints from the “convention army” might attest. National Archive PRO 30/55, Vol 12, p1346. 14th September 1778. Headquarters Records of the British Army in America. [For the Convention Army POW's] “...That, as the men have not received from the Government for three years past any blankets or caps, one blanket and one woolen cap for each man is now absolutely requisite, which should be allowed by the Government.” The forage or fatigue cap is used when a soldier is doing an activity in extremely cold weather, doing a duty that would ruin the hat, or when off duty. Cuthbertson describes them as:
“A red cap, lined with course linen, and turned up at the front, by a small, stiff flap of the facings [colour] of the regiment, with an occasional calling cape, to defend and cover the neck from the extremities of violent weather: when the clothing is entirely finished every year, they can be easily made up from the remains of the old cloth, and will be found of infinite use, on all Night-duties, and those of fatigue, besides many other occasions, when the hats must otherwise be worn, and considerably damaged.”
“On all duties, such as sweeping barrack yards, and the streets and avenues of a camp, going for wood, water, straw, and things of that nature, a Soldier should always parade in his foraging cap”
Cuthbertson doesn't mention regimental markings on the caps, but a painting from c1780 shows it on the front flap. A Linen Market with a Linen-stall & Vegetable Seller in the West Indies. Agostino Brunias c1780. Yale Center for British Art. We have chosen a simple “17” in our button style, stamped on with ink in much the same way as tents, bags and other items were marked: the period method of numbering is unknown, though it's conceivable that numerals were cut from old cloth.
Illustration of a muzzle stopper in Military Drawings and Painting in the Royal Collection. Miller & Dawnay Vol.I, plate 110, David Morier--Austro-Hugarian Cavalry, Grenadier, Regiment of Dragoons 'Ligne', about 1748.A stopper, also known as a muzzle stopper or tompion, is a package of red wool (from the old coat) and a stone wrapped together to form a bung for the muzzle. The ball would be wrapped with enough fabric to stop it falling down the barrel of the musket with frayed ends that protrude from the muzzle.
This device would keep water and detritus fowling the piece. An original in a private collection is made of red broadcloth, sewn together into a tube with a worsted thread, then bound with thread of a neutral colour.
Brian Zawodniak over on the Progressive Rev War Re-enactors group on Facebook, created a reproduction stopper:
Woollen blankets were issued for use in barracks and during campaigns. Extant blankets are around 2m x 1.75m, usually with a double stripe at each end. The Board of Ordnance “Broad Arrow” marking with the Royal Cypher “GR” is stamped on with ink.
They were made from a mixture of hairy woollen fibres, and densely woven, offering some rudimentary water proofing. At points during the war, the blanket was used as a pack, with a small linen wallet rolled up inside. This meant that for short periods the men were able to do without their knapsacks and camp kettles. Spring, M (2008). With Zeal and With Bayonets Only: The British Army on Campaign in North America, 1775-1783. University of Oklahoma Press. p.40
“Regimental Orders. 14th May 1777. Each Company will immediately receive from the Qr. Mr. Serjt. 26 Slings & Wallets to put the quantity of necessaries intended to be carried to the field viz 2 shirts 1 pr. of shoes & soles 1 pr. of stockings 1 pr. of socks shoe Brushes, black ball &c. Exclusive of the necessaries they may have on (they must be packed in the snuggest manner & the Blankets done neatly round very little longer than the Wallets) to be tied very close with the slings and near the end. The men that are not provided with a blanket of their own may make use of one of the cleanest barrack blankets for tomorrow.”
17th Regiment officer, Captain the Honorable William Leslie noted shortly after the battle for Long Island that:
“It is now a fortnight [that] we have lain on the ground wrapped in our blankets; and, thank God (who supports us when we stand most in need), I never enjoyed better health in my life. My whole stock consists of two shirts, 2 pair of shoes, [and] 2 handkerchiefs, half of which I use, [and] the other half I carry in my blanket like a peddler's pack.”
Packs and Blankets were not always carried for every engagement. There are several orders and eyewitness accounts of battles where packs have been laid down before the engagement or cast off during it. Lushington, Life and Services of General Lord Harris, p.78, Harris to his uncle, n.d. Harris meant that the grenadiers had cast off their blankets at the battle of Long Island as they chased the fleeing rebels into the Brooklyn lines. Quoted in Spring (2008) p.316 The 17th at Princeton, after the first clash with Washington's advanced guard, retreated to their packs which were laid in a line. Spring (2008) p.149
- The 18th Century Material Culture Resource Center. (n.d.). Blankets [online] Available at: https://www.scribd.com/document/288097548/Bedding-Blankets [Accessed 3 Mar. 2023].
- The 18th Century Material Culture Resource Center. (n.d.). The British Foot Soldier. [online] Available at: https://www.scribd.com/document/252850679/Military-British-Army-The-British-Soldier [Accessed 2 Mar. 2023].
- The 18th Century Material Culture Resource Center. (n.d.). Shoe Buckles. [online] https://www.scribd.com/document/202628324/Footwear-Shoe-Buckles [Accessed 2 Mar. 2023].
- Cohen, Sheldon S. (1990) Captain William Leslie's “Paths of Glory.” New Jersey History, Vol. 108, Nos. 1-2, Spring/Summer.
- Cuthbertson, B. (1776). Cuthbertson's system, for the complete interior management and economy of a battalion of infantry. A new edition, with corrections. Bristol: Rouths and Nelson.
- Simes, T. (1776). The Military Guide for Young Officers, Containing a System of the Art of War ... The Second Edition, with the Addition of the Regulations of H.R.H. the Late Duke of Cumberland, &c. in Germany and Scotland. [With Maps and Plans.]. Facsimile, The Naval and Military Press.
- Spring, Matthew H. (2008) With Zeal and With Bayonets Only: The British Army on Campaign in North America, 1775-1783. University of Oklahoma Press. Kindle Edition.
- Stone, R. G. (1997) “British Military Blankets, 1776-1813.” Military Collector & Historian Vol. 49, No. 1. Spring
- Strachan, H. (1975). British Military Uniforms 1768-1796. London: Arms and Armour Press.
Sources & Prior Work
- Dr. William P. Tatum III
- James Graves (Graves Historic Uniforms)
- Graham Webb