Uniform & Equipment of the 17th Regiment: Accoutrements
The process of outfitting a standing army stationed around the world was complex. While the Royal Board of Ordnance organised the patterns, parts and construction of arms, necessaries and accoutrements were made up within the regiment, or contracted out via agents.
In 1770, the 17th Regiment's agent was Mess. Meyrick and Porter, of Parliament Street, London. By 1775, with their move to the Irish establishment, their agent was Sir William Montgomery, Dublin, but with their shipping to America in the autumn of 1775, Meyrick and Sons took over. National Archive QLIB 2/11 to 2/16 (1770-1776) The role of agent included the arrangement of payment of officers and men, the provision of clothing and accoutrements, acting as a middle man for the buying and selling of officers' commissions, and acting upon any special requests from the regimental adjutant.
Although patterns for accoutrements were provided by the committees at the War Office, agents had a lot of leeway in who to buy from. While regiments would want uniform items, theirs might be somewhat different to other regiments in the army depending on the firm contracted to provide it. Some regiments would have new patterns made up while others didn't. This is particularly the case for regiments returning from overseas service, where worn our accoutrements are replaced with new patterns while others keep their old kit for economic reasons. This makes working out precisely what regiments had what quite difficult when the corpus of extant items is so small.
The cartridge pouch is a soft leather bag with a stiff flap, suspended on a strap that is worn over the left shoulder to hang at the right hip. It contains a wooden block with drilled holes to hold ammunition, with a space underneath to hold tools.
The 1768 clothing warrant specifies that the strap should be “two and three-quarter inches in breadth” and that “those which have white waistcoats, are to have white.” 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. Cuthbertson goes into more detail as usual, and his description is backed up by extant examples:
“The accoutrements should be of stout smooth buff [Leather from oil tanned bovine hide][…] two buckles for fixing the belt to the pouch. […] The pouches must be of the stoutest, blackened calf skin, especially the outside flaps, which should be of such a substance, as to turn the severest rain. […] The Buckles of the accoutrements, which are always to be extremely bright, should have rounded corners […] The buff may at all times be perfectly clean […] every soldier should be provided with a ball of white pipeclay.”
There are several extant British cartridge pouches from the late 18th century, ranging from 9-40 holes drilled into the block, in various designs to make them more waterproof and practical. eg. 29-hole pouch attributed to the 50th Regiment in the National Army Museum. It has a much stiffer, boxier construction than older models, with rounded side panels that the flap fits over to stop water getting in, and a more convenient pocket for tools. The hard part is working out which the 17th Regiment may have carried.
The regimental inspection returns give us a clue. When the regiment returned from overseas service in 1767 it was furnished with a whole new set of accoutrements, but in late 1768, the warrant changed the design. The 17th inspection in 1773 states “As the accoutrements were furnished the year before regulation respecting the breadth, etc., they were allowed to be worn — a complete new set ordered.” National Archive WO 27/29. 18th May 1773. Inspection Return by General Michael O'Brien Dilkes By 1775, those accoutrements may have still been worn, as at their inspection that year they were described (much like their muskets) as “all bad,” unlikely if a new set was ordered less than 2 years previously. National Archoive WO 27/35. June 9, 1775. Inspection Return by Major-General John Gisbourne We don't know whether new pouches were ordered before the regiment shipped out to the colonies shortly after their 1775 inspection.
Figure 2. Extant 21-hole cartridge pouch.So, it is possible that they were wearing an older pattern cartridge pouch adapted to the regulation that came in after their last outfitting. Such a pouch exists in the archaeological record and is in Don Troiani's private collection in the United States and examined by James Kochan.
It has a 21-hole block nailed into the leather pouch. It has two buckles, and the strap has been stitched together and the holes plugged where a third buckle used to sit (as it was worn in the “French and Indian War”). The flap has been cut down to conform to the pattern shape seen in artwork and contemporaneous pouches.
We know from the Sir Henry Clinton Papers Henry Clinton papers, Volume 7/20. Invoice from John Hume to Clinton for Accoutrements, with signature of receipt of goods. “March 21 [...] 37 Pouches Flapps & boxes 21:holes [...] Slings with Buckels” that pouches with 21-holes and slings with buckles were ordered for the 12th Regiment at around the same time as the 17th received theirs, showing that this sized magazine was still in use. The Gabriel bray painting A sentinel on the 'Pallas's' gangway from c1775 shows a marine with a soft leather pouch akin to Troiani's example.
Many regiments also adorned their pouches with a numbered badge made of brass. There are a number of extant examples, but the only find for the 17th belonged to a man in the grenadier company (the badge includes a stylized grenade). It has the “17” numerals in the same style as the regimental buttons. It's possible the 17th regiment battalion companies also had a badge, perhaps in an openwork style like find for the 4th, 15th, 37th and 45th The 18th Century Material Culture Resource Center, British Cartridge Boxes and Pouches. Online. but it's impossible to know unless one is found. A badge attached to a 50th Regiment pouch was attached onto a patch of red cloth. Pouch badges were abolished after the war. WO 26/32, pp295-298. 5th July 1784. Miscellany book. Adjutant General to Secretary at War.
The waistbelt holds an important piece of hardware for a soldier: the bayonet. Provided by the regiment in addition to the flimsy Board of Ordnance strap and frog, they were often furnished with a brass clasp bearing a regimental number or device.
Our reproductions are based on an extant waistbelt in a private collection and examined by James Kochan. They're made of buff leather and have an attached single frog for the bayonet scabbard to clip into. They are 2 inches wide are fastened with a buckle or clasp.
“The breadth of the […] waist-belt to be two inches; and those regiments which […] have white waistcoats, are to have white.”
The men would need to whiten the leather with pipe clay — a mixture of white clay, and a fixative, such as gum Arabic. There are numerous recipes for whitener and they will be explored in later articles on cleaning.
Some regiments took to wearing their waistbelts over the right shoulder before the war, 20th Regiment, 4th July 1769 Inspection Return. Quoted in Strachan, H. (1975) British Military Uniforms 1768-1796. p.213 and many more are depicted in contemporary artwork doing the same. eg. “Lord George Lennox (1737-1805), Colonel of the 25th Regiment of Foot,” c.1771. Giuseppe Chiesa (1720-1789). National Army Museum. Online. Cuthbertson recommended it also:
“The Bayonet-belt, if worn round the waist, not only heats and confines a Soldier too much about the loins, but if buckled over his coat (a very favourite practice of many Veterans) shows whatever defects he may have in his shape, and in particular, a hollow back; on the contrary, if worn across the shoulder, those inconveniences are at once removed, as he becomes cool, free and unrestrained, at the same time, that he receives an amendment to his figure; by the ease with which his Accoutrements hang on him, if fixed in a proper manner.”
By the end of the war wearing the bayonet over the shoulder was specifically ordered:
“…The waist belts of the infantry, are to be worn over the right shoulder, instead of round the waist, as formerly.”
The belt could be closed with a buckle or clasp. There are extant regimental-numbered clasps from the period, but no other-ranks examples survive for the 17th. The 38th Regiment had an elaborate engraved design, while the 20th and 64th had simple roman numerals. We have created a simple numeral type with numbers aping the grenadier pouch badge from New Bedford, and an officer's silver belt clasp excavated in New York, and now in the collection at the Regimental Museum in Leicester, UK.
Crossed Belts. Cuthbertson recommended that the waistbelt should be adapted into a bayonet belt, and that and the cartridge pouch strap should be of equal breadth. Cuthbertson (1768) p.98 After the war, the first official mention of a specific bayonet belt is when a committee of General Officers proposed that, “The pouch and bayonet belts, to be of buff leather and the breadth of both of them to be two inches.” National Archive WO 26/32, pp.295-298 On 21 July 1784 this proposal was adopted into the Royal Warrant for infantry accoutrements. There are three extant examples of this belt. Don Troiani, USA, Graham Priest (UK), and National Army Museum. Some regiments seem to be depicted wearing an adapted belt, and the flank companies had their own special shoulder-belts. In our wartime impression, we will continue to wear the regulation sized straps and unaltered waistbelts, even when shoulder slung.
A two-piece buff-leather strap used to carry a firelock. They were fixed to the sling swivels of the musket with leather thonging and fixed with a leather button. By the Revolutionary War, slings were mainly decoration, as slinging the firelock on the shoulder was no longer allowed. Cuthbertson says:
“Slings without buckles are lightest, and most convenient to the men at exercise; they should always be drawn extremely tight, to add a greater sound and briskness to particular motions, which now seems to be the principal use of them, since the slinging of the firelock has been abolished from the British army.”
Up until 1768, musket slings had a buckle, but artwork shows that the tight-fighting, buttoned slings that Cuthbertson recommended were the norm. A group of musket slings from the Royal Carmarthen Fusiliers militia from 1803-1806 seem to be based on this design principle, Turner, P. (2006). Soldiers' accoutrements of the British army, 1750-1900. p.44 and an extant period example in Scotland is the same. (We're looking for images of this, but believe that Roy Najecki in the US uses a pattern based on this.)
- The 18th Century Material Culture Resource Center. (n.d.). Bayonets & Carriages [online] Available at: hhttps://www.scribd.com/document/263586390/Military-Arms-Accoutements-Bayonets [Accessed 3 Mar. 2023].
- The 18th Century Material Culture Resource Center. (n.d.). British Cartridge Boxes and Pouches [online] Available at: https://www.scribd.com/document/267550145/Military-Arms-Accoutrements-British-Cartridge-Boxes-Pouches [Accessed 3 Mar. 2023].
- 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.
- Strachan, H. (1975). British Military Uniforms 1768-1796. London: Arms and Armour Press.
- Turner, P. (2006). Soldiers' accoutrements of the British army, 1750-1900. Wiltshire England: The Crowood Press.