18th Century Re-Enactment in the UK

Our Research

Uniform & Equipment of the 17th Regiment: Camp Equipage

Alan Ball


Camp equipage includes items that are needed by the regiment in addition to clothing, necessaries, arms, and accoutrements. Minutes from meetings in the Headquarters Records of the British Army in America National Archive PRO 30/55, Vol. 27, p3174. Minutes of a meeting of Lord North, Lord Palmerston, Sor Richard Sutton and Mr Buller at Whitehall to consider necessaries for the service of the army in America for 1781. list the items considered to be camp equipage and are outlined in this section.


Extant canteens from the Revolutionary War are almost identical to those found in the French and Indian war a decade earlier. They were made from rolled-sheet iron and treated with the “hot dipped tin” process. The tinned sheets would then be shaped and soldered together. One detail of period canteens is that the seams between sheets were lapped, not unlike sewn seams. Fragments of tin caps have been found (especially in relation to Hessian/German canteens), as well as organic material, probably wood. At least one extant canteen has a cord made of veg-fibre (either flax or hemp).

Canteens being worn
Figure 1. LEFT: “An Officer Giving Alms to a Sick Soldier” c1765. Edward Penny, R.A. (1714-1791). MIDDLE: “The March of the Guards to Finchley” 1750. William Hogarth (1679-1764). RIGHT: “Myself on Picquet in a Tempest Disdaining a Cloak.” A drawing by Lt. Richard St. George Mansergh St. George, 52nd Regiment of Foot c1777

Period artwork shoes the canteens being slung over the right shoulder on top of the haversack.

Extant Canteens
Figure 2. LEFT: British crescent-shaped tin canteen. NPS COWP32. L 12.06, W 7.14, H 20.32 cm. MIDDLE: British or Hessian crescent shaped tin Canteen c. 1775. New York Historical Society. Found in the British & Hessian hut Encampment Built on the Dyckman Farm around Fort Washington in New York City. RIGHT: British kidney-shaped tin canteen. Late 18th, Early 19thC. Private Collection
Figure 3. British Tin Canteen with Thin Linen Cord c. 1775 - 1780. Don Troiani Collection.Extant Canteens

While the canteen is ostensibly for water, there are orders to mix with rum.

“Brigade Orders August 19th [1776.] When the Brigade disembarks two Gils of Rum to be delivered for each mans Canteen which must be filled with Water.”

Some soldiers cheekily converted their canteens into makeshift rasps:

“In riding through the encampment of the militia, the Author discovered them grating their corn, which was done by two men of a mess breaking up their tin canteens, and with a bayonet punching holes through the tin; this made a kind of rasp, on which they grated their corn; The idea was communicated to the adjutant-general, and it was afterwards adopted throughout the army.”

Stedman, C (1794) The History of the Origin, Progress and Termination of the American War, vol. 2. p.225

“Sometimes we had turnips served out for our food, when we came to a turnip field, or arriving at a field of corn, we converted our canteens into rasps and ground our Indian corn for bread, with our lean beef.”

Hagist, D. (2004) A British Soldier's Story: Roger Lamb's Narrative of the American Revolution. p.90


To carry rations on the march, soldiers were issued with a haversack, a square linen bag with a strap to carry it over the right shoulder. Capt. George Smith's 1779 Universal Military Dictionary regards haversacks as necessaries, “NECESSARIES, in a military sense, implies, for each soldier,[…] 1 haversack” but in army correspondence, the bag is listed under camp-equipage. National Archive PRO 30/55, Vol. 27, p3174. Minutes of a meeting of Lord North, Lord Palmerston, Sor Richard Sutton and Mr Buller at Whitehall to consider necessaries for the service of the army in America for 1781.

There's numerous records of men being ordered to parade with their haversacks in preparation for a march, for example:

“[Battalion orders] Morng Orders, 19th. Augt. The Battn. to Parade, Arm'd & Accoutred at [sic] with their Packs, haversacks & Canteens and everything else as for a March, at 12 OClock at the Exercising Ground. all the officers to attend.”

4th British Grenadier Battalion Order Book, commanded by Maj. Hon. Charles Stuart of the 43d Regt. Order book kept by Adjutant and Lieutenant John Peebles, Grenadier Company, 42d or Royal Highland Regiment, August 1 to October 17, 1776.

The size of haversacks seemed to vary. One surviving British example measures 35cm high by 42.5cm wide, with a 2.5cm wide linen strap and conforms pretty well to Cuthbertson's description:

“On service, a soldier cannot conveniently get through the duties of campaign, without a haversack of strong, coarse, grey linen (which is always issued as part of the camp-equipage) to carry his bread and provisions on a march; […] whenever such things are delivered to the men, the name of the owner, with the number of the regiment and company he belongs to, should be marked on them, to prevent their being mixt or lost among those of other Corps.”

Cuthbertson, B. (1776). Cuthbertson's system, for the complete interior management and economy of a battalion of infantry. A new edition, with corrections. p.85
Figure 4. Original in the collection of Colonel J. Craig Nannos. LEFT: there are two brass buttons. MIDDLE: The Board of Ordnance “Broad Arrow” was inked on, but the ink's corrosive properties left a hole in the fabric. RIGHT: Detail of a haversack being worn, from “The Encampment at Blackheath” by Paul Sandby, 1780. British Museum.


The knapsack is a bag for soldiers to carry their campaign-provisions, that is worn on the back. The 17th Regiment may have used one of three different methods of carrying provisions throughout the war, or they may have used several different packs depending on wear and resupply. The British army used the following types of pack during the Revolutionary War:

A single-pouch pack, made of hide covered with hair (probably goat) with double-shoulder-straps. This is based on Bennett Cuthbertson's recommendation, Cuthbertson p.85 paintings of a private soldiers as subjects or background, Captain John Clayton Cowell, 1st Battalion, 1st (or the Royal) Regiment of Foot, c1796. Oil on canvas attributed to Sir William Beechey (1753-1839), c1796. Online

A foot soldier with a musket c1750-c1760. Pencil, pen and ink and watercolour. Attributed to Paul Sandby.Available Online.
and American Timothy Pickering's description of British packs.

During the 1776 and 1777 campaigns — a blanket roll and sling (tumpline) containing a linen wallet. This is mentioned in British orderly books and letters from officers.

A double-pouch knapsack made from linen — and painted with ochre. This is found as an illustration in the 71st Regiment's orderly book, Standing Orders of the 71st Regiment, 1778, Lt. Col. Archibald Campbell, National Register of Archives for Scotland (NRAS 28 papers), Isle of Canna, Scotland, U.K. the American “New Model believed to be copied from British examples (or vice versa), and similar to later (1790s onward) extant examples. Rees, J “Square knapsacks are most convenient …” A Hypothesis Regarding British Knapsack Evolution The 17th were ordered in early 1779 to provide knapsacks “agreeable to a form now in possession of the adjutant” for future purchases of this item, “Hd Qrs Morris House, 21st Feb 79” British Orderly Book, January 26- April 1, 1779, NARA, microfilm M853 Roll 17 Volume 163. Available Online. so it seems likely that by their return to New York after captivity in 1781, this is what they were outfitted with, if not before their surrender at Stony Point in July of 1779.

A picture of a reproduction british knapsack made from linen and painted red.
A reproduction of a Linen Knapsack painted with oil and ochre pigment, with buff leather straps, held at the Newarke Houses Museum, Leicester, UK.


This series is meant as a “living document” to aid in future research and development of reproductions. If you have any additions or correction that would improve this document, please do contact us at alan@17thregiment.org.uk