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"AWI Hat Plumes" Topic


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1,806 hits since 9 May 2005
©1994-2019 Bill Armintrout
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asgard636 Inactive Member09 May 2005 10:11 a.m. PST

For Perry later war British troops in plumed hats and cut down coats, what colors are people painting the plumes?

GiloUK09 May 2005 10:23 a.m. PST

Black or red. No idea what the historical position is, but both colours look quite nice and appear in various uniform guides.

Personal logo ACWBill Supporting Member of TMP09 May 2005 1:04 p.m. PST

There was an earlier thread on this and I could never find it after the first day I saw it. In some of my reference material I found the following:

The 40th Rgt of Foot dyed their hat plumes red in 1781 during the southern campaigns. (I originally thought it was the 23rd but Bob, the OFM correctly pointed out the they wore white plumes).

I think for all other troop types black is a good bet though some red may have been prevalent. They both look good and it would be hard to argue a case against either. Perhaps OFM will chime in as well as he seems to have a good knowledge base on this issue and period in general.

B

95thRegt Inactive Member09 May 2005 3:59 p.m. PST

The 40th Ft. wasn't in the Southern Campaign.They were shipped to the West Indies and Florida after the Philadelphia Campaign.In 1781 they returned to NY taking part in some small raids.

John the OFM09 May 2005 4:53 p.m. PST

I don't think it was me. I have never posted on hat plumes. The only plumes I have done were for de Lancey's, and I copied the white straight from Mollo. That was my first green stuff conversion, by the way, on Hinchliffe's slouch hat continentals. Didn't have no plumes back then, no sir. Had to make our own.

I would be curious to see Supercilious Maximus chime in on this myself. I am but a padawan to his Jedi Master.

AWIGuy Inactive Member09 May 2005 6:16 p.m. PST

From link

"Following the battle [of Paoli] the Americans vowed to take vengeance on the British Light Infantry. The light companies of the 49th and 46th Foot are said to have dyed their hat feathers red as a gesture of defiance and so that the Americans could identify them. The Royal Berkshire Regiment, of which the 49th became the 1st Battalion, continued the tradition of wearing a piece of red cloth behind their cap badges."

From the website of the modern British light infantry: link

"The distinction of wearing a red backing to the cap badge was originally awarded as a result of the participation of the Light Company of the 46th Foot (later to become the 2nd Bn DCLI)... [T]he Light Companies of 13 regiments attacked a detachment of 1,500 Americans lying in the forest at Paoli, inflicting 300 casualties, and capturing 100 at a cost of three killed."

From these statements I infer that red plumes were the exception. I would go with black or white. I add white to the equation on account of the 23rd and the Queen's Rangers.

AWIGuy Inactive Member09 May 2005 6:23 p.m. PST

The earlier thread is: TMP link

Supercilius Maximus said:

"[For the 23rd,] the three feathers are the regimental badge (Prince of Wales' own insignia in fact) and should indeed be white - for other regiments, red for the battalion companies, white for grenadiers (who increasingly wore hats as the war went on) and black for the lights (I've also heard of dark green being used by them as well, and two companies - from the 44th and 46th Foot - dyed theirs red after either Paoli or Brandywine, so the Americans could spot them more easily)."

GiloUK10 May 2005 1:52 a.m. PST

Oh hell. I checked last night and my 10th, 5th, and 27th Regiments all have black plumes. At least I did the 40th in red.

Supercilius Maximus Inactive Member10 May 2005 1:58 a.m. PST

Ouch! My ears are burning........

SM

("May the farce be with you")

Supercilius Maximus Inactive Member10 May 2005 2:44 a.m. PST

Hubris has reared its ugly head......

I don't know what I was thinking (if anything) when I wrote the piece that AWIguy quoted, but I'm not sure there is any clear evidence for battalion companies wearing red feathers and grenadiers white as a rule in this war. They certainly did after it (for example, the 55th had red feathers on their return from the West Indies in 1786), but the only units I could say I was certain about are the 2nd Light Infantry, 42nd and 71st Highlanders and the Foot Guards (all black), 40th (red), and 23rd (white) - de Lancey's is documented as white hats with black feathers, so Mollo is correct there, but the QR plumes are variations of a green/white mix and it's the crests of the helmets that are black or white.

Whilst there seems to be a consensus that Burgoyne's army dyed its horsehair crests a different colour for each unit, I'm not sure what Howe's/Clinton's army did. Giles and AWIguy may well be right and black was more common than red. That said, the fact that the 46th and 49th light companies were able to dye their feathers red suggests that it may have been an easily obtainable colour

My humblest apologies to anyone I may have misled.

SM

("May the [old] farts be with you.")

Supercilius Maximus Inactive Member10 May 2005 4:35 a.m. PST

Hubris has reared its ugly head......

I don't know what I was thinking (if anything) when I wrote the piece that AWIguy quoted, but I'm not sure there is any clear evidence for battalion companies always wearing red feathers and grenadiers white in the AWI. Many units did after it (for example, the 55th had red feathers on their return from the West Indies in 1786), but the only units I could say I was certain about are the 2nd Light Infantry, 42nd and 71st Highlanders and the Foot Guards (all black), 40th Foot (red), and 23rd Foot (white) - de Lancey's is documented as white hats with black feathers, so Mollo is correct there, but the QR plumes are variations of green and white and it's the crests of the helmets that are black or white.

Whilst there seems to be a consensus that Burgoyne's army dyed its horsehair crests a different colour for each unit, I'm not sure what Howe's/Clinton's army did. Giles and AWIguy may well be right and black was more common than red. That said, the fact that the 46th and 49th light companies were able to dye their feathers red suggests that it may have been an easily obtainable colour

My humblest apologies to anyone I may have misled.

SM

("May the [old] farts be with you.")

Personal logo ACWBill Supporting Member of TMP10 May 2005 4:42 a.m. PST

Yes, the 49th not the 40th. Oye, I should keep that book with me in the office!

asgard636 Inactive Member10 May 2005 6:38 a.m. PST

Is Troiani's painting of Cowpens innacurate in depicting the Royal Welsh Fusiliers in cocked hats rather than slouch hats with white plumes?

GiloUK10 May 2005 7:10 a.m. PST

SM - don't forget that even Homer nods...

Supercilius Maximus Inactive Member10 May 2005 9:03 a.m. PST

asgard636

Troiani's painting is of the 7th (Royal Fusiliers), not the 23rd; I believe a guy called James Kochan did the research for the "Soldiers in America" book and found evidence of the 7th wearing hats, rather than bearskin caps. Few British troops entitled to wear bearskins did so after the first couple of years of the war anyway - if at all, there have been debates in recent years as to whether they were worn on 19 April, for example. Peebles talks about the 42nd putting theirs into storage around the middle of the war, as did the Foot Guards.

AWIGuy Inactive Member12 May 2005 6:17 p.m. PST

Chartrand's French Army in the American War of Independence describes how a number of French grenadier companies held on to their bearskin caps even after they were abolished by the 1779 regulations. It's no wonder why - the bearskin cap was the most distinguishing feature of the grenadiers, and it is what signaled to the enemy across the field of battle that they were facing an elite unit.

However, some have argued that the British grenadiers gave up their caps. They were trained in light infantry tactics, they often fought alongside the light infantry, and so it makes a certain amount of sense that they dressed like light infantry, too. Indeed, the recreated 64th Foot grenadiers have adopted this mode of dress for their late war impression: picture

I have yet to see any convincing evidence on this point, including in Peebles. Here is the quote alluded to above:

"Saturday 22d. Febry. [1777] the weather a little more moderate still cold & clear, a proportion of Bedding deliver'd out to the troops on board, which looks like remaining there, sent to New York for our Grenr. Caps & some other articles, Serjt. Stewart gone for ours"

This passage does indeed show that the caps had been put into storage. However, some context is needed. First, it is the winter months, and so perhaps the caps were put away in favor of more practical headgear. Second, the soldiers were serving aboard vessels patrolling the Raritan River in New Jersey, they were not in the field. Third, the caps were being called for, probably because the troops were about to disembark and risk an action with the enemy. Indeed, the very next day the grenadiers were engaged with "the Rebels." In any case, just because the caps were not being worn for a time doesn't mean that the grenadiers were dressed like light infantry.

Supercilius Maximus Inactive Member13 May 2005 12:19 a.m. PST

AWIguy,

Good argument, I must confess I hadn't read Peebles that way - another fact in support of your theory is that the Continentals recognise the British grenadier battalions coming up to attack them at Monmouth (though this might be retrospective knowledge because they see the shoulder wings on the corpses at the end of the battle).

However, Novak refers to the Foot Guards putting theirs into storage in 1779 (this is round about the time Clinton temporarily disbands the grenadier battalions, I think) and there are references to the reconstituted 7th Foot wearing hats in the South. Someone on the Yahoo! Revlist also pointed out that the Doolittle engravings of Lexington and Concord (not primary, but done from eyewitness accounts) have nobody in grenadier caps - in fact I think everyone is shown in hats - although this was planned to be a "work detail" rather than a stand-up fight. Similarly, I think Preston's company of the 29th were grenadiers (may be wrong on that), but Revere's (plagiarised) engraving shows them in hats - again, guard duty rather than battle so not conclusive.

The reason I support fewer bearskins in the field as the war progresses is that it would have been difficult to replace casualties with guys wearing the correct uniform. Also, the lights give up their caps for the 1777 campaign, so it would seem logical (but when did that ever apply?),

AWIGuy Inactive Member13 May 2005 10:40 a.m. PST

An American describing the battle of Guilford Courthouse refers to the battle between 1st Maryland and the Guards and Grenadiers. One can infer from the account that because the difference in uniforms was apparent from a distance, the Guards Grenadiers must have retained a distinctive dress late into the war. Of course, this does not mean that they were necessarily wearing bearskin caps. The recreated Guards Grenadiers have a uniform that nicely combines practicality and distinctiveness - reenact.com/brigade.html Too bad we don't know how general such changes were.

AWIGuy Inactive Member13 May 2005 10:54 a.m. PST

By-the-way, an interesting discussion of the late war headgear of the 7th and 23rd regiments can be found here:

link

Supercilius Maximus Inactive Member13 May 2005 1:43 p.m. PST

Thanks - I'd seen similar conversations about the agents on Revlist. Each man should have received a new hat each year and even grenadiers and lights got them in addition to their caps.

I particularly liked the comment about lots of people wearing brown trousers - certainly be on my "must have" list for being shot at......

AWIGuy Inactive Member14 May 2005 10:51 a.m. PST

I had some thoughts about the Doolittle engravings after you mentioned them.

Consider this image of the first fight at Lexington: picture

Although the light infantry are not wearing caps, one should not read too much into the omission. The British also don't vary in terms of their facing colors, the soldiers do not have "wings" on their shoulders, there are no officers in the scene except for Pitcairn, and the regulars have no equipment of any kind - not even a cartridge box.

My initial thought is that Doolittle simply wasn't concerned about getting the British "right." I can imagine the same thing happening today. That is, Doolittle didn't care if they were the 10th lights or some other unit - they were Redcoats, and that's all one needed to know. There is a powerful incentive to dehumanize one's enemy, and one way to do so is to treat them all alike and to deny them individuality.

I then noticed that the Americans all seem to be wearing the same bluish coats, even though they were militia(!) So maybe the real problem isn't so much Doolittle's hostility towards the British as it is simple carelessness.

My guess is that light infantry and grenadier caps were worn because the Concord raid was as much a show of force as it was an effort to destroy munitions and capture American leaders.

Supercilius Maximus Inactive Member14 May 2005 8:19 p.m. PST

Can't argue with any of that. However, I've always wondered how familiar the Colonists would have been with British military attire - day-to-day. Be interesting to know......

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