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"Did AWI British marines wear caps or tricornes?" Topic

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1,250 hits since 24 Mar 2017
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Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP24 Mar 2017 4:35 p.m. PST

Need to know if I need to get new figures for them.
I have enough Old Glory LI in caps for a unit.

Dn Jackson24 Mar 2017 6:07 p.m. PST

From memory Mollo shows them with tricornes and the light company with a distinctive cap.

historygamer24 Mar 2017 6:15 p.m. PST

The British Lights, after evacuating Boston, garrisoned a fort in Nova Scotia. Hat companies in cocked or round hats served on land at various times. Two companies of Marine grenadiers served with the converged battalions till late winter of 1778 when all marines were called back to duty with the fleet.

historygamer24 Mar 2017 6:16 p.m. PST

There were two marine Light companies in Boston.

42flanker24 Mar 2017 11:58 p.m. PST

Mollo shows an officer and marine of battalion coys, wearing cocked hats, and a grenadier in bearskin cap.

Charles Stadden, in a plate captioned 'Marine Corps 1775,' depicted a Marine light coy man wearing a special'LI' cap- apparently with a red cloth body, with white trim, and a leather or tin frontal plate. For what it's worth he also shows this LI man wearing a white waistcoat.

historygamer25 Mar 2017 4:10 a.m. PST

There is a stunning period portrait of a young marine officer. Elton John owned it but it was sold at auction some years ago. He is pictured sans cap, but wears a black leather shoulder carriage. I can't recall the waistcoat color. I'll see if I can find it.

42flanker25 Mar 2017 8:09 a.m. PST

Lt George Dyer of the Marines, 1780 by James Northcote RA. Acquired by The Royal Marines Museum in 2003.


He wears a buff shoulder belt and, with his coat, or frock, buttoned across, no waistcoat is visible.

Lt Dyer joined the marines in 1776 and capped a distinguished career by being appointed Second Colonel Commandant (2nd in command) of the Plymouth Division of the RM in 1815. He died two years later at the age of 59.

42flanker25 Mar 2017 8:31 a.m. PST

I found these links-

Here is the Mollo plate:


This is the Stadden image:


and what seems to be a not-very-good copy- red waistcoat!


In addition, I found these:

A better view of the marines' LI cap here:


And this:


Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP25 Mar 2017 8:41 a.m. PST

I guess I can use the Old Glory ones with some hacking away of horse tails on the cap.

historygamer25 Mar 2017 10:56 a.m. PST

Some of those prints are more accurate than others. There is growing thought that marines wore lace during this period too, though apparently not the offecers.

That Light cap is based on an extant example but may be from a later period. There are surviving gren plates too – though not as big as the one in the drawing. One is from post war and the other is from the Rev War period. They are different. The period marine badge is rectangular with a plain anchor – not fouled.

grtbrt Inactive Member28 Mar 2017 2:46 p.m. PST

as an aside at the Marine Museum -there is a portrait of a marine captain (and one of his lady ). That is directly below the Dyer one .1781 I think .
It shows white waistcoat – They also have an example of a light infantry cap from the revolution. it looks like the one is the picture 2nd from the bottom,BUT without the front plate and when I chatted with the staff historian (at least the one there that day ) he was sure that it had never had one and there is no indication on the cap itself that it had one . It is in the same display case as Pitcairns pistol and a marine grenadier cap from the AWI.

historygamer28 Mar 2017 7:07 p.m. PST

I have a really bad black and white picture of that light helmet. Have to look at it. I know the marines sent for the gren caps while in Boston (meaning, they either didn't bring them, or formed grens on the spot). Same for their colours. Never read anything one way or the other about Light caps. I know the Lights went off to garrison a fort in Nova Scotia later (76).

42flanker29 Mar 2017 4:19 a.m. PST

grtbrt- when you refer to a Marines light infantry cap "without the front plate", do you mean without any frontal element at all; as in a plain round skull cap, (in effect)?

I ask because that would seem unlikely. I can't think of a single LI cap from the period, that didn't have some sort of flap or frontlet to display royal and or regimental emblems. Was there at least some form of cloth frontlet or turn-up?

Virginia Tory29 Mar 2017 6:10 a.m. PST

Yes to some sort of front flap/turn up. Similarly to the never-ending Butler's Rangers cap, there was no huge brass/metal plate on the cap.

grtbrt Inactive Member29 Mar 2017 6:20 a.m. PST

42flanker ,
Basically it is a round skull cap – it has the triangular stitching like the print above ,but no solid frontal element.
There could have been a soft front flap -but it is not evident from the piece .
If I could up load a pic I would . or if you send me your e-mail I will send it. I took it and the other pics from the museum on my phone last july

42flanker29 Mar 2017 4:40 p.m. PST

Thanks g. I may slip down to the museum before it closes this w/e, prior to the move to Portsmouth. If I don't manage it, I'll be in touch. … useum-plan

historygamer29 Mar 2017 6:52 p.m. PST

Okay, I wrote out a long quote regarding the really bad copy I have what purports to be a Marine Light camp and Gren cap. Scratch that.

I have a really bad photo for of what purports to be a Marine Light cap, with a large front metal plate. It features a device consisting of the Admiralty fouled anchor within a shield surmounted by the royal crown. Within the garland of oak branches and a scroll bearing the Marine motto: "PER MARE ET TERRAM."

Consult, "Insignia of Independence: Military Buttons, Accouterment Plates, & Gorgets of the American Revolution" by Don Troiani and James L. Kochan.

Long story short if you were looking at: "The laced, blue cloth "turban"that it was later mounted to sometime in the 19th century (probably for Jubilee celebrations) still survives. By the later part of the 19th century, a tradition developed that it was from a "Light infantry cap" worn during the Revolutionary War, although its form and method of construction suggests that it was more likely mounted to the front of a grenadier's bearskin cap. Conceivably it could have been mounted to either as a few British regiments are known to have employed die-stamped front plates for their light company caps.

long story short. The front plates pictured above are likely referencing this uncertain plate that has been lost. It could be a gren plate, or light. We'll never know. My guess is it is a gren plate, put on that laced cap for display, then the plate was lost/stolen.

Note too that the book goes on to say the star pattern gren plate is from the late 1780s, as it matches a British Marine box plate with the same pattern.

Soooo, take the above plates, and that cap (if that's what you saw) with a grain of salt.

Museums get stuff wrong all the time. A few years back Mount Vernon had a gold button on display with the numbers "22" the sign said it was part of George Washington's F&I uniform. I contacted the museum and pointed out that numbered buttons did not come into fashion till the later 1760s, and that the metal of the VA regiment was silver, not gold. Further, that there were only two VA regiments, not 22. Also, anyone who has read about GW knows he used to collect captured British officers buttons and hand them out as rewards.

The museum responded and said I was right, that the button has been passed on by family members and they simply labelled it as the family legend that came with the button. The button is no longer on display.

Supercilius Maximus Supporting Member of TMP30 Mar 2017 2:40 a.m. PST

There's a UK museum that purports to have a 16th Light Dragoons "tunic" that looks remarkably like that of a mid-19th Century yeomanry trooper.

historygamer30 Mar 2017 4:10 a.m. PST

The artwork that 42nd posted (I have many of them too), shows the Lights in that gigantic plate shown in the bad photo copy I have – when apparently they still had the plate. It is the one referenced in Troiani/Kochan book.

As Virginiatory said, it borders on the absurd plate many used to show Butler's Rangers wearing (as in, let's sneak through the woods with this huge brass front plate flashing in the sunlight).

42flanker30 Mar 2017 1:32 p.m. PST

Well, I can confirm that, together in the same case there is the frontplate of a grenadier cap, attached to stiffening material to maintain the familiar shape of the 1768 cap, and a cap, said to be Light Infantry, of blue fabric with white tape in a zig-zag pattern.

It is laid flat like a fore-and- aft Side Cap (Field Service cap, Glengarry bonnet, or what have you), so the crown is not visible, and it is hard to work out whether there might have been a frontal or not. There is some damage to what would appear to be the front portion of the head band but it could just be general disintegration.

All in all, I'd say this looks more like a forage cap than a Light Infantry cap, of which most patterns made a nod to providing some protection for the head, whether emulating the Light Dragoon neo-Classical pattern, or the Keppel 'chain' cap. Not all offered such protection, however; neither the elaborate, twin-peaked cap-hat of the 6th Regiment, or what we are led to believe was the cap-hat worn by the Guards, offered as much protection, but they were altogether more substantial items of military headgear than the cap on display at the RM Museum.

As a footnote, I was amused to see, adjacent the case in question, in a tableau of AWI-era Marines (1/72?), the Light Infantry were all wearing the red, white and yellow cap of the illustrations above- with nice, shiny metal frontal plates…. museums, eh?

historygamer30 Mar 2017 1:56 p.m. PST

Three of the four prints show the Grenadiers in the late 1780s plate with the star. Point being, mistakes are often compounded.

The second artist got the Grenadier plate right.

Rallynow Supporting Member of TMP30 Mar 2017 3:51 p.m. PST

Museums get stuff wrong all the time. A few years back Mount Vernon had a gold button on display with the numbers "22" the sign said it was part of George Washington's F&I uniform.

I contacted the museum and pointed out that numbered buttons did not come into fashion till the later 1760s, and that the metal of the VA regiment was silver, not gold. Further, that there were only two VA regiments, not 22. Also, anyone who has read about GW knows he used to collect captured British officers buttons and hand them out as rewards.

Somewhere there is a curator who held a private celebration, because he has been pointing that out for years and could not get anyone to listen. Been there done that.

historygamer30 Mar 2017 4:31 p.m. PST

I do what I can. :-)

Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP30 Mar 2017 7:57 p.m. PST

I have already clipped the plumes off Old Glory Light Infantry and shaved the rest of the cap.
I'm committed! You're too late to stop me!

historygamer30 Mar 2017 8:04 p.m. PST

Go for it.

One more interesting thought.

I am not sure that actual Marine Light troops were shipped to Boston. Same with the grenadiers. They may have formed them from the troops there. I do know they sent back home for grenadier caps, which means they either didn't bring them or they weren't grenadier companies when shipped over. Makes you wonder about the Lights too.

Early morning writer31 Mar 2017 9:58 p.m. PST

Oh, finally, Winston has been committed! About time. Now if someone can just corral the OFM!

; )

Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP08 Apr 2017 10:21 p.m. PST

I don't think it's instructive to compare the front plate with the silly brass plate on Butler's Rangers. (I have about a dozen BR figures painted with that cap. grin)
Yes, the BR cap plates are impractical for the woods.

In 1775 in Boston, nobody is giving much thought to practical attire in the woods, let alone marines.
In fact I don't think any Light Infantry caps were designed with practicality on mind. Each were a whim, "as the Colonel shall decide." There's a reason slouch hats replaced caps quite early.

I also realize that a lot of artists can make the same mistake as the original artist if they copy off each other. The first to make a mistake more often than not has his errors passed along.

Whatever. It's a unique piece of kit, and not impossible to have been worn in 1775, before practicality became an issue.
They're cute. I'm painting them that way. grin

Supercilius Maximus Supporting Member of TMP09 Apr 2017 1:36 a.m. PST

A propos when and where the Marine battalion flank companies came from, they must have been in existence by April 1775, as they were taken on the Lexington/Concord expedition, and presumably were also present when Gage ordered all the flank companies separated from their parent units for special training on Boston Common.

I did wonder if the Marine light companies simply wore their forage caps, as seen in this sequence of watercolours done aboard HMS Pallas in 1770.


42flanker09 Apr 2017 7:06 a.m. PST

The Pallas caps look ornate enough to serve as LI coy caps, although I think there might have been some artistic licence at play. The green feather behind the cockade of the gangway sentinel's cocked hat is interesting, too.

Here, I hope (first attempt) is a photo of the Marines forage cap from last w/e's visit to the RM Museum in Southsea


Supercilius Maximus Supporting Member of TMP10 Apr 2017 6:48 a.m. PST

I wonder if there were different styles of forage cap for the different divisions, or possibly different fleets? I think ships' detachments would be too far down the chain to be realistic, but you never know!

historygamer10 Apr 2017 7:06 a.m. PST

Troiani noted they have no idea when this cap was made. I'd bet the house it is not a Light cap in any sense of the phrase. The choice of color is also bizarre given it does not correspond to old clothing options. It may just be a curiosity that will never be explained.

grtbrt Inactive Member14 Apr 2017 12:18 p.m. PST

I think that indeed there were different types of forage caps for the different divisions and perhaps ships.
Thoughts based upon the orders of December 1760 about division of Public("Kings Cloathing" )and private clothing and who supplied it . The necessaries (which included forage caps ) were provided on a local basis by the Squad Officers (and pay stopped ).

So a couple of somewhat related questions.
a) in 1771 it is mentioned that the Marine accoutrements were to be made of "DOUFF "-what is this ? is it a misspelling of BUFF?
b) Did the different Division colors differ from each other and how ? (Chatham and Plymouth were ordered to send their Division Colours to Boston and they would be replaced with new ones )

42flanker15 Apr 2017 11:04 a.m. PST

Buff, surely. Where is DOUFF mentioned. Is it MS or print?

grtbrt Inactive Member15 Apr 2017 2:39 p.m. PST

June 14,1771 orders reprinted in Blumbergs Royal Marine Records. Also mentions that that year was the first time belts were ordered to be whitened

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