Help support TMP


"Scott's Brigade - Crossbelts" Topic


21 Posts

All members in good standing are free to post here. Opinions expressed here are solely those of the posters, and have not been cleared with nor are they endorsed by The Miniatures Page.

For more information, see the TMP FAQ.


Back to the War of 1812 Message Board



754 hits since 9 Apr 2017
©1994-2017 Bill Armintrout
Comments or corrections?

Whirlwind10 Apr 2017 10:55 a.m. PST

Which colour, black or white? I am looking around the internet and finding both…

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP10 Apr 2017 12:24 p.m. PST

Bet on white. Despite those gray coats, Scott tended to be a stickler for uniform. But "should have" is not "did."

I'll eat crow if anyone has a memoir or correspondence to the contrary, but years ago I read what I honestly believed to be all contemporary accounts, and I think I'd remember anything as striking as black crossbelts.

IronDuke596 Supporting Member of TMP10 Apr 2017 1:07 p.m. PST

To amplify Robert's point about being "stickler for uniform(s)"; MG Wilkinson side tracked Scott's supply of blue uniforms, so instead, his brigade received grey jackets/roundabouts. He directed that all his regiments give up any blue uniforms so that his brigade was uniformly outfitted with grey roundabouts (short jackets) and white belts.
Ref: "A Most Warlike Appearance,"pgs 47,52-53.

Glenn Pearce10 Apr 2017 4:31 p.m. PST

Hello John!

My guess is white. There is some doubt though as some regular units did use black, especially in the south where a number of units were in white/off white uniforms. Most of the drawings I've seen of those in blue uniforms have white belts. There is also one or two in grey jackets with black belts. However Scott's men were not the only regulars to wear grey jackets. Also some militias wore regular style uniforms with black belts. The famous painting/picture of one of Scotts battalions has them with white belts. I've also seen some gamers paint them with black belts. I have no idea what the regulations stated but proper uniforms were not always worn due to shortages and changes. So unless somebody comes up with an actual source that says otherwise I'm with Robert and Duke, white belts!

For my own forces I have all regulars with white belts unless I have specific details on a particular regiment. All my units in the south have white uniforms with black belts and militia can have either or even be mixed. Again some I'm able to do within reason where I've managed to obtain the actual details. Others are just pure speculation.

Best regards,

Glenn

Whirlwind11 Apr 2017 1:43 a.m. PST

Thanks all

MikeO FKA Durruti Inactive Member11 Apr 2017 3:06 p.m. PST

This question was discussed here:

TMP link

IronDuke596, in that thread you wrote:

See also; A Most War Like Appearance: Uniforms, Flags and Equipment of the United States in the War of 1812, by Rene Chartrand; pgs. 52-53 for corroboration. Lastly both of these excellent books use primary sources for references.

Of note on pg 155, Chartrand states that the intent was to have all infantry using white cross-belts throughout the war. However, there was an initial shortage of 'buffed leather' or white leather so, some 25,000 black cross-belts were procured in February 1812. These black cross-belts were initially issued to the 8th through 25th infantry regiments.

"8th through 25th infantry regiments" would include the whole of Scott's Brigade issued black cross-belts so where is the primary evidence of them being replaced with white? Especially given the parlous supply situation that led to them being in grey jackets in the first place?

Seriously, I've no axe to grind and would value any concrete data but the default position seems to indicate black to me and that's how I'm inclined towards painting my own guys at the moment as they hover in limbo ;)

eptingmike11 Apr 2017 3:08 p.m. PST

Don Troiani has them with black:

picture

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP12 Apr 2017 8:51 a.m. PST

Ouch! You know, it's not the crow itself so much as getting feathers stuck between your teeth. I am, you understand, not repainting any of the various Scott's Brigades I've painted. For one thing, I no longer own most of them, and for another, that first painting was my objective. If I painted strictly for historical accuracy, there would be a lot more overcoats and mud.

That said, the supply situation had eased by 1814. Those gray jackets were an anomaly when in 1812-13, no one would even have commented. Notice even the Troiani painting has them in the new "tombstone" shako. And as a remnant of what I suppose is now called the Black Boot Army, trust me, leather won't stay black under constant use unless someone works at it. Did anyone? Note that Scott's "cadet gray" is the West Point standard while he and other senior officers from the Niagara were still in service. What color was the belting?

All of which said, in light of Chartrand's evidence, black seems the more likely color. Thanks, Mike.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP12 Apr 2017 10:26 a.m. PST

And as usual, first I hit "submit" and then I think. Mike, quoting Chartrand (p 155 says that by early 1812 various regiments, including all of those which would later be Scott's Brigade, had been issued BLACK crossbelts. Ironduke, also quoting Chartrand (pp 47, 52-53) says Scott ordered gray roundabouts AND WHITE crossbelts, presumably in early 1814 as he assumed command after the 1813 campaign.

Alas, I have no Chartrand to quote, though I can see I'll have to find $80 USD somewhere. Can someone better equipped check and whether Scott specified white crossbelts in his order? If so, I would take that for decisive for 1814.

Meantime I'll be out in the garage rummaging through The Documentary History of the Campaign on the Niagara. Seven volumes--or was it nine? and not, as I recall, sufficiently indexed. Don't anyone wait up for me.

eptingmike12 Apr 2017 10:46 a.m. PST

Don't eat that crow yet. :)
So it sounds to me like even Chartrand, whom we rely on very heavily, has contradictory information? Is it possible Scott made an error in his order or was not fully aware of the issue of supply when he took command? I find that somewhat hard to believe as my memory seems to say to me that he had his nose in everything.
Regardless, I think black looks better.
But to muddy the waters further, McBarron has them with white belts:

picture

No doubt the scholarship has advanced some since this was painted but obviously he obtained his information from somewhere(likely the same as Chartrand, no?)

MikeO FKA Durruti Inactive Member12 Apr 2017 1:28 p.m. PST

Robert, don't worry, I think the jury is still out as eptingmike says! I haven't been able to get hold of the Chartrand book either so very much value the input of those that do like IronDuke. I do however have Don Troiani's "Soldiers in America, 1754-1865" and he is also well respected as both a historian and artist using primary sources for references. The text accompanying his colour plate quotes letters and invoices for clothing, weapons and equipment received by Scott's units including "Gray Woll Jackets with sleeves" (plain, unlined, dark gray kersay jackets) as well as:

The linen overalls were made of tough "Russian sheeting" a hempen material known for it's durability. With them were worn new-pattern gaiters made of black cloth…New slings of blackened leather now graced the men's model 1795 muskets and their model 1808 accoutrements were slung by similar black, or sometimes whitened buff, crossbelts.

(pg 96)

Suggesting both white and black belts perhaps consolidated in separate regiments?

If it remains inconclusive then paint them according to your preference knowing that you can put a good case for either. On a purely aesthetic note I think black crossbelts look better if you make the jackets a light grey and the opposite for white belts for contrast (note the artists above do the reverse but they're illustrating their understanding of reality rather than purely aesthetic look…)

Do we have a Chess match on our hands? Or "Go" for the fans of that game? Roll up! Roll up! Place your bets on black or white! :)

eptingmike12 Apr 2017 2:02 p.m. PST

Does anyone have an idea of how long the Army expected their crossbelts to last? Would the black belts that were obtained in Feb 1812 be expected to last more than a year? Two? Could Scott have decreed the wearing of the white belts in expectation of receiving a delivery but not having them on hand by the timeof Chippewa and Lundy's Lane? So many questions!
I suppose I should read the Chartrand books instead of just skimming and looking at the pictures! :)

Glenn Pearce12 Apr 2017 4:45 p.m. PST

I also have Chartrand's book. As far as I can tell the "1808 accoutrements" were white. It was not until Feb. 1812 that black accoutrements were ordered. When they were actually delivered to the army and passed on to the various units is unknown to me. However, there appears to be no mention of them prior to this. Chartrand only suggests some of the newly raised regiments 8-25 "was surely issued". He does not say when (pg. 155).

Some of Scott's regiments were created before Feb. 1812 and some after. Those before would probably have had white belts. Those after could have had either white or black.

There does not seem to be any information that confirms the grey uniforms also included new accoutrements. Scott only mentions his men needed new uniforms. There is no mention of new weapons, accoutrements, etc. So without any evidence that new accoutrements were ordered or supplied I think the previous comments are the most likely situation i.e. some had black and some had white. It's also possible that they all had white, but not likely. Since we know there are drawings and pictures of both belts being on troops with grey uniforms I'm inclined to say that they are all probably right.

So until someone can supply some first hand accounts for every regiment under Scott the door is open to paint different regiments in either colour. That works for me as I still have a couple to finish and I think looks better than all of one colour.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP12 Apr 2017 5:59 p.m. PST

The Documentary History is being unhelpful. Various memoirs are likewise. Donald Graves (Red Coats and Gray Jackets) goes agnostic "buff or black leather belts." He includes both the Troiani and the McBarron paintings without commenting on the differences. Everything specifically about Scott and uniforms seems to track backward to the Left Division Orderly Book, currently held by the New York State Library in Albany. Anyone live close?
Ah. One thing not disappearing into the footnotes: an observation by a surviving officer that by agreement every officer in the Left Division wore all the rank distinctions regulations would allow. So there's that.

What can I say? If I had no emotional stake in the matter, I'd follow Troiani because he IS Troiani. But I imprinted on McBarron before anyone made War of 1812 figures.

And I think Mike's right: normally you'd want the contrast. If I raised a regiment in white coats, they'd have black crossbelts, and a US regiment in dark blue or dark gray with out have white ones (Actual light infantry and rifles are different, of course.)

eptingmike, I'll try to find a "wear by" but I doubt very much it was as short as two years for leather belting--though the leather might not have stayed black through two years of use. And, again, there may not have been uniformity. There is a fresh draft arriving for Scott's Brigade between Chippewa and Lundy's Lane, for instance, and I doubt very much that Scott rejected them for the wrong uniform.

Someone might also want to have a look at the 1st Infantry Regiment, part of which was in Ripley's Brigade. The story there is that their "black and buff" distinctive comes from twining rawhide through belting so they could be told from British at night when no one could see coat colors. To me, that strongly suggests dark blue coat with buff belting.

Always fun putting a campaign under a microscope.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP13 Apr 2017 9:37 a.m. PST

All honor to the Allen County Public Library, which has Chartrand! (We can discuss later why they put the book in Genealogy.)
1. He does NOT say Scott ordered gray jackets "and white belts." No mention of belting at the point.
2. He does NOT say that black crossbelts were issued to the 8th-25th Regiments. "Must surely have been" is not the same as "were" though it's a very reasonable inference.
3. He DOES say that as late as 1817 there were still black crossbelts on troops sometimes.
My reading? White was issue and standard. There was a one-off purchase of black during the big expansion of 1812, so some of the new regiments would have been uniformly equipped with black crossbelts in 1812--unless the quartermaster still had white in stock. Or some Colonel whined too much. I doubt a good piece of thick leather wore out in two years--and surely no crooked contractor sold Uncle cheap belts?--but 25,000 was maybe half the "book" strength of the US Army in 1814. There was high turnover. Soldiers would inconsiderately get themselves killed or captured still wearing their equipment. More belts would be issued. I'd be surprised if some British belts--very similar--weren't taken and reused.
Uniform issues don't help. Crossbelts aren't uniforms: they're accoutrements, like canteens, knapsacks and cartridge boxes. When a soldier deserts or his enlistment expires, his go back to the depot, and new equipment arrives. (Three guesses which the Quartermaster issues first, absent pressure.)
There would probably be a mix of black and buff belts in most regiments for years unless someone really turned the screws. (I speak as one of the last US soldiers issued an olive green field jacket, already obsolete, and almost the last member of the 101st Airborne to turn in my WWII steel helmet for the plastic pot. Someone had to be, both times.)
But all this is the old military historian and OOB analyst working out the problem. None of it will keep the miniature wargamer from uniformly outfitting his regiments in the belting he thinks looks best.

eptingmike13 Apr 2017 11:30 a.m. PST

Well, it looks like we can all finally come together and definitively say "Who knows?" :)
It looks like at this point one can argue pretty effectively for whatever they want. I am leaning towards a mix of belts within Scott's brigade. Now whether or not these belts were grouped together in the regiments, ya got me. I suppose it would depend on just how much the officers leaned towards uniformity. In so far a painting figures it would seem that grouping them would be the most pleasing to the eye.
That said, I wonder if by 1814 the supply level was at a point where officers might consider pulling the older, non-standard issue black belts and refitting with white? Given what has been said above regarding the attitudes of some Quartermasters this might be more hassle for an officer than it would be worth, but maybe in the realm of possibility?
I also wonder if there is any record of Wilkinson intercepting more than just the blue uniforms? If a supply of standard issue white was snatched up, that might put the ball back into the black court.
Regarding captured British stock, if it were acquired would it be difficult to blacken it to match the crossbelts which may have been worn by the regiment? I haven't a clue regarding tanning/leather-making.

Clays Russians13 Apr 2017 2:43 p.m. PST

Robert, good point, I have a long service as well, but split into Two 12 year parts. I also had the green field jacket with BDUS for years. Steel pot too. Then. Fast forward. 2002, Bosnia, my kit included a canteen cup with the old T-Bone handle, stamped 1943, went to a surplus store and replaced it with a 4$ surplus cup and kept the WW2 relic. This sort of kit 'overlap' has been going on since the legions of Rome. I'm sure the American regiments in the war were using Buff, White British cast offs, as well as black accoutrement straps interchangeably within the same company/regiment with little regard for "uniformity". Serviceability being the required atribute .

eptingmike03 May 2017 12:46 p.m. PST

I just began reading Richard Feltoe's A Crucible of Fire and on page 38 he quotes Lt. David Douglas that "[t]here was no display of gaudy plumes or rich trappings; but in their stead, grey-jackets-close-buttoned-plain WHITE(emphasis mine)belts…"
Now I am unsure how long after the battle he wrote this so he could have remembered incorrectly but here is a 'point' for white.
Still planning on painting black as I think it looks better :)

Glenn Pearce20 May 2017 6:22 a.m. PST

Hello eptingmike!

A small crumb perhaps, but it does seem to be the closes thing we have to a first hand account. Does the passage tell us if he is referring to the entire brigade or not?

Your message was very timely for me as that very day I painted the remainder of my brigade with white belts. If nothing else the entire force looks uniform.

I've put black belts on some of the regulars with blue coats so that some of them look a little different. I'm also going to do the same with some in white uniforms.

Best regards,

Glenn

eptingmike20 May 2017 2:02 p.m. PST

Hi Glenn,
No, the passage does not mention the specific unit/brigade to which he is referring. Wikipedia says he was commissioned "…as Second Lieutenant in command of a corps of miners and sappers."(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Bates_Douglass)
Skimming the orbats in the book I pulled the quote from, it shows his company with two 18lb'ers with the artillery. This is shown in an orbat in a Donald Graves book on Lundy's Lane I have as well.
I do want to add that the full quote feels a bit bombastic and it is unclear when he wrote it down so, while still an important clue, probably should not be considered definitive. :)

Glenn Pearce04 Jun 2017 11:09 a.m. PST

Hello eptingmike!

Thanks for your reply and comments, appreciated.

Best regards,

Glenn

Sorry - only verified members can post on the forums.