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"British Marine Uniforms" Topic

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820 hits since 6 Oct 2017
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Personal logo Silurian Supporting Member of TMP06 Oct 2017 2:38 p.m. PST

Hi guys,
Were British marine uniforms any different from regular infantry in 1776?
My initial search seems to imply not (other than facing colors), but want to be sure.

bruntonboy06 Oct 2017 2:57 p.m. PST

No, pretty standard dress with white facings.

Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP06 Oct 2017 3:00 p.m. PST

Yes. Standard uniform.

Personal logo John the OFM Supporting Member of TMP06 Oct 2017 6:34 p.m. PST

Then there is the issue of caps…
TMP link

Personal logo Silurian Supporting Member of TMP06 Oct 2017 8:45 p.m. PST

Ah, interesting.
So the marine light company at Lexington and Concord could have worn that unique cap.

Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP06 Oct 2017 9:18 p.m. PST

Yes. "Could have…" is the key issue.
I tend to believe that Foundry et al made those splendid LI and Grenadier figures in the Warrant uniforms for a reason. grin
And I'm clipping plumes off Old Glory LI for that reason too.

You can play it safe and go with what they "probably" wore. Or you can go with what they "could have" worn. I know where I stand. What's wrong with painting and playing with unique figures that are possible?

Personal logo Silurian Supporting Member of TMP07 Oct 2017 9:10 a.m. PST

I'm with ya. A bit of speculation for varieties sake never hurt anyone!

historygamer09 Oct 2017 1:02 p.m. PST

Hello. My unit does HM Marines. We have done some pretty good research on Marines.

Marines Lights were a regular component of HM Marines. It is likely they wore some sort of Light cap common at the time. Which type we can't say with any certainty. A Light infantry unit of the time would have had shortened coats, a red waistcoat, black leather gear. The coat would have had wings. Marines wore their bayonet belt over the shoulder, ahead of Army practice and regulation. Likely wore spatter dashes too – common to most units of the time, depending on the time of year.

Is this post-Boston evacuation? If so, no Marine Lights were fielded with the Army that I am aware of. Can't say for certain any units coming off the ships for limited land service during the NY campaign.

If you have further questions, please feel free to ask.

Personal logo Silurian Supporting Member of TMP09 Oct 2017 6:32 p.m. PST

Hi Historygamer. Thank you for the really useful information.
At the moment I'm interested in the Lexington – Bunker Hill timeframe.
So just to clarify, all the light infantry on that ill-fated outing would have had shortened coats?
The regular light infantry on that march are usually depicted wearing tricorns rather than caps. Is this correct?

Thanks for your help.

historygamer09 Oct 2017 7:27 p.m. PST

Having just seen a blow up of the Dolittle painting, he appeared to paint them in both, depending on the painting. It is easy to convert a cocked hat into a Light looking cap. If they were my figures I'd put them in Light caps and short coats.

historygamer09 Oct 2017 7:30 p.m. PST

FYI the two Light companies were sent to garrison a fort in Nova Scotia until recalled to fleet duty around the beginning of 1778 as were the two marine grenadier companies serving with the main army.

Supercilius Maximus Supporting Member of TMP Inactive Member10 Oct 2017 5:23 a.m. PST

@ Silurian,

Caps – both grenadier and light – were very expensive and were not generally worn for day-to-day duties; given that the Lexington operation was just anticipated as being a "working party" to seize contraband arms etc, I would suggest that most companies probably wore their hats. That said, it is not impossible that some company commanders directed their men to wear their caps.

As far as the Doolittle cartoons are concerned, bear in mind that the troops depicted are not all flank companies. There are four paintings:-
- The initial skirmish at Lexington Green
- The British column arriving in the centre of Concord
- The skirmish at Concord Bridge
- The withdrawal through the countryside

Unfortunately, I cannot get enough definition on the internet to determine which have hats and which have caps.

There is also a watercolour of the day after Bunker Hill showing British officers in plumed hats cocked on the left only, which suggests that the 1777 Howe uniform had its origins somewhat before that time.

historygamer10 Oct 2017 5:56 a.m. PST

There are some larger renditions of the Doolittle drawings in the Museum of the American Revolution in Philly. Was just there this weekend.

What I found really interesting where the blown up pictures of the landings at Kips Bay where all the Brits are pictures in very short cropped round hats with rather interesting looking backpacks.

Supercilius Maximus Supporting Member of TMP Inactive Member10 Oct 2017 2:48 p.m. PST

Are those the ones that were originally labelled as the landings at Rhode Island in late 76?

42flanker10 Oct 2017 5:09 p.m. PST

short cropped round hats with rather interesting looking backpacks.

Interesting. Always distracted by the hats, I hadn't examined the packs closely. They look like early, frameless alpine rucksacs.

historygamer10 Oct 2017 5:50 p.m. PST

Robert Cleveley 1777

Supercilius Maximus Supporting Member of TMP Inactive Member11 Oct 2017 4:45 a.m. PST

Thems the very fellows, HG. Tentatively thought to be Guardsmen after the time/location readjustment, I believe.

historygamer11 Oct 2017 5:52 a.m. PST

The hats drawn are very much in line with the Dowdeswell painting. What is surprising to me is that the RA guys are also shown in the same cropped hats.

The backpacks are also shown in a drawing of what is believed to be German soldiers in NY. They clearly aren't the goatskin knapsacks and don't appear to be the painted canvas ones either.

Virginia Tory11 Oct 2017 9:56 a.m. PST

Then there's the post Boston uniform changes to the Marine hat companies in Nova Scotia (Round hats and trowzers). Did they stay that way? Or revert to the warrant? Or maybe it depended on where they were sent next?

42flanker11 Oct 2017 11:07 a.m. PST

How does the cropped hat in the Dodeswell painting compare in authority with the research that was done into the caps from cut-down hats that the Guards brigade may have worn from the start (based on a sketch by Captan André, IIRC). Given that D was an officer and free to improvise in that regard, I suppose there need be no essential contradiction.

I wonder if the infantry and the artillery both wearing identical headgear mght be more to do with a formulaic representation of a stereotypical uniform as opposed to a naturalistic sketch for the benefit of posterity.

Supercilius Maximus Supporting Member of TMP Inactive Member11 Oct 2017 11:08 a.m. PST

I may be wrong here, but I think that the RA seems to have mimicked whatever headgear the unit they were attached to wore, hence the white and green feathers of the flank battalion gunners later on, the "Burgoyne" hat-caps for Saratoga, etc.

historygamer11 Oct 2017 12:17 p.m. PST

42nd – had trouble following that first question/thought. :-)

My point (perhaps made poorly) was that Dowdeswell appears to be wearing the same type of very cropped hat that the men in the boats are wearing and SM indicates that they were supposed to be Guards. I would place more faith in a painting than a Doodle drawing done later – but then again they do seem to match.

It is very hard to say how differently the men's uniforms were from the officers for any unit. I have noticed that in human experience there are two different threads – those that want to look like all the others, and those (fewer) that want to look "different." I would assume that most officers want to look more or less like each other.

I suspect we'd all be amazed at what we saw if we could go back in time just for a few minutes to look.

Personal logo Silurian Supporting Member of TMP11 Oct 2017 4:03 p.m. PST

Haha, so true!

Very interesting discussion gents. Thanks.

Supercilius Maximus Supporting Member of TMP Inactive Member11 Oct 2017 7:49 p.m. PST

Let's not forget that the British modified their uniforms for the 1776 campaign in order to make the officers less conspicuous – ie more like the rank-and-file.

42flanker12 Oct 2017 1:06 a.m. PST

Apologies, Historygamer, one of my tortuous sentences. My point, made poorly, was that one officer portrait cannot of itself be extrapolated into a boat full of Guardsmen, and that we cannot assume the table-top uniformity depicted in the Clevely painting reflected the actual situation.

However, I have looked up the excellent Company of Historians article examining the adaptations of Guards uniforms for the America contingent and, as I secretly suspected, I had misremembered. Only the Grenadiers and newly formed Light coy wore the 'cap hat' perhaps depicted in Andrés 1777 sketch (By the way, it seems the Dowdeswell painting is thought also to have been executed c.1777 after his return from America).

The order of 14 August 1776 was that the battalion companies of the Guards contingent should "cut their Hats round immediately & sew the Lace on again, one flap to stand up & the other two to be down." I have to say that FWIW I am not persuaded that the 1777 Dowdeswell painting necessarily "shows the charming, though unusual, result of this order," as Messrs Burke and Bass believe.

We could argue that the Clevely painting shows that it did but that possibly leads into a circular argument. The hats depicted are certainly a distinctive departure from the Regulation headgear.

To be honest, I find the Dowdeswell image so dark and D's manner of wearing his hat so quaint, it's hard to be clear what he's wearing. Oh, for those ten minutes back in time. This miniature of an anonymous officer seems to reflect the Guards order more clearly.


SM, I wasn't aware there was a centrally organised policy of creating a uniformity of dress between officers and men. The Guards evidently did so to some degree as the CMH article makes clear. Was it a state policy that officers should be less conspicuous, although the advantages after the experience of Bunker Hill would be clear.

In British army culture, running down the years, among young officers there seem to have been two impulses running contrary to each other. One is to wear dress contrary to regulation as often as possible, while within any given group adopting the deviation uniformly amongst themselves as a fashion!

Supercilius Maximus Supporting Member of TMP Inactive Member12 Oct 2017 5:05 a.m. PST

There was certainly a policy, remarked on by several officers, of removing distinguishing appointments (eg the gorget, epaulettes, etc) on the way over to America in 1776. And as the war progressed, it did become quite common for officers to have a soldier's coat made up for them to wear in the field and thus spare the wear and tear on their expensive dress coats.

I think it's worth bearing in mind that the men who served longest in America were those for whom there was no other choice due to their political/financial position in life (or rather their lack of it), and those for whom war – be it against the Rebels or the French -
was a serious business. Both of these groups would, I would suggest, have taken pains to wear the most suitable (and cost-effective) attire in the field.

[Is it just me, or do we seem to strayed somewhat from the original subject?]

historygamer12 Oct 2017 5:27 a.m. PST

Now that was an excellent sentence 42nd. :-)

I agree with all you say. The painting (now on loan to the Museum of the American Revolution) used to hang in a meeting room at Mount Vernon. I saw it up close and personal a couple of times – often being distracted by it at meetings there. You are right. The hat is just a mass of black and hard to see any detail about it at all. His coat is a bright red, which would seem to contradict the idea of wearing an EM coat, but then again, I want to say that the Guards wore a brighter red than the average marching regiment. Not sure why I am thinking that, but perhaps they all wore the mock scarlet, the same as sergeants would have in the regular regiments.

Dowdeswell wears some interested twisted silver lace along the edgings of his coat (and a rather random piece along the waist – no it's not a pocket) but no formal officers epaulets.

And yes, the paintings are a maddening glimpse into the past without explanation – and at times perhaps a bit of artistic license.

One thing I have noted over the years looking at such paintings is the variation on the width of the facing. While some appear to adhere to the Royal Clothing Warrant width, others seem to appear in very narrow facings. It is too consistent from a variety of painters to simply be chalked up to artistic license.

I know, now I'm really off on a tangent. :-)

42flanker12 Oct 2017 6:04 a.m. PST

Straying down the tangent a moment longer, the CMH article points out that Dowdeswell is not wearing a coat laced in white to conform with the other ranks, as ordered in 1776, so that for the portrait he was quite possibly wearing a coat that had not been worn in the field or was left at home, which would explain the intenseness of its colour. His campaign frock may well have been in a fairly ragged state by the time he left America.

SM, I was aware of officers wearing plain frocks for campaign use, both for comfort and economy, and perhaps for their rank not to be overly conspicuous to the enemy.

When you say 'policy,' do you mean simply that it was generally agreed among officers at regimental level that this latter would be a sensible measure, or that orders were specifically issued by the C-in-C for officers to divest themselves of conspicuous marks of rank?

Rallynow Supporting Member of TMP12 Oct 2017 9:49 a.m. PST

If only color photography had been invented earlier. Lack of information on uniforms and flags for this period can be very frustrating. We all have to interpret the few sources we have in our own ways. Which is sort of the charm of this period.

42flanker14 Oct 2017 4:21 a.m. PST

I came upon this interesting note made sometime ago, taken from the revlist forum

Saturday, 17th August (1776)

"Most of our officers must cut the rank insignia from the uniforms, supposedly because the rebel so-called riflemen had their greatest interest in officers, and so that these will not be distinguishable from the privates, gold and silver insignia will not be worn, and now in many
regiments all uniforms are similar

Diary of Lieutenant Johann Heinrich von Bardeleben of the
Hess-Cassel von Donop Regiment

He adds, ""Our regiment continued without change."

Nonetheless, although it's not absolutely clear whether there was a specific order from the C-in-C or simply a general policy being adopted by Lieutenant Colonels (et al) this seems a clear indication that officers across the boards were removing distinguishing ornaments in order not to be favoured targets.

Supercilius Maximus Supporting Member of TMP Inactive Member15 Oct 2017 4:07 a.m. PST

Yes, the Germans generally did not subscribe to the policy and don't seem to have suffered unduly as a result.

Virginia Tory16 Oct 2017 7:20 a.m. PST

"Yes, the Germans generally did not subscribe to the policy and don't seem to have suffered unduly as a result."

That's because they were taking too long to get in range…

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