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"AWI British army uniforms of officers" Topic

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569 hits since 11 Jan 2018
©1994-2018 Bill Armintrout
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historygamer11 Jan 2018 6:53 a.m. PST

Went to an outstanding lecture by Eric Schnitzer, park Historian at Saratoga Battlefield National Park. Highlights of his talk include:

Regarding officers uniforms all hat (and likely grenadier) officers were armed and carried fusils. They usually did not carry a pouch (cartridge box), which would indicate that the weapon was for personal protection.

Officers likely wore pantaloons instead of breeches in the filed, and tucked them into their spatter dashes, while the enlisted men usually wore overalls (gaitered trousers).

The officers wore their gorgets, sashes, and usually epaulets in the field as well.

There would be little deviation between officers uniforms within a regiment, though they might vary from year to year, depending on what the colonel wished.

Light infantry officers only carried a sword, no fusil.

Officer and perhaps sergeants did not wear packs. Officers did not usually carry a haversack or canteen which would be carried by their batman (servant).

Royal Artillery officers did not wear gorgets. Their lace was pointed. They did wear sashes.

lucky1oldman11 Jan 2018 9:50 a.m. PST

Very useful info. from that campaign. Thanks!

historygamer11 Jan 2018 9:56 a.m. PST

This does not just apply to the Saratoga campaign, but the entire Crown force in North America – though the Canadian uniforms were a bit unique. Most of his observations were on Howe's Army of 1777.

Supercilius Maximus11 Jan 2018 2:22 p.m. PST

Jim – Haven't forgotten you need citations for officers wearing modified OR coats in the field.

historygamer11 Jan 2018 3:13 p.m. PST

You would have liked Eric's presentation.

42flanker12 Jan 2018 3:50 a.m. PST

While we can identify broad patterns regarding clothing worn in the field, it seems we can only generalise within a given context, defined by geographical area and within narrow time frames, both year and season.

It sounds from your notes, Historygamer, like some of Mr Schnitzer's observations were drawn mainly from what we know of the Philadelphia campaign of 1777, and informed, for instance, by the visual sources relating to 2nd LI Battalion (and others in their vicintity)- the della Gatta paintings and the St. George cartoons. And of course, we have the information relating to Burgoyne's instructions and the von Germann paintings which, as well as indicatiing a degree of uniformity, reflect certain broad similarities in the nether wear; breeches with gaiters and 'gaiter trousers' are both in evidence.

The question of what might be meant by the terms 'overalls', 'panataloons', not to forget the mighty 'trowser' is a knotty subject, which I don't pretend to be master of. That's before we get into the question of which Highlanders wore trousers, and when. There were lengthy discussions about this on RevList about ten years ago.

Within a battalion, there could be a certain amount of uniformity between men and officers below the waist, defined by CO's instructions and bulk buying of cloth. For instance in the Grenadier Coy of the 42nd, John Peebles reports successive seasonal changes ordered by the Lt Col. of the Grenadier Battalion, but also apparently drawing on supplies of cloth through his parent regiment. Peebles reports woollen breeches, linen breeches (+ cloth leggings) brown trowsers (possibly buttoned at the calf), and we know that shortly after war's end the 42nd were wearing white ticken trousers and low regulation gaiters.That's just one flank battalion/regiment.

Before I get sucked in further, it's probably safest simply to say that in the area of non-regulation uniforms, one generalises at one's peril (Is that a generalisation?).

historygamer12 Jan 2018 5:10 a.m. PST

There is regulation, and then there is perhaps what many/most were doing, likely with the colonel's blessing, or perhaps because it is simply what "they" did.

I must admit that I have often confused the pantaloons with breeches when quickly looking at a painting of an officer. They are fairly form fitted trousers and are tucked into the spatter dashes, making them appear at breeches to the casual observer. Eric provided a good number of paintings featuring these, from a number of theaters (including India).

What might be instructive would be an inventory of a deceased officers possessions. Interestingly I have one for Brigadier General Henry Bouquet. What is fascinating is that he does not appear to have owned a pair of boots (the only boots listed are an "old pair" inventoried in his livery trunk – and yes, he owned slaves), and no gorget. That said, he belonged to a silver metaled regiment and there is no evidence that silver metaled regiments wore gorgets and there are no surviving silver gorgets know to come for the F&I/SYW time period. I'd have to look to see if pantaloons are listed in his inventory.

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