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"Light Infantry Caps" Topic

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©1994-2018 Bill Armintrout
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nevinsrip Sponsoring Member of TMP05 Jun 2018 11:51 p.m. PST

Perry Pack AW 179
British Light Infantry attacking (these are supplied with three types of
separate caps, chain caps, chain caps with peaks and ‘butterfly' caps)


Does anyone have information as to which British Lights wore which one of the 3 caps offered? I have about 80 left over caps (40 of each). I was planning on using them with the Perry plastics, to make some of the units in the converged Light Battalions that Cornwallis had in the South.
1st Battalion (Lt Col Robert Abercromby, 38th Foot) – 464 all ranks – 4th, 7th, 15th, 17th, 23rd, 27th, 33rd, & 38th Foot
- 2nd Battalion (Major Thomas Armstrong, 17th Foot) – 357 all ranks – 37th, 40th, 43rd, 45th, 49th, 55th, 63rd, & 71st Foot

Thanks in advance for any help.

kustenjaeger06 Jun 2018 12:00 a.m. PST

By the time of the Southern campaign I don't think caps were in general use – slouch hats seem to predominate. I am sure others better versed can tell more.


42flanker06 Jun 2018 6:21 a.m. PST

Edward may have a good point there, regarding uniform caps worn by the LI, in the south at any rate.

- 1st Battalion (Lt Col Robert Abercromby, 38th Foot) – 464 all ranks – 4th, 7th, 15th, 17th, 23rd, 27th, 33rd, & 38th Foot -- 2nd Battalion (Major Thomas Armstrong, 17th Foot) – 357 all ranks – 37th, 40th, 43rd, 45th, 49th, 55th, 63rd, & 71st Foot

This is not an area in which I can claim any expertise but that looks like an OB that was tentatively suggested by Brendan Morrissey on Revlist a good few years ago.

In reply Don Hagist offered this alternative-:

"Thu Dec 20, 2001 4:27 am

At Yorktown, the composition was:

1st Battalion, Lt. Col. Robert Abercrombie:
7th, 22nd, 23rd, 37th, 42nd, 54th, 63rd, and 74th

2nd Battalion, Capt. St. Lawrence Boyd:
17th, 38th, 43rd, 57th, 64th, 76th and 80th

The information above is from Stephen Gilbert, who has
invested a great deal of time into the study of these
battalions throughout the war. "

See Here: link

You might want to bear in mind that the 45th had been drafted back in 1778 and at that time, as far as I am aware the 4th, 15th, 27th, 40th 49th, 55th were sent with Grant's force to the Caribbean. I don't think many returned to service in the north. Anyway, you might want to check.

Bill N06 Jun 2018 9:03 a.m. PST

The OB looks like it is for the army that came south for the siege of Charleston, and returned to New York after Charleston fell. It isn't the same as the one listed on the Carolana website, but it tracks other OBs I have seen. For most of his campaigns in the Carolinas Cornwallis only had a handful of light companies.

Logic would suggest that having abandoned the leather cap earlier in the war the light companies serving in the north would not have gone to the expense of re-acquiring them later in the war, at a time when they were thousands of miles away from their supply sources. There is mention though in the Light Company Order Book for the 37th infantry (found online) of the company acquiring a "cap block" in 1778. This suggests it is possible the 37th at least either took their old caps out of storage or had new ones made up after Clinton took command. No idea which style they used.

My light battalion for the southern campaign consists of two companies of the 71st in bonnets, a company of the 16th in caps, looking like the Troiani painting, and a generic light company. The first three companies were units already in the south in 1779 under Prevost, and the last could either be a light company of the 60th or a loyalist light company.

nevinsrip Sponsoring Member of TMP06 Jun 2018 11:53 a.m. PST

The information about the composition of the Lights came from Brendan.
What about the caps?

Bill N06 Jun 2018 4:52 p.m. PST

More from the 37th Light Company's Order Book: In 1778 payments were authorized to the Hatter for dying hair and for "making the company caps" (page 23). In April of 1780 they reference the arrival of a ship bearing a load of hats (page 62). This suggests that the 37th at least had locally made caps with dyed hair starting in 1778, and may have been issued hats in April or May of 1780.

PDF link

nevinsrip Sponsoring Member of TMP07 Jun 2018 11:59 p.m. PST

I did a bit of research looking through my AWI library and found that Alan Kemp's "British Army In The American Revolution" has drawings of several Light Infantry caps on page 21. Pictured are the:
45 th Foot
Regulation Light Infantry Cap
62 nd Foot
7 th Foot
5 th Foot
71 st Foot

I'm not sure how much faith is placed in Mr. Kemp's tome, which was published in 1973 by Almark.

Next, on page 149 of "The Illustrated Encyclopedia of The American Revolutionary War" by our own Mr. Kiley, we have color illustrations of the following Caps:
17 th Light Dragoons
6 th
10 th
16 th
71 st
11 th
23 rd
5 th
69 th
62 nd

Interestingly enough, the two authors agree on the 5 th and 62 nd Caps, but have two very different designs for the 71 st Foot. I'm not sure that the Highlanders would surrender their traditional headgear for a Cap. I would need to see proof on that one.

Can we get sources for the Caps that are pictured, Mr Kiley?

See Kevin, I do own your book and very much enjoy leafing through it.

42flanker08 Jun 2018 4:21 a.m. PST

I believe that officially the flank coys of most Highland regiments were intended to wear a a uniform cap but that this may not have been complied with in the field.

Despite the dell Gatta/St George images, we know that at least one LI officer, Captain Cochrane of the 4th KO LI coy, was seen to "throw up his cap and cry Victory."

We have evidence that in 1779 the single LI battalion remaining at New York were wearing caps, sporting a green feather. This was possibly the same model as that ordered locally for the 37th the year before by Eyre Coote, which was evidently of felt rather than leather, perhaps made from hat blanks with a crest decorated with green [?horse] hair, akin to the Burgoyne adaptation of 1777.

I don't know what the source for the 'butterfly caps' worn in America might be. They are shown being worn by the 69th Regt in the Loutherbourg paintings of the Review at Warley Camp, and in his preparative sketches which show a wealth of variations in LI headgear for both regulars and militia, but of course that was in England, with everyone looking their best. The 6th wear a chain cap with frontlet.

There is a very good article from 'Military Illustrated' by Michael Barthorp discussing LI caps but as far as I recall this related to the range and evolution of designs rather than practice in the field. Illustrations include the 5th Regt LI cap, in the National Army Museum,Chelsea, which is well known. The 11th are shown wearing a low fur cap, and the 68th odd Lambton cap (so called) a leather cap with a metal mitre front of pierced metal bearing the motto 'Faithful' (not offered by Perry!).

I guess if we had more evidence for the range of formal caps being worn in the field we wouldn't be having this discussion.

historygamer08 Jun 2018 5:11 a.m. PST

The Marine Light infantry cap featured in Kemp and in the CMH plate has pretty much been discredited.

One of the Light Infantry caps (I believe the one with chains?) was referred to as the Keppel cap. There was a board convened before the war that generally set some Light Infantry standards, though they were not part of the Royal Clothing Warrant of '68.

Here is a link to a previous TMP discussion on the topic:

TMP link

Bill N08 Jun 2018 2:39 p.m. PST

which was evidently of felt rather than leather, perhaps made from hat blanks with a crest decorated with green [?horse] hair

Interesting interpretation. Are you suggesting the 1778 cap mentioned in the 37ths OB was similar to the modified hats worn by Burgoyne's troops?

42flanker09 Jun 2018 6:48 a.m. PST

I am, Bill. Influenced by this discussion here:

I believe the design proposed by General Keppel was indeed the so-called "chain cap," as seen in the Loutherbourg sketch of the 6th Regt LI coy. How widely it was adopted otherwise before the AWI, I am not sure what the evidence is.

By the way, I mispoke re. the decoration of the 37th cap. The 'feather' was green, as became customary for LI, but there is no note for the colour of the 'hair,' which seems most likely to refer to the crest decoration of the cap; whether coloured to a LI or regimental distinction, or neither, the records do not tell us.

nevinsrip Sponsoring Member of TMP09 Jun 2018 2:49 p.m. PST

I wrote to the Perry's on their Facebook page, asking what they intended the 3 choices of Caps to represent. Which units did they have in mind in producing these 3 choices?. Why bother to sculpt 3 choice, if you did not have a specific unit in mind to wear them?
Seems a fair question to me. Nothing back so far. I do, of course, realize that they must get zillions questions a day, so it's easy to miss it. I get that.

Perhaps someone here will alert them to this discussion
and we will have our answer.

42flanker09 Jun 2018 6:45 p.m. PST

Do the peaked LI caps they provide definitely have chains round the crown?

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