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"Highlander Light Infantry" Topic

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18th Century

846 hits since 9 Jul 2018
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nevinsrip09 Jul 2018 11:29 p.m. PST

What headgear did the Highlander Light Infantry wear in the South. Would they have kept the traditional Scottish headgear or would they have adopted a Light Infantry cap?

Source for that?

Personal logo ochoin Supporting Member of TMP09 Jul 2018 11:47 p.m. PST

I hope I'm not being too pedantic (if so, just ignore me) but *Highland* Light infantry not 'Highlander".

Extrabio1947 Supporting Member of TMP10 Jul 2018 6:30 a.m. PST


A Troiani print of a light infantryman of the 42nd Regiment shows a bonnet rather than a cap. I'm unsure of his primary sources.


historygamer Supporting Member of TMP10 Jul 2018 6:39 a.m. PST

Since all Highland troops were regarded as being like Light Infantry, and were often used that way, it would not be surprising if the different Highland regiments simply wore their usual headwear. I am sure 42nd will be along soon to provide further details.

42flanker Supporting Member of TMP10 Jul 2018 7:39 a.m. PST

Greetings all,

The only visual reference I am aware of comes from a portrait, now in Edinburgh Castle, of Lieutenant James Stuart of the 42nd LI who joined them when they were part of 1st LI Bn in autumn 1777 and served with them till Yorktown. The naive style suggests the painting was done in country. It depicts him in a shallow, pill box-like bonnet, a cut down red coat, white waistcoat (note) white breeches, stockings and buckle shoes, with a light dress sword (The feather appears to be black). So, not depicted in his field uniform.

There is no more likelihood of any 42nd LI man wearing a regulation or quasi-regulation LI cap than an LI man from any other regiment that had been in country since the New York campaign.

The Troiani painting is of a grenadier, I believe.

In haste.


historygamer Supporting Member of TMP10 Jul 2018 8:11 a.m. PST


historygamer Supporting Member of TMP10 Jul 2018 8:13 a.m. PST

Interesting, but he appears to have a slash cuff. Highland officers wore their sash over their shoulder, but he appears in this portrait without gorget or sash, which was not uncommon for many period portraits. Off duty. :-)

The Troiani painting is of a grenadier, with white feathers – common for grenadiers as you have noted previously.

42flanker Supporting Member of TMP11 Jul 2018 9:25 a.m. PST

That's our boy, who grew up at Shambellie just down the coast from where I type now.

"Off duty"- From memory, I believe close examination of the the background to the rear of his kerchief – not the most common prop- will reveal tents and/or 'wigwams.'

Does anyone know anything about the symbolism of gestures in portraits of this period? My forbear was painted in the same posture, pointing to his left- but in case looking off to his right. "Thoughts of home", possibly, or "That way lies home, via the foe and victory"? Etc.

historygamer Supporting Member of TMP11 Jul 2018 11:33 a.m. PST

I'm not aware of any, but Prof. Greg Urwin would be the one to ask.

nevinsrip11 Jul 2018 12:04 p.m. PST

So, what's the consensus? Do I just need to paint wings on my already painted KMM Highlanders and call them Light Infantry?
Or is a head swap in order?

nevinsrip11 Jul 2018 12:10 p.m. PST

A voice from the past asks:
Did Lt Stuart transfer to the light company from a battalion company (or the grenadier company) of the 42nd? This might explain the white waistcoat.

I suspect Troiani's source for the grenadier's bonnet would be Peebles' diary, since the latter records the company's bearskin caps being put into storage in 1778(? – might be a year out either way) and the depiction post-dates that event.

historygamer Supporting Member of TMP11 Jul 2018 2:03 p.m. PST

I believe the painting is correct. If you have any doubts ask Paul Pace.

42flanker Supporting Member of TMP12 Jul 2018 6:51 a.m. PST

I think we can assume the painting was from life. When it was executed, is another matter.

In front of me I have Paul Pace's notes from his copious research: According to Paul, James Stewart was commissioned an Ensign in the 5th Regt. in Boston (effective Aug. 1775). He was wounded at the Battle of Germantown, Pennsylvania on Oct. 4, 1777. On Oct. 31 he was promoted and transferred to the 42nd Regt. in place of Lt. Thomas Lyttleton, an English officer who had transferred to the 5th Regt.

As I write I can't recall what role the 5th played at Germantown if he was in a battalion coy of the 5th then that would explain the waistcoat, even though the portrait must have been painted some time after he joined the 42nd. He is unlikely to have had a regulation red LI waistcoat made up while on detached service with 1st LI Bn. It might well be a summer weight waistcoat anyway, ditto the breeches.

Many years later (circa 1816), Stewart provided a brief summary of his service to Colonel David Stewart of Garth:

"About the close of the American campaign 1777 I was appointed a Lt in the 42nd Regt and a little before the Army went into Winter quarter at Philadelphia I joined the Light Company serving with the first Batt under Sir Robt Abercromby. Summer and Winter I shared with them the severest duty I was ever engaged in till taken with Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown. I came home & went to France a prisoner till the peace absolved me In 1785 I joined at Nova Scotia & was detached once more till 1789 when I came home with the Regt."

Stewart not Stuart. Slip of the finger.

Go with the bonnets. Def.

nevinsrip14 Jul 2018 12:41 p.m. PST

A friend sent me this.

Whether Stewart was serving in the 42nd's light company with the 1st Light Infantry, or was still with the 5th Foot (in one of Grant's two brigades), he would have been on the right flank of the Crown forces at Germantown. However, the main body of the 42nd is not listed as being at Germantown, so if he fought in the battle it would not have been as a battalion company officer. For some reason, I cannot find the main body of the 42nd in any Germantown orbat – it started the Philadelphia campaign as part of Agnew's Reserve Brigade, along with the 71st, then transferred to Grey's 3rd Brigade for Brandywine, and was listed as still with that brigade for Middlebrook in early December. I had a feeling they were detached as a garrison of somewhere-or-other, but no further info.

historygamer Supporting Member of TMP15 Jul 2018 11:22 a.m. PST

They were sent, with the 71st iirc, to to open the Delaware river. In part why Washington attacked when he did.

42flanker Supporting Member of TMP16 Jul 2018 2:41 a.m. PST

The day of Washington's attack at Germantown, the 42nd were absent. On Sept. 28, 1777 a column consisting of the 1st LI bn, 42nd and 10th Regts (minus their flank coys) was ordered to cross the Delaware and seize the rebel fort at Billingsport, New Jersey as part of operations to clear the shipping route to Philadelphia. They returned to Philadelphia on the 8th.

(After Brandywine, the 71st were guarding the LoC from Wilmington on the Delaware. On 29th Sept, 2bns of Fraser's were sent upstream to occupy Chester as the landing point for a shorter overland supply route to Philadelphia.)

I am not sure I understand the reasoning for James Stewart not being with a battalion coy of the 5th at Germantown.

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