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"Militia Officers Uniforms" Topic

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Soldat13 Jun 2021 8:28 a.m. PST

I am curious on whether officers of militia units and minutemen wore Continental style uniforms or any indicator that Colonel Bob Patriot was a Colonel. Thanks y'all.

Au pas de Charge13 Jun 2021 8:37 a.m. PST

Colonel Bob Patriot

Is this a thing?

There were uniformed militia and the impression I get is that maybe some Minutemen officers wore their old FIW get ups. Sashes were sometimes used by militia colonels whether uniformed or not.

Personal logo doc mcb Supporting Member of TMP13 Jun 2021 10:49 a.m. PST

Virginia's militia officers were the same men who ruled the county as justices of the peace, and almost invariably from the planter elite. Their social status would have been evident in civilian clothes, which would have fit (tailor-made, and therefore expensive). Adding a sash would have been easy. If any of them had WANTED a uniform, he probably could have afforded it.

Remember, too, that discharged Continentals, or supernumerary Continental officers (of which there were whole regiments worth) would have automatically become part of the militia in their county. John Cropper is an example of a former Continental officer who became commander of his county's militia and in fact led it into a bloody Battle of the Barges.

So you could justify having at least a few officers in uniform, yes.

Personal logo doc mcb Supporting Member of TMP13 Jun 2021 11:19 a.m. PST

A related question: who owned the uniforms of Continental soldiers? When they went home after their term of service expired, did they wear their uniform coat? If so, there'd be at least a scattering of uniformed men in a militia unit, and the proportion would increase with the passage of time. The "militia grenadiers" that Virginia mustered in 1781 were almost all former Continentals. If they had indeed retained their old uniforms, or pieces thereof, that would be a fun unit to paint. And THEIR officers were almost entirely supernumerary Continental officers.

Personal logo doc mcb Supporting Member of TMP13 Jun 2021 11:21 a.m. PST


Minutemen were more likely to have some uniforms.

Soldat13 Jun 2021 12:03 p.m. PST

Thanks for the Link Doc. The hunting frock with liberty or death is pretty interesting.

Personal logo doc mcb Supporting Member of TMP13 Jun 2021 12:07 p.m. PST

It is a plate from the Company of Military Historians, and published in their first collection. John Marshall is the dude in blue.

Military Uniforms in America The Era of the American Revolution 1755-1795 Hardcover January 1, 1974
by John R. (ed.) Elting (Author), Profusely illustrated (Illustrator)
4.4 out of 5 stars 9 ratings

historygamer13 Jun 2021 12:18 p.m. PST

Soldiers owned their clothing through stoppages of pay.

Personal logo doc mcb Supporting Member of TMP13 Jun 2021 1:27 p.m. PST

I would have guessed as much. So a late war militia unit might have some men in old regimentals also, perhaps from several units. Thanks!

Personal logo John the OFM Supporting Member of TMP13 Jun 2021 4:55 p.m. PST

What about the Minutemen at Concord?
Like Cincinnatus, they dropped the plow, grabbed their musket and pouches and headed out. No uniform there. No time to take a shower and put on deodorant.
I consider them the True Minutemen. Everyone else with that name is a pale imitator. grin

historygamer13 Jun 2021 5:41 p.m. PST

It depends what militia you're talking about. John is right, but perhaps late war there might (big word there) have been the old worn continental uniform in the mix
Or not. Overall, they likely wore their civilian clothes.

Soldat13 Jun 2021 6:27 p.m. PST

I'm talking about the officers not the enlisted dudes

Personal logo John the OFM Supporting Member of TMP13 Jun 2021 6:57 p.m. PST

It's a common fallacy that Captain Parker at Lexington was a captain in the FIW.
A good friend in the NPS tells me that there is no evidence for this. No records, nothing.
If the FIW ended in 1763, and Lexington was in 1775, that's 12 years. Does anyone really think that old FIW uniforms would a) fit, and b) would not be worn out by frugal settlers…

There were indeed some uniformed militia in the early war, like the unit Benedict Arnold took to Boston from Connecticut.
And Troiani shows some interesting Colonial Grenadier miter caps. See also the Osprey books on Washington's Army.

historygamer13 Jun 2021 8:14 p.m. PST

No, not really. Next question.🤣

RudyNelson15 Jun 2021 2:06 p.m. PST

The frequent reference to wearing Provincial uniforms from the FIW is a common comment around the wargaming table.
However the enlisting in the State Provincials happens later than that war. Provincial troops were used in anti-Indian campaigns like Dunmore's War or against others as in the Regulator War.
So the wearing of a Provincial uniforms does not always have to be an old FIW veteran.

Au pas de Charge15 Jun 2021 2:35 p.m. PST

FIW serves as a recognizable enough nomenclature for any N.A. campaign that came before the revolution. With all due respect to the many conflicts that the militia fought before the revolution broke out, we cant be held to listing them all!

Do we know if the uniforms for these many pre-revolutionary war militia conflicts received radically different uniforms from the FIW ones?

Personal logo John the OFM Supporting Member of TMP15 Jun 2021 3:07 p.m. PST

Some say Washington showed up at the Second Continental Congress wearing his old FIW Virginia Provincials uniform. That's incorrect. He was wearing his current uniform. Being a bit of a snob, and rich, I doubt he would wear that old rag. In 12 years, everyone puts on a little weight, and I don't think mothballs had been invented yet.
What has always puzzled me is why John Hancock thought he should get the CinC job. It was probably the prevailing attitude that soldiering was easy and that anyone could do it. Plus, he was John Bleeped texting Hancock. grin

Au pas de Charge15 Jun 2021 3:12 p.m. PST

It would've been interesting to read about engagements between General Hancock and Admiral "Black Dick" Howe. One can almost imagine them at swords crossed.

Personal logo Old Contemptible Supporting Member of TMP15 Jun 2021 5:38 p.m. PST

They kept their uniforms after service. For mid and late war militia I always have one or two militiamen wearing a continental coat. The assumption I am making is that once their enlistment was up they returned home and joined the local militia. I am also making the assumption that as the war went on these ex-Continentals raised the quality of the militia unit a little bit.

Personal logo Old Contemptible Supporting Member of TMP15 Jun 2021 5:42 p.m. PST


How did Washington know what the Continental officer uniform was going to look like?

Personal logo Old Contemptible Supporting Member of TMP15 Jun 2021 5:49 p.m. PST

According to Ferling in his "Almost a Miracle" book on page 39, "Washington, a Virginian who had none too subtly been attending Congress in the uniform he had worn during the French and Indian War…"

Personal logo John the OFM Supporting Member of TMP15 Jun 2021 5:53 p.m. PST

It was the CURRENT uniform of the Virginia Regiment. This was to show his military experience.

Personal logo Old Contemptible Supporting Member of TMP15 Jun 2021 6:20 p.m. PST

I just looked at the Osprey and according to it you maybe right. I did not realize they change uniforms in 1762, that is if Osprey is correct. So what did it look like after 1762? Was Washington still a Colonel in the Virginia State Troops? If so it would make sense to where whatever uniform came after 1762.

Personal logo Old Contemptible Supporting Member of TMP15 Jun 2021 6:26 p.m. PST

I always thought he wore this uniform to Congress.

Personal logo Old Contemptible Supporting Member of TMP15 Jun 2021 6:28 p.m. PST


Personal logo John the OFM Supporting Member of TMP15 Jun 2021 7:41 p.m. PST

I think it makes sense for a rich man to wear the most current uniform and not pone that's been in his closet for 12-13 years.
Consulting Wikipedia, Washington resigned his commission in 1758. So that means his uniform, taken out of mothballs, would be 17 years old. Well, I don't know when mothballs were invented, but he did have a woolen uniform.
Wikipedia also dates that uniform to 1772. The Warrant of 1768 also preceded that, but the cuffs look … older.
It's not unlikely that his tailor would have altered that uniform by 1775.

So, I'm going by what I remember from reading in the past. And using "wargamer's logic".
I do know that Washington was vain, and rich. Typical planter mentality, he was not frugal. So he would have worn the tip top of fashion.

Meaning… Your guess is as good as mine.

historygamer15 Jun 2021 8:45 p.m. PST

Washington was only in the militia last in 1753. After that he was in the 1st Virginia Regiment, which was not a militia unit. Washington rejoined the local Fairfax militia sometime after he resigned his full time commission as the senior VA colonel. The uniform he wore to Congress was his Fairfax militia officer's kit. Ferling, like many past historians who repeated this mistake, was wrong. It is most likely that perhaps only the officers in Washington's militia unit had uniforms.

historygamer15 Jun 2021 8:50 p.m. PST

The question is one of cost. Who would pay for a uniform? Your average militia man often didn't even have a firearm let alone a uniform. The period is full of examples of militia not even having a weapon. Was it possible a former Continental soldier showed up in his old uniform? Sure. But even that would have varied year to year. Other that the one year lottery costs were handed out, uniform colors were all over the place.

historygamer15 Jun 2021 8:55 p.m. PST

Militia officers might have had prior service. However, what they looked like is anyone's guess. Further, there was no real rank insignia at the time like there are in later periods. Same was true in the British and German troops. Within a British regiment, the Colonel's uniform looked no different than an ensign's.

historygamer15 Jun 2021 8:59 p.m. PST

The recognized badges of rank at the time were a sash, sword, and gorget.

Personal logo Old Contemptible Supporting Member of TMP15 Jun 2021 9:19 p.m. PST

Do we know what the Fairfax militia uniform that he wore to Congress looked like?

Personal logo Old Contemptible Supporting Member of TMP15 Jun 2021 9:23 p.m. PST

Here is a possible answer.

Fairfax County Militia Association (September 21, 1774)

"…That we will meet at such Times & Places in this County as our said Officers (to be chosen by a Majority of the Members, so soon as fifty have subscribed) shall appoint & direct, for the Purpose of learning & practising the military Exercise & Discipline; dress'd in a regular Uniform of Blue, turn'd up with Buff; with plain yellow metal Buttons, Buff Waist Coat & Breeches, & white Stockings; and furnished with a good Fire-lock & Bayonet, Sling Cartouch-Box, and Tomahawk…


Personal logo Old Contemptible Supporting Member of TMP15 Jun 2021 9:35 p.m. PST

Here is an image.


Bill N16 Jun 2021 3:28 a.m. PST

The Fairfax County Militia force Washington commanded and whose uniform he wore should not be confused with the general militia of Fairfax County. It was a volunteer force roughly analogous to volunteer companies raised in Virginia immediately before the outbreak of the ACW. Washington ordered a number of things for the unit including colors, instruments, halberds and shoulder knots for ncos. These volunteer companies were to have been folded into the general militia in 1775


historygamer16 Jun 2021 8:22 a.m. PST

Good stuff. Yes, that is the uniform he wore to Congress. Washington was one of the most well known men in the country due to his earlier exploits being covered by the press at the time. He had both independent command experience, and experience as a functioning Brigade General within a larger army which he got when leading one of the three columns on the final march to Fort Duquesne.

This accomplishment is noted in the Peale portrait above with the piece of paper sticking out of his waistcoat pocket with the title "Order of March" and is likely why his sash is painted being worn on the wrong shoulder so the Order of March would be visible. British (and by extension, Provincial) officers wore their sash on the right shoulder, so the sash knot would fall by the sword handle on the left hip. How he is holding that fusil that magically appears behind him is anyone's guess. LoL

AICUSV27 Jun 2021 11:17 p.m. PST

Pennsylvania being a Quaker colony did not have a real militia system at the beginning of hostilities. What they had were groups of clubs or associations. Many of associations in Philadelphia required its members to be armed, equipped, and uniformed. Other counties were lucky if their members had shoes.

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