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SOLDIERS AND UNIFORMS OF THE AMERICAN AARMY 1775â?"1954
By Fritz Kredel
Dover Publications, Inc.Copyright © 2005 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
PLATE 1. General George Washington
FAREWELL ORDERS to the Armies of the United States:
"... It only remains for the Comdr in Chief to address himself once more, and that for the last time, to the Armies of the U States (however widely dispersed the individuals who compose them may be) and to bid them an affectionate, a long farewell....
"A contemplation of the compleat attainment (at a period earlier than could have been expected) of an object for which we contended against so formidable a power cannot but inspire us with astonishment and gratitude. The disadvantageous circumstances on our part, under which the war was undertaken, can never be forgotten. The singular interpositions of Providence in our feeble condition were such, as could scarcely escape the attention of the most unobserving; while the unparalleled perserverance of the Armies of the U States, through almost every possible suffering and discouragement for the space of eight long years, was little short of a standing miracle.
"It is not the meaning nor within the compass of this address to detail the hardships peculiarly incident to our service, or to describe the distresses, which in several instances have resulted from the extremes of hunger and nakedness, combined with the rigours of an inclement season; nor is it necessary to dwell on the dark side of our past affairs. Every American Officer and Soldier must now console himself, for any unpleasant circumstances which may have occurred by a recollection of the uncommon scenes in which he has been called to Act no inglorious part, and the astonishing events of which he has been a witness, events which have seldom if ever before taken place on the stage of human action, nor can they probably ever happen again. For who has before seen a disciplined Army form'd at once from such raw materials? Who, that was not a witness, could imagine that the most violent local prejudices would cease so soon, and that men who came from the different parts of the Continent, strongly disposed, by the habits of education, to despise and quarrel with each other, would instantly become but one patriotic band of Brothers, or who, that was not on the spot, can trace the steps by which such a wonderful revolution has been effected, and such a glorious period put to all our warlike toils?
"It is universally acknowledged, that the enlarged prospects of happiness, opened by the confirmation of our independence and sovereignty, almost exceeds the power of description....
"To the various branches of the Army the General takes this last and solemn opportunity of professing his inviolable attachment and friendship."
Rock Hill, near Princeton,
November 2, 1783CHAPTER 2
PLATE 2. Thompson's Pennsylvania Rifle Battalion, 1775
OF ALL the types of soldier which made up the Continental Line—foot, horse, and gunners —the rifleman was the most distinctly American. He was just as distinctive as the frontier from which he came; not because he carried a rifle or wore a buckskin shirt, but rather because he came from a folk whose resourcefulness, tenacity, and vision won an entire continent. Bred to these qualities, the rifleman had a natural dislike of convention which was at once his strength and his weakness. Like the ranger of the Old French War before him, he was ever the irregular, hard to manage, contemptuous of discipline, restless under the inevitable routine of an army, but deadly when properly employed.
Since riflemen could be found only along the western borders of the colonies, they numbered but a few special corps. The most distinguished were those commanded by William Thompson and Samuel Miles of Pennsylvania and by Daniel Morgan of Virginia. The first corps, raised in June and July 1775, was composed of expert riflemen from Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia. It took part in the siege of Boston in that year, and two of its companies accompanied Arnold on his march to Quebec. During the months that followed, the frontiersman were transformed into disciplined, efficient soldiers, and on January 1, 1776, the regiment became the ist of the Continental Line. When the Line was renumbered the next year, it became the 1st Pennsylvania; as such, its history is the history of the Revolution.
The hunting or rifle shirt in which this corps was clothed is shown in the plate. It was the familiar frontier garment. In its most common form it was made of deerskin for winter and linen for summer, reaching often to the knees and having one or more capes. Being open down the front and without buttons, it had to be held together by a broad leather belt by which was carried a knife or hatchet. The cloth shirts were dyed in a wide variety of shades, but those of skin appear usually to have been of an ash or tan color. This hunting shirt was widely used throughout the entire army by mounted and foot troops alike.
In the course of the war most of the companies of the 1st Pennsylvania turned in their rifles for smoothbore muskets. The rifle, although highly accurate, was difficult to load and unable to carry a bayonet so that it did not measure up as a military weapon. The right figure in the plate is a rifleman; the man on the left is from a company which has been altered to infantry. Both wear the painted canvas knapsacks issued to Pennsylvania units early in the war.CHAPTER 3
PLATE 3. Baylor's 3rd Continental Dragoons, 1778
THE EASTERN seaboard along which the Revolution was fought was not ideal terrain for cavalry. Nevertheless, there were numerous occasions upon which mounted men were urgently needed but were not available. Late in 1776 Congress authorized four regiments of horse to be called, after the British system, light dragoons. But so great was the difficulty in procuring mounts, equipment, and men that the troops were always far under strength. A cavalryman had to take care of his horse as well as perform all the other tasks of a soldier, and the service, consequently, was not overly popular. One state cavalry regiment had enlisted its men on the promise of exemption from menial tasks, but Washington wisely declined its services on the grounds of impartiality and discipline.
Then, too, care had to be taken to enlist in the dragoons only native Americans of known stability and proven loyalty. This was a practice in all armies of that day, for the horsemen were often called upon to act as military police. So it was that the dragoons became an elite corps, and no unit was more so than Colonel George Baylor's 3rd Regiment, the "Lady Washington Dragoons." Raised in 1777, it served throughout the war. Its officers and men came principally from the horse raising districts of Virginia and Maryland, although at least one troop was formed in Pennsylvania. Its personnel were, therefore, born horsemen.
During much of 1777 and 1778 Baylor's Dragoons furnished details to the Commander-in-Chief's Guard. The Guard itself was an infantry unit of picked men stationed permanently at headquarters, and the attached dragoons served as patrols, videttes, and couriers, as escort for Washington and his staff, and as guards of honor to distinguished visitors.
The light dragoon regiments wore distinctive uniforms when they could get them. The 1st used blue faced with red, or brown faced with green; the 2nd, blue faced with buff; the 3rd, white faced with light blue; and the 4th, red faced with blue, and later green faced with red. As shown in the plate, they were armed with heavy sabres and flint-lock pistols, the latter carried in holsters hanging from the pommel of the saddle. When procurable, they carried carbines as well, but these weapons were so extremely scarce that cavalry were often unable to protect their own camps from enemy attack. The 3rd Dragoons was almost annihilated near Hackensack in September 1778 when its post was attacked in the night by a British force under Major General Charles Grey—"No-Flint Grey" of Paoli notoriety. But the regiment recovered and under Colonel William Washington played a gallant part in the Southern campaigns where it was pitted against such vigorous foemen as Tarleton's Legion.CHAPTER 4
PLATE 4. "Congress' Own" and the Continental Artillery, 1780
MOST OF the regiments of the Continental Army were named and numbered for the states from which they came. Although Washington strove for a national army, he soon discovered that troops from the different states would not mix. By stressing the state spirit within the regiments, he thus turned this jealousy to advantage.
Certain units, however, were drawn from the country at large, and one of these, the 2nd Canadian Regiment, "Congress' Own," is of particular interest. It was raised early in 1776, partly in Canada and from among Canadian refugees, the rest from various states. Its commander was Moses Hazen, a vigorous and independent soldier who had won his spurs as an officer of rangers in the Old French War and had later held the King's commission. The regiment fought through part of the Northern campaign, saw action on numerous fields including Brandywine, Germantown, and Yorktown. From the first to last it was counted a splendid command.
The officer shown is the captain of a light company, as is indicated by the leather cap worn in place of the cocked hat. He is in the dress uniform of the regiment, brown faced with red. Although his subaltern officers sometimes carried light muskets, he himself is shown with an i, the weapon with which he was armed both on parade and in battle. This was a doctrine laid down by Baron Steuben; an officer busy shooting his musket was not much good as a leader.
The Artillery was also drawn from the country at large. This important branch, comprising four fine regiments and several auxiliary units, was almost entirely the outgrowth of a Volunteer artillery company called "The Train," formed in Boston in 1763. Here such leading artillerymen as Henry Knox, John Crane, and Winthrop Sargent obtained their first training in arms.
The soldier shown here is a gunner. It was his duty to load the piece and, after each shot, to swab the bore with the wet sponge he holds in his right hand lest a spark remain to explode the next charge. He also carries a drag rope which, fastened to hooks on the carriage, aided him in moving the piece. His uniform of dark blue or black, faced with red, was one of the most common of the Revolution and was regularized for the Artillery in 1779. His long overalls—a most practical garment for service on this Continent—had by 1780 become the popular form of leg covering. Like the rifle shirt, it was worn by all arms and ranks.
Both of the men in the plate make a smart appearance. The white ribbons on their black cockades indicate the French alliance and the consequent improvement in supplies, but this alone was not the reason for their smartness. To understand it one must look back to that winter at Valley Forge when Steuben had made over the Continental Army.CHAPTER 5
PLATE 5. Infantry of the Legion, 1795
IN THE peace which followed the Revolution the Regular Army was reduced to less than a hundred men and no adequate provision was made for using the Volunteer corps of the different states. Instead, reliance was placed on the common militia to curb the growing Indian troubles along our vast and savage frontier. It was no more useful in this instance than it has been at other times, and after the severe defeats of 1790 and 1791 a regular force of some size was raised and placed under the command of General Anthony Wayne.
Wayne was an active, capable officer, and under his strong leadership the new, raw force was whipped into an excellently disciplined and trained command. It was reorganized into what was called the Legion, divided into four sublegions. Each sublegion was a complete fighting unit in itself, with its proportion of infantry, rifles, cavalry, and artillery. With these troops he moved west in 1793 to near what is now Cincinnati, and next year decisively beat the Indians at Fallen Timbers on the Maumee River. The forts built by Wayne in this campaign marked the military frontier. Far in advance of the settlements ran this protecting cordon of tiny posts, ever moving ahead as the American nation began its westward progress. Thus commenced the Army's long duty of guarding the frontier.
The Infantry of the Legion wore the blue coat faced with red which by then was almost a national uniform. For headdress they wore a leather cap or ordinary round hat trimmed with a roach of bear skin, cloth band, cockade, and feather. By orders of September 11, 1792, the men of the ist Sublegion wore caps with black hair, white band and plume; those of the 2nd Sublegion, white hair, red band and plume; those of the 3rd, black hair, yellow band and plume; and those of the 4the, white hair, green band and plume. Company officers on duty wore the same hats as their men; field officers used the style of cocked hat then in fashion, with the sublegion feather.
This, the uniform worn on parade and the "grand guards," is shown in the plate. On such occasions the hair was carefully dressed and powdered, the white belts were pipe-clayed, and the brass polished until it sparkled—Wayne knew the value of smartness. So garbed, the Legion paraded over the chip-strewn drill yards to impress visiting Indian chiefs and improve its own morale. But, when it left the log stockades and moved out along the Indian war trails, its men were once more garbed in the fringed hunting jacket of the West.CHAPTER 6
PLATE 6. The Regiment of Artillerists, 1812
PARAMOUNT among the "Old Corps" of the Army at the outbreak of the second war with Great Britain was the Regiment of Artillerists. Indeed, it was the oldest corps, descended in direct line from Alexander Hamilton's New York Artillery Company, raised in 1776. Able men like John Doughty, Henry Burbeck, Stephen Rochefontaine, and Louis Toussard had served as its commandants. For many years it had been closely associated with the Corps of Engineers and the new Military Academy at West Point. By 1812, therefore, it was a model for all the elite Volunteer artillery being formed in the larger cities, even to the copying of its uniform and the use of the drill manuals written by its officers.
Artillery of this sort was called "foot artillery," since it served as both infantry and cannoneers. Its iron guns, heavy six- or twelve-pounders, were drawn by hired teams with civilian drivers, the men marching along side. It was slow work and for some time progressive officers had advocated the newer "horse artillery," then being exploited by Napoleon, in which every man was mounted. But not until the alarm occasioned by the "Chesapeake affair" of 1807 was a regiment of this sort authorized, and it was still many, many years before our artillery was permanently and properly mounted.
The Regiment of Artillerists at this time, as befitted their veteran standing, wore the chapeau bras or cocked hat and the long tailed coat reminiscent of the previous century. These are shown on both soldiers in the plate. Other units had by then adopted the shako and short tails, popularized by the French armies and symbolic of the new revolutionary order, but the Artillerists, like Napoleon's Old Guard, retained the more traditional forms. Only the use of buttons instead of hooks and the straight front to the coat are "modern."
Excerpted from SOLDIERS AND UNIFORMS OF THE AMERICAN AARMY 1775â?"1954 by Fritz Kredel. Copyright © 2005 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
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