by Mark Tully
This is a question many a Continental re-enactor has been heard to utter I even uttered it myself a few times back when I was in the 6th Virginia regiment. In fact, I once even engaged in wild speculation on the subject: "Maybe the British troops don't want to soil their pristine white small cloths? Maybe they think they're better than the Continentals? Maybe they all have bad knees? Maybe they're afraid if they fall down they won't be able to get back up?" &c, &c.
I have since switched over to "the dark side", and now that I have a few years of playing redcoat under my bayonet belt I feel that it is time that the truth was told. The reason the British troops never fall down is simple: bullet-proof waistcoats.
You may laugh, but it's true AND documentable. From Serjeant. Lamb's writings we have the following:
"27 May 1775. Some of the porpoises of the River St. Lawrence, are said to yield a hogshead of oil, and of their skins are made waistcoats, which are exceeding strong, and musket proof (p 71)."
Since it is not politically correct to make waistcoats out of slaughtered porpoises these days (and to help cut down on the smell), we British re-enactors only pretend to have bullet-proof waistcoats they're really made of ordinary linen or wool like everyone else's. Yep, bullet-proof waistcoats yet another reason to keep those muskets elevated (aim for the head)!
SOURCE: An Original and Authentic Journal of Occurances during the late American War from its commencement to the year 1783, by R. Lamb Late Serjeant in the Royal Welch Fuzileers, 1809 (Arno Press Reprint, 1968). Sorry, I couldn't find any documentation for porpoise-skin piercing bullets.