When war finally broke out, the Colonists had no disciplined army that could match the British in open battle and very little military equipment. Militia regiments, despite generally large numbers, were rarely well trained and were usually only active within their own state boundaries. In 1775, Congress appointed George Washington Commander-in-Chief and the difficult task of putting together a regular army was begun.
Regiments were raised and equipped by individual states for Continental service, and color, style and condition of clothing and accouterments was anything but uniform. In 1779 Washington ordered all Continental troops to be outfitted with blue regimentals, faced with different colors to indicate the unit’ s origin. This order was carried out with moderate success.
Units are listed chronologically by the period they portray.
Illustrations by Mark Tully, 55th Foot.
This unit wears mostly civilian dress common along the Pennsylvania frontier fringed hunting shirts, leggings, moccasins, slouched hat and a variety of arms and accouterments.
The 90-man company was raised in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania in June of 1775 in response to an appeal from Congress for rifle companies to aid in the siege of Boston. In September of 1775, Hendricks’ Company accompanied Benedict Arnold’s expedition to Quebec, where Hendricks was killed and all but 18 men from his company were captured.
Short gray regimental coats faced green illustrate one of the earliest uniforms of the Continental Army. Like many other early rebel units, the soldiers of the 3rd New York supplement their incomplete military issue with civilian items and surplus from the earlier war with France.
The 3rd New York served with Montgomery and Arnold on their unsuccessful campaign against Quebec in the winter of 1775-1776 and were mustered out of service in April 1776. The regiment was re-raised in 1776 and again in 1777.
Green fringed hunting shirts with ” Liberty or Death” across the chest make this unit instantly recognizable. Blue wool leggings and various civilian clothing completes their uniform and reflects the rural counties where they were raised. Their weapons are civilian as well, mostly rifles.
The Culpeper minute battalion was raised in Culpeper, Orange, and Fanquier counties in Virginia. They saw action at Hampton, Virginia and the battle of Great Bridge.
Dark blue coats with buff facings, buff waistcoats and leather breeches mark Hamilton’s artillery. Raised by the State of New York for the defense of New York City, they are unusually well uniformed, partly out of the pocket of their captain, the young Alexander Hamilton, later to become the first U.S. Secretary of the Treasury.
Hamilton’s Artillery is the only U.S. military unit of any type to have an unbroken line of service from the war of the Revolution to the present.
Short, very loose pants called ” slops” and small hats, tarred for weatherproofing, were common, sensible clothing for sailors, no uniforms having yet been developed. The Virginia Navy wears red waistcoats as a sort of uniform article. The officers wear blue faced red, styled after the British naval officers’ uniform of the day.
The Congressional navy was woefully inadequate, and depended heavily on state supported navies and privateers operating under a Congressional ” Letter of Marque and Reprisal” for coastal defense. Children as young as six years old served aboard ships as powder monkeys and cabin boys.
A moss green coat faced white, and a black round hat trimmed white mark the Continental Marines. Their small clothes are white and there is a green stripe on the seam of their breeches. They also wear tall black gaiters. Dean’ s Company was raised late in 1775, fought as line troops in the second battle of Trenton, served with the artillery, but never saw service aboard a ship. Dean resigned his commission in July of 1777.
The British supplied arms, munitions, as well as occasional British regular troops and officers, to the Natives who launched attacks against the fledgling frontier settlements. By 1777, settlements in Kentucky had been reduced to Boonesboro, Harrodsburg, and Logan’s Fort- and only some 500 colonists. During March of 1777, the Company successfully defended Logan’s Fort against severe Indian attacks.
Logan sent a detachment to reinforce Boonesboro for the Siege in 1778. Some men of fought with Joseph Bowman in 1779 against the Indian town of Chillicothe, and Logan led his men with George Rogers Clark at the battle of Picaway, in August 1780. The men also saw service as “Over Mountain Men”, at the turning-point battle of Kings Mountain , S.C. The men wear traditional garments of the civilian frontier.
The 1st Regiment of Light Dragoons, 5th Troop, (Virginia Light Horse) was raised in 1776 by Theodorick Bland and Captained by “Light Horse Harry” Lee. Thirty men joined Washington in New Jersey in December of 1776. Under Lee they were very successful in the early years of the war, highly praised by Washington and local press for their meritorious service. They served as Washington’s bodyguard in the Battle of Germantown.
Uniforms were blue wool regimental coats with red facings, red wool waistcoats, white leather breeches and leather high top boots. For head protection they wore black leather helmets with vertical shields and white horsehair crests.
The 4th Massachusetts Regiment also known as 3rd Continental Regiment was raised on April 23, 1775 under Colonel Ebenezer Learned outside of Boston, Massachusetts. The regiment would see action at the Battle of Bunker Hill, New York Campaign, Battle of Trenton, Battle of Princeton, Battle of Saratoga, Battle of Monmouth and the Battle of Rhode Island. Their regimental uniforms were blue faced white with the musicians wearing the reverse colors of white faced blue.
Raised in frontier Virginia for the defense of Virginia’s claimed Illinois Territory, Bowman’s Company served without uniforms. Their civilian clothing reflects the rigors of frontier life, and the ingenuity of early frontier people. Their service took them west to capture and garrison Cahokia on the Mississippi River, then on with George Rogers Clark to capture Vincennes.
A visored leather helmet with a bearskin crest and green turban, tall boots and a red waistcoat make the 4th Continental Dragoons easy to identify. They may be seen in either their green regimental coat with red facings or fringed frock coats of various colors. Formed in 1777, the regiment served throughout the entire war.
Raised primarily in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia, they served in both the northern and southern campaigns. They had both mounted and dismounted troops.
Kellar’ s company wears short, blue coats faced white, white small clothes, and black cocked hats. Note the tri-colored alliance cockade – black for the Continental Congress, white for France, and red for Spain. Kellar’ s carry a variety of arms and accouterments, some of Spanish origins. Kellar’ s Company saw service at Vincennes and the company was garrisoned there through the winter of 1779-1780. Abraham Kellar resigned his commission in 1781.
Greg Hudson, Unit Commander email@example.com
Jon Andrews, Paymaster firstname.lastname@example.org
Elyon Davis, Recruiting Officer email@example.com
Host unit of Locust Grove Market Fair
Five to eight musicians in dark yellow coats faced red, with black cocked hats trimmed yellow, form the Band of Musick. Their coats are British musicians’ coats, captured with a supply ship full of uniforms bound for the British army in America. As part of its effort to uniform the army, captured British uniforms were often used by the patriot forces.
Regimental Musicians typically wore their regiment’ s coat and facing colors reversed. This officer’ s band of two oboes, two clarinets, two horns, and two bassoons played for military ceremonies, dinners, and dances. These musicians were all promoted to sergeant in May 1780.
Worthington’ s wear short blue coats faced white, cocked hats bound white, and carry a variety of weapons and accouterments, many of which were provided by the Spanish. On their hats they wear a black cockade common to Congressional forces. Raised in 1778 of eastern farmers, Ohio Valley long hunters and French from the Illinois country, Worthington’ s were with Clark at Vincennes and saw action against Indians and French militia as well.
They fought in the engagement around St. Louis and Cahokia in late spring of 1780, and in October of that year, they were at the mouth of the Ohio on the Mississippi River defending Fort Jefferson against Chickasaw Indians.
Powder blue regimentals with yellow facings and very tall gaiters distinguish this ally of the rebel cause. The coat is long with short lapels and large pocket flaps, indications of the French origin of Lauzun’s Legion. They carry canteens made from gourds. The importance of the French contribution to American independence cannot be overstated.
After Burgoyne’s defeat in October of 1777, previously half-hearted support became generous, with major supplies of uniforms, weapons, troops, and even ships. The surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown, the climactic battle of the American Revolution, could not have been won without the aid of both the French army and navy.
Lauzun’ s Legion defeated Tarleton at Gloucester Point, across the Chesapeake Bay from Yorktown, and thereby closed a possible escape route for the British Army.
The 2nd Virginia wears the standard uniform from the 1779 regulations for the Southern Division – blue faced red with white turnbacks, waistcoats and overalls. Their hats are black light infantry helmets, bound white. The 2nd was formed in the fall of 1775 and served from New York to Georgia for the duration of the war.
Dark blue regimentals faced buff with brass buttons, red waistcoats and gaitered trousers mark Washington’s Lifeguard. Their cocked hats are bound in white with the alliance cockade of black and white silk. All their clothes are in unusually good condition. The officer pictured here has a gorget at his breast, a red silk sash and a silver epaulet on his left shoulder, all symbols of rank, in this case a lieutenant. He also carries a spontoon.
The Commander in Chief’s Guard was formed March 12, 1776 at Cambridge Massachusetts, during the siege of Boston. It served as General Washington’s personal bodyguard, and as a training vehicle for the entire Continental army until June 6, 1783 when it’s duties were taken up by members of the New Hampshire Line.
Raised in the Piedmont counties of Virginia in 1777 as the 14th Vriginia Reg’t and was assigned to Weeden’s Bgd. of the Main Army. Assigned to Muhlenberg’s Bgd. as the 10th Virginia in Sept. 1778 with Wm. Davies as Colonel. Captured at Charleston in 1780. Uniform included a cocked hat with black lace and cockade. Issued a blue faced red French lottery coat, with white small clothes. Virginia stores also issued red flannel or serge weskits and blue or green broadcloth breeches. A Von Steuben IG report from May 1779 states: Arms and Accouterments in good order, clothing “very bad”, but in the best order and discipline possible.
Holder’s Co’y wears civilian clothes common in the harsh frontier wilderness: moccasins, breechclout, leggings, hunting shirt, and round hat, etc. John Holder was a militia leader from 1777-1782 in Virginia’s Kentucky frontier counties. His company defended the settlement of Boonesborough and marched against the Indians north of the Ohio with Joseph Bowman and George Rogers Clark. Service was often mandatory–usually 40 days or until they returned—and the men were paid in either specie or plunder.
After heavy combat at Ft. Mifflin and Germantown in the fall of 1777, Fitch’s Company endures the winter at Valley Forge with the death of six men and only 20 of 44 men fit for duty by April of 1778. They spend the spring of 1778 cleaning and repairing clothing and equipment, with donations of civilian clothing from their neighbors in Connecticut. They have just learned Von Steuben’s new “German Exercise” and are in a high state of discipline and morale. The regiment fights well at Monmouth in June 1778. The 4th Connecticut soldiers wear linen overalls and a variety of waistcoats and jackets. A few men may wear hunting shirts, but most are still wearing the dark brown regimental coats with red facings and plain buttons that the State of Connecticut gave them in 1777.
In 1779, Washington gave general orders for many of the regiments in the Continental Line to each form a light infantry company. These companies joined to create the Light Infantry Corp under General Anthony Wayne and participated in the July 16th midnight storming of Stony Point. They attacked the fort with bayonets only, gunfire being expressly forbidden, and wore white paper in their hats to recognize each other. The assault included Captain Jacob Ashmead with a company of light infantrymen from the 2nd Pennsylvania Regiment. Ashmead’s Company wore the French royal blue “Lottery” coats, with red facings, white turnbacks, and pewter buttons. Their light infantry caps included a black hair cockade. Because the men were recruited from different companies of the regiment, the rest of their clothing, accoutrements, and firearms varied.
The Continental frigate Boston was a 24-gun frigate, launched in Newburyport, MA in June of 1776, completed in 1777. Known as the most successful and longest serving ship in the Continental Navy, Boston captured more prizes than any other American vessel of the war. In 1778, commanded by Capt. Samuel Tucker, Boston carried John Adams to France. While there, she cruised European waters taking at least four prizes before returning to Portsmouth, NH. In 1779, she made two cruises in the North Atlantic capturing nine ships. In early 1780, Boston accompanied the American Squadron tasked with defending Charleston, SC, from British invasion. For a brief period, the guns from Boston were brought ashore and used in stationary batteries. When the city fell, in May 1780, Boston was handed over to the British. Renamed the HMS Charlestown, she would go on to serve with the British for another year in the North Atlantic before being assigned to escort merchant convoys to Canada from Britain. There she participated in the Battle of Louisburg (1781) where she narrowly escaped French capture and was laid up in Halifax for the rest of the year. She was sold out of British service in 1783. In its later years, the US Navy retroactively applied the “USS” designation to all Continental Navy ships, making USS Boston one of seven ships to bear that name.