In the 18th century the British army was home to some of the best-equipped and best-trained troops in the world. At the outbreak of the American Revolution in 1775 there were 8,000 British regulars already stationed in North America. By the end of the war more than 56,000 British and some 29,000 German troops would see service in America and the West Indies – not to mention many thousands of Loyalist troops and Indian allies.
The British regimental uniform was almost universally red and faced with any of various colors, depending on the regiment. Most wore white small clothes and a black cocked hat with their side arms and cartridge pouch on crossed white leather belts. Their primary weapon was the smooth-bore “Brown Bess” musket.
Units are listed chronologically by the period they portray.
Illustrations by Mark Tully, 55th Foot.
A red regimental coat with white facings and the usual white waistcoats and breeches, with white cross belts, mark the 1st Marines in their shore uniforms. Aboard ship they would wear more typical sailors’ clothing called “slops” (see Virginia State Navy).
The primary function of Marines was to maintain shipboard discipline, although in June of 1776 they were aiding in the defense of Boston.
Tall bearskin miter hats, as well as the brass match case on the cartridge box strap and the wings on the shoulders of their coats, are typical to grenadier companies, the elite of the British army. Their coats are red faced blue, their small clothes are the usual white wool, and they wear tall black wool gaiters. Their uniform is in nearly perfect condition and in its idealized form, as it was on their arrival to Boston.
The 4th Grenadiers were at Lexington-Concord, at the outbreak of American Revolution, and were almost wiped-out recapturing Breed’s (Bunker) Hill at Boston.
Green facings on their red coats set the 55th apart in the NWTA. The uniform of the 55th reflects the classic British uniform for service in Europe, as yet not adapted to the rigors of American warfare.
The 55th fought at Long Island, Princeton, Brandywine, and Germantown, before being transferred to the West Indies where it saw heavy action against the French in 1778-1784.
The Guards Grenadiers have the typical grenadier match case and wings on their shoulders, but not the bearskin hat. Their coats are scarlet faced blue and have no lace. They wear white waistcoats and long trousers.
A brigade consists of several regiments acting under the command of a brigadier general, in this case the 1st, 2nd (Coldstream), and 3rd (Scots, pictured) Regiments of Foot Guards. The grouping of buttons on their lapels indicates the regiment.
The Brigade of Guards arrived in America in August of 1776, was captured at Yorktown in 1781, and was eventually released from prison in 1783. At the time portrayed, the Brigade was operating around New York.
The 42nd wear the tall bearskin mitered hat that was common among grenadier units. Their short red coats are faced with blue, signifying a royal regiment. Red and white lace is on the shoulder wings, lapels and cuffs. They wear a belted plaid or kilt and diced hose. The cartridge box is worn at their waist and has a GR and crown on the flap.
The 42nd were active mostly in and around New York state and participated in the battles of New York, Brandywine, Germantown and others.
The green coats and white facings of the New York Volunteers identify them as Loyalists to the British Crown. Five thousand such coats were supplied to the Provincials in spring of 1777, at which time the New York Volunteers were encamped at Kingsbridge, at the north end of Manhattan Island, and actively recruiting from Westchester County and the Hudson Highlands. They eventually became the Third American Regiment, at which time they were issued red coats with blue facings and sent to fight in the Southern Campaign until the end of the war.
Fraiser’s Highlanders wear short red coats faced white, topped by the traditional highlander’s bonnet as they were at the Battle of Brandywine. Trousers were considered more practical than kilts for service in America. Their leather waistbelts with single frogs for bayonet are black, unusual for British troops.
Fraiser’s entered the war in April of 1776 as the largest British regiment that served in the Revolution but suffered enormous casualties before returning to England in late 1783.
In 1771 each British infantry regiment was required to select good men who were quick, agile and accurate marksman to create a company of light infantry. Today they would be known as special forces. They were adaptable in both dress and tactics. Their madder red coat is short and fitted rather than bulky. They wear close fitting gaitered trousers. Their hat has a narrow brim. All these uniform changes allow for unencumbered movement on the march and attack. The recreated unit represents troops during the Philadelphia Campaign; from the Battle of Brandywine (September 11, 1777) to Germantown (October 4, 1777). The 2nd Battalion earned their nickname, the “Bloodhounds,” after their nighttime bayonet attack on Continental General Anthony Wayne’s troops at Paoli.
The English Crown for a number of years been subsidized the armies of several German duchies. Six of these duchies (Hesse-Kassel, Braunswieg-Wolfenbüttel, Hesse-Hanau, Ansbach-Bayreuth, Waldeck & Anhalt-Zerbst) agreed to send troops to America to fight for the Crown in exchange for an agreement to continue the subsidies.
The Brunswick contingent landed in Canada in 1776, and helped drive the Congressional forces out of Canada, then participated in General Burgoyne’s campaign down Lake Champlain and the Hudson River. Rgt Prinz Friederich was one of the units left to garrison Fort Ticonderoga, avoiding surrender at Saratoga.
Rgt Prinz Friederich wears dark blue coats with yellow collar and cuffs, red turn-backs, and white metal buttons. A yellow and white pom-pon tops their cocked hat, identifying them as a Musketier regiment. The regiment was originally equipped with white woolen breeches and black gaiters, but due to the cold and dense undergrowth, they switched to overalls made from blue and white striped mattress ticking.
The Fort St. Joseph Militia wears civilian clothing with a wild mix of French and Indian influences: bright colors, moccasins, wooden shoes, fingerwoven sashes, and decorative silver broaches. Weapons and accouterments also reflect their frontier lifestyle and French heritage.
The militia at Fort St. Joseph, in what is now southwestern Michigan, was not an organized “permanent” militia, but rather a group of civilians acting as militiamen. At the time portrayed, they had joined forces with a detachment of the King’s 8th in an effort to forestall an impending attack on Detroit by George Rogers Clark. The French at Fort St. Joseph were deported to Michilimackinac by Governor Patrick Sinclair in June of 1780.
Dressed in red coats faced blue, white small clothes, tall black gaiters, and black cocked hats trimmed white, the 8th may be seen with their distinctive goatskin knapsacks. Painted canvas knapsacks were common for troops’ personal articles when on the march, but some German and British regiments chose goatskin.
The 8th Regiment covered the widest range of any regular British unit, from Montreal to the Mississippi River and Canada to Kentucky. They served on the frontier with Indians and loyalists from well before the war, 1768, until after the war’s end in 1785.
The light company, shown here, wears a short green jacket faced green, and a leather cap with a silver crescent symbolizing Diana, Goddess of the Hunt. They wear white trousers with spatterdashers, typical of light troops. Their caps sport feathers of white and black, the black worn in mourning for Major Andréwho was captured and hung for his part in Benedict Arnold’s betrayal.
The 1st American Regiment was originally raised during the Seven Years War by Robert Rogers and were better known as Roger’s Rangers. They were re-raised by Rogers in 1776 and served to 1784. Today they are part of the Canadian Army as the Queen’s York Rangers, 1st American Regiment.
Campeau’s company wears a variety of civilian clothing that shows their frontier lifestyle and French heritage. Weapons and accouterments are also civilian in nature and vary greatly.
The Saint Anne militia was comprised of men raised along the Detroit River Region. Captain Bird led a British expedition into Kentucky that was supported by the local militia – including Campeau’s Company – and native Americans. The expedition resulted in the capture of Ruddle’s and Martin’s stations.
The 84th, in their government plaid and short red coats faced blue, look very much like the 42nd. Their blue highland bonnet, the style of lace on their lapels and cuffs, and the absence of shoulder wings are the primary differences. They wear white small clothes and a cartridge box and bayonet on their waist belt.
The 84th was the only highland regiment to be raised outside of Scotland. It was formed in 1775 from the families of the 42nd, 77th and 78th Highlanders, who had settled in Canada after the seven years war. Scottish emigrants from New York and North Carolina were also recruited.
Leather helmets and green regimentals faced red distinguish this notorious loyalist frontier regiment. Their waistcoats are also green, and their leg and footwear reflect the personal tastes and frontier experiences of the individual soldier. Butler’s preferred white neckwear over the more common black military stock.
Based at Fort Niagara, Butler’s Rangers terrorized the patriots of the northern frontier for the duration of the war.
The regiment’s formation dates back to Wolfe’s victory at Quebec in 1759. At the breakout of hostilities, in 1775, the high character of the regiment occasioned it to be the first cavalry corps selected to proceed across the Atlantic, landing at Boston on the 24th of May. The regiment participated in fighting outside New York and succeeded in capturing American General Sullivan. It then took part in forcing the American evacuation of New York. The troop wears scarlet regimentals with 3-inch white lapels, white collar and cuffs. Their distinctive cavalry helmet is black leather with a white turban at the base; the plume and crest being scarlet and white. The helmet bears the death’s head (skull and crossbones) as does the regimental standard (flag) which also has the motto “Or Glory.”