The Re-created King’s Royal Yorkers – Uniform Research
By Gavin K. Watt
The articles that follow provide some great information about our interpretation of the KRRNY. Since Gavin founded the unit in 1975, substantial documentation about the KRR and its campaigns has continued to be found and assimilated into our presentation of the recreated regiment.
Uniform research has been the most exciting topic in recent months but we are also finding some amazing information about the role of women in and around the regiment. Although we have long suspected that the Regiment must have had women formally assigned to them (working for and being provisioned through their attachment to the Yorkers) we have never before found incontrovertible evidence that there were Yorker women on the ration. Distaff Serjeant Nancy Watt will be updating her Distaff page to reflect new findings, so watch the website in coming months for more about both of these subjects.
In the text that follows is:
An INTRODUCTION to the regimental research by Allan Joyner, Captain of Duncan’s company
A TREATISE on the history of our uniform research by Gavin K. Watt the regiment’s founder
And finally, an ARTICLE contributed by the renowned American historian, James Kochan, wherein he lays out his extensive personal research on the Northern, or Canadian, Army and specifically the Royal Yorkers.
One of the most amazing things about re-enacting the American Revolution is the constantly growing body of information about the period and particularly about the armies engaged in the fighting. From the earliest days of our hobby the regiments that have filled the ranks of groups like the Brigade of the American Revolution (founded in 1962) attracted people with a dogged thirst for knowledge about what we attempt to portray. Fortunately for us all, that thirst has fueled thousands upon thousands of “person years” of original research by the slowly but constantly growing number of the highly accomplished amateur historians in our midst.
A good example of this is Gavin Watt’s primary source research for his books on the regiment and its campaigns. Informative, accurate and praised as fair by devotees of all sides in the conflict, they are more than worthy of publication and certainly add tremendously to the body of accurate information about the era.
Those of us who have been in the Yorkers since the mid 1970s have been fortunate to see an amazing growth in the collection of research material available to us. When the Royal Yorkers were recreated in 1975, there was a general body of information about how the Crown and its allies dressed, fought and lived from day to day. By today’s more demanding standards, it was a generic kind of impression that encompassed the standard military works of the late 18th Century combined with information drawn from weapons’ and artifacts’ collections, all sweetened with a dollop of romantic folk history. The rich detail of the various phases of the revolution and the unique character of the different theatres of operation in the Americas had yet to be revealed.
Thanks to Gavin and other serving and former members of the regiment such as Ed Anderson, Bill Severin and John Houlding, the KRR has always been at the forefront of implementing new information. For example, our tactical skills have been the envy of our enemies and many of our friends! These have evolved a great deal over the years. In just the last two seasons, Christian Cameron, of the Company of Select Marksmen, has combined information collected from archives in England and North America with books, treatises and reports turned up by many of our friends in the hobby to virtually revolutionize our view of the tactical training and performance of the Crown forces engaged in the fighting, particularly in our Northern area of operations. And, early in 2005, John Houlding introduced the regiment to a superb study of British Revolutionary War tactics written by Matthew Spring, which we hope will soon be available to the wider world in a upcoming publication. Matt kindly shared his thesis and we immediately introduced new tactical procedures to our troops.
Recently, another flood of highly detailed and comprehensive research has come to our attention about the equipping of the Crown Army in Canada during the early years of the Revolution. Typical of all research projects, much of what has been found cannot be considered ‘new,’ but the researcher’s skillful threading of the various pieces together has led to some fresh conclusions.
James L. Kochan, a renowned American historian, collector and author, conducted his research over some twenty years. His findings encompass the British, German, Provincial (Loyalist) and Canadian regiments and independent companies that composed the ‘Canadian’ army, which served first under Carleton, then Burgoyne and thereafter Haldimand.
As the Royal Yorkers’ 1st battalion was an important element of the “Canadian” Army, many of Jim’s findings are fascinating. The details have exciting implications for our current interpretation. Jim has kindly supplied us with an annotatedARTICLE for our website complete with a painting prepared to his specifications by the famous military artist, Don Troiani.
To put these new details into perspective, a history lesson about the recreated King’s Royal Yorkers is helpful.
Our 1st battalion portrayal is meant to represent the regiment in the years 1776 to 1779, the years that span the Royal Yorkers’ first clothing period. Our 1975 research regarding the regiment’s uniform, arms and accoutrements began with the assistance of William Wigham, inspector of the Brigade of the American Revolution, and William McMillen, the deputy inspector, a professional historian who himself portrayed a loyalist militiaman from Staten Island, NY.1 We began our research in the spring of 1975 with the looming deadline of our first event in Quebec City in the early fall that would commemorate the 200th anniversary of the American invasion.2 We were eager to get on with obtaining our uniforms and kit, but we found it frustrating how very little information could be found about the original KRR NY.
In those early years, conventional wisdom was that the Royal Yorkers had green coats, although there was no clear opinion on the shade. When it came to the coats’ facing colour, no one had a solid handle on it. Several suggestions were made – red, white, buff and even as bizarre as orange; however, we could find no firm proof. According to many published sources, there was no question about coat length – all British line infantry wore the full-length coat. We had been told that Burgoyne’s 1777 army had been ordered to shorten their coats and convert their hats to caps, similar to Abercrombie’s army in 1758, but we couldn’t find the source for that information. As well, at the time, we weren’t positive that the Royal Yorkers were considered an integral part of Burgoyne’s army, as they served under St. Leger in western New York on the Mohawk River. Sir John Johnson’s Orderly Book was of no assistance in either regard, as it contained no orders from Burgoyne and no mention of shortened coats or cut-down hats.3
Consequently, we worked with what we knew. First was the extant 2nd battalion, KRR coatee of Lieutenant Jeremiah French from the second clothing period (1779-1784,) which mounted the blue facings of a Royal regiment.4 Second, reinforcing the evidence of the French coat, was the James Peachey painting5 of 1st battalion troops settling at New Johnstown (Cornwall) in 1784 in which many blue-faced coats were in evidence. Third, the KRR was designated as “Royal” in Sir John’s initial beating warrant of June 19, 17766 and, as Sir John was said to be the second richest man in North America, he could obviously afford to purchase what he wished. He would have been aware that “Royal” regiments wore blue facings as a distinction.7 Fourth, shortly after receiving the warrant, Sir John requested the same bounty that had been enjoyed by Colonel Maclean when he raised the Royal Highland Emigrants the year before; however, he was advised that the King expected him to meet the expenses on his own account.8 These four pieces of evidence were primary, albeit not all pertaining directly to the first clothing period.
Recognizing that the Crown had thrown the burden of costs upon Sir John and that the regiment had been awarded the “Royal” prefix, it seemed probable that Johnson would have exercised the prerogative of having blue facings. We reasoned that, even if Johnson was issued coats with facings of a different colour, he could have had these changed to blue in Montreal.9 Weighing up these factors, we concluded that Sir John had in some manner obtained royal blue facings for his corps from its very inception.
The other decisions were easier. We consulted a variety of published works, both obvious and obscure, and accepted the conventional wisdom of the experts. The BAR inspector recommended that we use the standard Royal Provincial (RP) pattern pewter buttons on our coats and waistcoats and offered the opinion that the button design ciphered to the King’s Royal Regiment of New York would have been from the later war, i.e. the second clothing period, 1779-84. A highly regarded published source, “History Written with Pick and Shovel,” advised that RP buttons were found in a great many Revolutionary War campsites and that they were “the standard stock buttons for the Loyalist corps, and particularly of those regiments of which no special distinctive buttons have appeared… and were universally adopted for the incipient corps.”10 We were persuaded that the RP design would have been used in the early days of the regiment.
Our sources indicated that all but a very few British regiments wore white small clothes, so we chose white woollen waistcoats and breeches,11 as recommended by the BAR Inspector. We were advised that soldiers wore buckled shoes with breeches, and we followed suit. British infantry often wore black, canvas ‘spatterdash’ gaiters over their shoes to keep out stones and dirt, but we opted instead for a calf-high, buttoned-up canvas type as shown in George Woodbridge’s drawing of a Royal Yorker hatman.12Woodbridge was the commanding officer of the Brigade of the American Revolution and a superb artist and historian.
For accoutrements, we followed conventional wisdom and chose buff leather waistbelts and 36-hole cartridge pouches carried over the left shoulder on a buff leather,13 brass-buckled sling. Over the right shoulder, we wore a tinned canteen and haversack. Like many new reenactors, we became a trifle adventurous and decided that the Royal Yorkers, because of their campaigning through the wilds of upstate New York, would have worn a double-frog waistbelt to carry both a belt-axe (tomahawk) and a bayonet.
We determined that British line infantryman wore a three-cornered, cocked hat edged in white mohair tape with a black cockade in compliance with the King’s Warrant of 1768. Again, accepting Woodbridge’s research for his Royal Yorker drawing, we put sprigs of pine behind our cockades as a particular distinction.
As to flintlock arms, there were only three choices. Two reproductions of the period were widely available, Short Land muskets manufactured either in Italy or Japan. We accepted these, although over the years, a handful of members took the third option and carried original muskets.
The BAR readily approved our conclusions, so we purchased muskets and the accoutrements that we were unable to make ourselves. BAR patterns had been sent for waistbelts and pouch and musket slings. One of our members who managed a leather factory conducted a series of experiments to match samples of buff leather that we had obtained. After a few attempts, he produced an excellent facsimile and a small production run was produced, from which we made our slings and belts. For our uniforms, we contracted with one of Canada’s foremost military tailors, who had substantial experience producing historical wear. We launched our project at Quebec City to the welcome accolades of fellow reenactors.
About a year later, we accepted canvas gaitered trousers, commonly called overalls, as an alternate to breeches. These were recognized as a common uniform item of the period and Cruikshank’s history indicated that the regiment had them on issue. Following accepted BAR practice, we wore black garters under the knees.
In 1977, a 1777 painting by Friedrich von Germann, a German officer stationed in Canada, of a British soldier at Quebec came to our attention. The man was wearing a type of overcoat, often called a capote, made from white blankets with a blue stripe. With considerable help from professional historians, we developed a pattern, bought a number of Army surplus blankets, dyed twill tape blue to trim the raw edges and became the first unit in reenactment to sport this wonderful accessory.14
At the same time, von Germann’s painting of a Royal Artilleryman was examined and the man’s short jacket and cut-down cap were considered strange oddities. We reasoned that a jacket and cap made sense for artillerymen, as serving the guns was an arduous activity. Strangely, the many other von Germann paintings of British, German, Canadian and Provincial soldiers in Canada were missed, and not only by us!
Not too far along, we abandoned the wearing of pine sprigs in our hats, as it was far more convenient to simply use some weed, flower or feather as an adornment. Several years later in keeping with the historic song – “stuck a feather in his hat and called it macaroni” -the hat company adopted the wearing of partridge feathers as a distinction, a practice begun in the Ottawa-based “Centre Section” at the encouragement of Sjt Robert Anglin.
After about five years of operation, the wearing of garters over gaitered trousers became widely disparaged throughout the hobby, as not a single ‘original’ painting of the period justified it. The BAR made a ruling that the practice should stop forthwith and the recreated KRR immediately conformed. About the same time, the hat company gave up carrying tomahawks, leaving that distinction to the flank companies.
Over the next ten years, waves of criticism abounded across the hobby about the BAR’s pattern for the 36-hole cartridge pouch, known derisively as “the suitcase.” Long before The Brigade officially de-listed “the suitcase,” we received advice regarding primary research that revealed three, original Revolutionary War patterns. Initially, we accepted all three and ultimately settled on the “Rawle-type” as our standard.
Beginning in 1977, we created additional subunits and found that each presented interpretation challenges. We knew from Sir John’s 1777 Orderly Book (a transcript of a primary source,) that the Light Infantry wore wings on their shoulders.15 We chose a wing pattern from our usual array of published sources. We readily determined that all light infantry wore coatees and adopted that style. As we were unable to find proof for the exact style of headwear worn by the original KRR Lights, our first choice was a cut-down, felt cap similar to that worn in the Seven Years’ War by rangers. After a few years, the cap was abandoned for the more practical round hat, in keeping with the Peachey painting of 1784. In 2002, decisions were made to convert the Light company to black leather accoutrements and to adopt the 1771 pattern Light Infantry waistcoat in green cloth, both of which distinctions were observed in many original paintings. Further, it was decided to revert to a cut-down felt cap matching closely the pattern worn by three Regular regiments that served in America – the Guards in the Central and Southern Department, the 9th Foot in the Northern Department and the 18th Foot in the Northwest. We added a red horsehair plume for reasons which will be seen later.
We found making decisions about uniform details for the Grenadier Company more difficult. We accepted the same design of shoulder wing as the Lights with the addition of an epaulette of plain green cloth. As headwear; we concluded that the tall bearskin cap worn by so many Grenadier reenactors of British Regular regiments was too impractical in the woods and chose the cocked hat of the line companies, at first embellished with a white ostrich feather. For a brief period, our Grenadiers wore buttoned, over-the-knee brown woollen gaiters and carried hangers in the second frog of their waistbelts, which they suspended over the shoulder rather than ’round the waist. There was no firm proof for either of these distinctions, but it was known that some units had worn these items and the slinging of waistbelts was a recognized early practice before shoulder carriages were adopted. After a few years, our Grenadiers abandoned the woollen gaiters as less than useful and the hangers were replaced with belt axes. As an alternate to black, horsehair neckstocks, some hatmen and Lights were wearing neck rollers, an acceptable alternative for the KRR according to transcripts of primary documents.16 As a further company distinction, the Grenadiers decided to wear white linen neck rollers. For a few years, they wore a pewter Grenadier’s bomb on the back cock of their hats. In 1995, in keeping with their flank company role, they decided to cut their coats to jackets and wear slouch hats adorned with a swatch of black bearskin, in keeping with their flank company role, retaining their cocked hats for ceremonial occasions.
For our artillery crew, we noted that many men had been transferred from different companies to serve the guns on the 1777 campaign and we concluded that the uniforms of any of the companies would be acceptable.
As a Royal regiment, we knew from the King’s Warrant that our drummers would not have worn reversed coat colours. Our first two Drums’ coats were simple affairs, decorated with plain, white lace in chevrons down the length of the arms. In 1979, we gained a substantial number of drummer recruits and our newly appointed (first) Drum Major decided we should copy an extant, full-length Guards’ coat in the National Army Museum collection17 with its very elaborate lacing pattern. We modified the lace around the buttonholes from the Guards’ bastion pattern to simple rectangles and used plain, white lace throughout. The Guards’ coat did not have ‘working’ facings and was un-lined and we copied those features. We decided that our Drummers would wear cocked hats, unless representing the Light Company, in which case, caps or slouch hats with a coatee were acceptable.
A separate section of this website is devoted to our research regarding the design of our set of Colours.
As to our Non-Commissioned and Commissioned officers – the Serjeant Major’s and Drum Major’s coats, which feature silver lacing, were copied from a 1771 Minorca painting of the 25th of Foot.18 Our Serjeants’ buttonholes are outlined with plain white mohair lace and they wear a red, waist sash with a central stripe of the facing colour; both features as directed in the King’s Clothing Warrant of 1768. On campaign, the Serjeants carry either a musket or carbine and bayonet and, at other times, a halberd. They wear a hanger in their waistbelts or shoulder carriages. Our Corporals wear a white knot on their right shoulder as the only form of rank distinction, as per the 1768 warrant; otherwise their uniforms and arms are the same as privates.
Commissioned officers of all companies are recognized by a crimson ‘silk’ sash worn around their waists. All officers wear swords suspended by a shoulder carriage with a silver sword belt plate, which duplicates an extant example worn by Captain John McKenzie, KRR NY.19 The ¼” silver lace around the officers’ coat buttons matches that of French’s coatee. Hat company officers wear a single epaulette of silver lace on their right shoulder, as mandated in the 1768 warrant. As no record of the design of a first clothing period epaulette could be found, that found on French’s jacket was copied. Grenadier and Light Infantry officers wear epaulettes on both shoulders as per the 1768 warrant, the design of which was copied from a 1781 painting of a Light Company officer of the 10th Foot.
We quickly recognized that the most contentious of all of our decisions was the choice of blue facings. Almost from our launch in 1975, there were persistent suggestions that the regiment wore red facings, although no one was able to offer any firm proof. To further investigate this contention, we obtained inventory records of the various public depots in Quebec Province for 1778-79.20These records noted that “green” Canadian Provincial/Militia and other types of Provincial clothing were in storage. An October 1779 return defined the Provincial clothing in stores as red faced blue; blue faced white and brown. As well, casks of red and green facings were stored, as was “fine” buff, green, and scarlet woollen cloth. There was no indication of what regiments or companies were issued this clothing.
In 1994, the New York researcher, author and reenactor, Jim Morrison, shared an account from Jeptha Simms’ “Frontiersmen of New York”21 in which a recruiting serjeant of the Royal Yorkers was described by a rebel prisoner in 1778 as wearing a cap with red horsehair hanging down one side and a green coat with red facings. The man who gave this recollection was likely in his 40’s in 1778 and it was half a century later when he told the story to Simms. Was his account to be trusted? Well, it could not be ignored, but in comparison to a primary document or a contemporary officer’s written observation, it held much less weight. We concluded that more information was required and kept looking. Nonetheless, this account shook our confidence, as our research had shown that the recruiting serjeant, Nicholas Hillyard, was not a Light Infantryman. So, why was he wearing a cap? Was it to look jaunty and alluring to recruits? Or, did all men in the KRR NY wear caps? So, we went part way and, when we re-equipped the Light Infantry, we adopted the cap described in Simms.
In the mid-90’s, at our request, Ken Cameron, a noted researcher visiting the UK, examined the archival material of John Blackburn, Sir John’s British agent, looking for evidence related to the first clothing period. While he determined that Sir John and his father had utilized Blackburn’s services for over a decade before the Revolution, nothing was discovered about 1776-1779.
In 2002, we examined a return of small arms issued between 1775-77 from the various Quebec depots which revealed that a very substantial number of French arms left over from 1760 were on hand as well as a large supply of British Land Pattern firelocks. A number of British and Canadien regiments were noted as receiving supplies of British and French arms, as well as ships and military posts. Enough French pattern weapons were issued to equip two companies of the Royal Highland Emigrants; however, there was no mention of what arms, if any, were issued to the 300+ men of the Royal Yorkers. This again pointed to the fact that Sir John had been expected to equip his own corps. Did he purchase arms salvaged from the defeated American Continentals? Did he purchase them from independent suppliers in Montreal? We were left to wonder and speculate.
So, there is the history of the development and evolution of our clothing in the recreated 1st Battalion. It’s always been based on the best possible factual information that we could gather and analyze.
Over thirty years, the recreated 1st battalion, Royal Yorkers has been unusually successful in recruiting; three hundred and ninety-five men have served in the ranks. The unit grew from representing a single company to three and added an artillery section, a Colour party and a corps of drums. In some ways, success is a terrible enemy. As the unit grew in numbers, making changes to our uniforms and accoutrements has become increasingly impractical.
In 2004, the Royal Yorkers have a Staff of four; six Commissioned officers with the three companies; six Artillerists; seven Drummers; nine Grenadiers; eighteen Light Infanteers and forty-six hatmen for a total of ninety-six troops. Ignoring the sheer cost of making changes, the logistical problems of doing so are immense, as the membership is spread across Ontario and into New York and Quebec. Understandably, for major changes to be accepted, the members require substantial, virtually irrefutable, proof.
The material that follows will certainly add to that pool of information. As the information that follows is Jim Kochan’s interpretation of primary source material (i.e.: original historical documents), it should be viewed with care. There is no one piece of evidence that supports or refutes our own current impression of the clothing of the KRR and like ourselves, Mr. Kochin has been forced to make educated guesses about how his evidence pieces together in order to draw his personal conclusions.
Our current interpretation of the regiment is built on exactly the same kind of ground and we are very excited to have such a large body of new evidence to analyze and interpret for the recreated King’s Royal Yorkers.
1. Correspondence – Watt to Robert E. Mulligan, BAR Adjutant, dated 1Mar75 applying for membership. Watt to William M. Wigham, BAR Inspector, dated 8Apr75 providing research details for the uniforms and accoutrements of the KRR NY and requesting comments and assistance. Wigham to Watt, dated 21Apr75 approving some details and offering suggestions. Wm McMillen, Deputy Brigade Inspector to Watt, dated 6May75 adding more information. McMillen commanded the recreated Billop’s Corps, Staten Island Militia. Over the past fifteen years or so, Bill Wigham has been recreating Peters’ Queen’s Loyal Rangers, one of Burgoyne’s loyalist corps.
2. The 200th Anniversary of the American siege of Quebec City was commemorated on the Plains of Abraham on 4Oct75. As ‘newbies’, we did not recognize at the time just how far Parks Canada had reached out to obtain a large number of reenactors. Two of the largest British units portrayed were the 10th Regiment and the 64th Regiment, both of which had been established at least five years before. To represent the Quebec City Regiment of Canadien Militia, a large body of Les Companies Franches de la Marine from the Seven Years War appeared in small clothes only. Another large body of men was outfitted as Highland militia and was drawn from eastern Ontario and Quebec. Many of these fellows later founded the recreated 1st Battalion, 84th Regt, Royal Highland Emigrants. Another large group portrayed independent Quebec Militia; many of these fellows later recreated Jessup’s King’s Loyal Americans.
6. Carleton to Germain, 8Jul76 found in NAC, WO42/35 (Q12), 102. This letter gives the reasons for issuing the beating order and details of its content. See also, Carleton to Barrington, 8Jul76, ibid.
7. “His Majesty’s Warrant for the regulation of the Colours, Clothing, etc. of the Marching Regiments of Foot, 19Dec68” as found in Hew Strachan, British Military Uniforms 1768-96, The Dress of the British Army from Official Sources (London: Arms and Armour Press, 1975) 171-87.
8. Ernest Cruikshank, King’s Royal Regiment of New York (Toronto: Ontario Historical Society, 1931) 9&10, or Cruikshank & Gavin K. Watt, King’s Royal Regiment of New York with the additions of an Index, Appendices and a Master Muster Roll (Toronto: Gavin K. Watt, 1984) 10&11.
9. This idea was not as wild a fantasy as it might seem. We had determined that Major James Gray, 1KRR NY, had been ordered by Governor Carleton early in 1777 to “cloath Jessup’s men” as the Royal Reg’t of New York, or buy them some cheap uniform cloathing to keep them from the severity of the weather.” Gray later reported the he had provided “the cheapest that could be got, at Montreal, very Common Red stuff turn’d up with Green as Red seemed to be their favourite colour, and being got rather cheaper that any other I gratified their taste.” See, Carleton to Phillips, Quebec 29Nov76 cited in Lieutenant James M. Hadden, A Journal Kept in Canada and Upon Burgoyne’s Campaign in 1776 and 1777 (Albany: Joel Munsell’s Sons, 1884) 69fn and Gray to Carleton, Point Clair 12Jan77 found in NAC, MG21, B158, AddMss21818, 9. We had been advised that the Quebec City Militia battalions had modified their issued uniforms by mounting buff facings, the cloth for which we presumed was sourced locally; BM, T1/547. Memorial from Sir John Johnson to the Lords Commissioners of the Treasury, 25Sep78. Sir John again requested that the Treasury “grant him an Order for the Off-Reckonings of his Battalion since the formation of it, being raised at his own Expense, and now nearly completed, in like manner as has been granted to Brigadier Maclean and other Corps under similar circumstance.”
10. KRR NY Ciphered buttons: the officers’ versions are found on the French coatee and waistcoat. The Other Ranks’ version can be seen in William Louis Calver & Reginald Pelham Bolton, History Written with Pick and Shovel (New York: The New-York Historical Society, 1950 – reprinted 1966) 56; RP buttons: Pick and Shovel, op.cit., 130&135. In the mid-1980’s, we received photographs of an extant, officer’s full-length coat of the North Carolina Volunteers held in a New Brunswick collection on which RP buttons were in evidence.
12. George Woodbridge gave permission to the recreated Royal Yorkers to use his drawing in any appropriate manner. We employed the drawing as the frontispiece of our recruiting pamphlet which we continued to use until ca. 1995. The caption of the Woodbridge drawing reads, “Plate No:6, Johnson’s Royal Regt. of N.York. (Royal Greens), 1777. Unsurprisingly, our hat company uniform very closely matches George’s portrayal, except that we did not copy the rectangular waistbelt plate ciphered with a crown and GR. Of interest, a book by Martin Windrow and Gerry Embleton (Military Dress of North America 1665-1970 (New York: Scribner’s, 1973)) provided a dramatic view of a Royal Yorker hatman which had every appearance of being Woodbridge’s conception modified for physical stance, but little else. Nonetheless, Embleton had a strong reputation for quality research, further justifying our interpretation.
15. OB SJJ, op.cit., 29. When men were transferred into the Light Infantry Company on 9Apr77, orders were given for the men to trade coats and, if they could not get a proper fit, the wings were to be taken off the outgoing men’s coats and given to the incoming men. This confirmed that the Lights wore wings on their coats. A disturbing element of this order was recognized much, much later, i.e. if the outgoing men removed the wings from their coats and gave them to incoming men to mount on their coats, all the companies’ coats must have been of the same length, i.e. jacket length. This seemed most unlikely according to the conventional wisdom of the time; By 1996, we had altered our opinion. See Gavin K. Watt, Burning of the Valleys, Daring Raids from Canada Against the New York Frontier in the Fall of 1780 (Toronto: Dundurn Press, 1996) 310en. “All companies of the Royal Yorkers wore coatees, or jackets, as opposed to full length regimental coats, as the latter had proven to be less serviceable, their tails continually catching on brush in the woods…”
20. A large collection of Returns of Uniforms, cloth, bateaux, small arms, camp equipage, etc… stored at Quebec, Montreal, found in NAC, HP, AddMss21849; a transcript of a General Return of Stores in the Quarter Master Generals Department in Canada for Quebec, Montreal, Sorel, St. John’s and Chambly for 1779, NAC, HP, MG21, B189, f.56-64;
21. Jeptha R. Simms, Frontiersman of New York Showing Customs of the Indians, Vicissitudes of the Pioneer White Settlers and Border Strife in Two Wars with a Great Variety of Romantic and Thrilling Stories Never Before Published (2 vols, Albany: Geo. C. Riggs, 1883) II, 224&25.
22. Kochan advises that there were two shades of green in common use in the period. One was known as ‘bottle’ green, which is on the dark side, and the other as ‘grass,’ which is yellowish. The latter was far less expensive to dye and he reasons it would have been chosen for bulk orders. While many shades of green have been used for the recreated Royal Yorkers’ coats, all of them have tended towards a darker tone.
23. OB SJJ, op.cit., 39. This entry was made a month before the regiment departed Lachine on St. Leger’s expedition. That was certainly enough time to cut-down their hats, if the order had been given, but no such order was found in the orderly book. As noted already, according to Kochan’s research, the KRR were issued with jackets and he contends they were already wearing slouches or caps.
24. From the Office of Ordnance, Quebec, a State of Small Arms the 1st October 1774 with the receipts and Issues to the 19th September 1777, found in CO42/37, 225-27. This document shows no issues made to the King’s Royal Yorkers; ibid, 219. Carleton to Germain, Quebec, 21Sep77. The Governor noted that Burgoyne had recently demanded an additional 500 stand of small arms to outfit his Provincials (presumably Jessup’s, Peters, Van Pfister’s, McAlpin’s) and pointed out that there were not enough arms in inventory to comply.
Uniforms and Arms of the King’s Royal Regiment of New York, 1776-1783
by James L. Kochan © 2005
Background: The 1775 Arms and Clothing Shipments to Canada
By a letter written on 1 July 1775, the Earl of Dartmouth informed Sir Guy Carleton, Governor of Canada, that the “Transactions in the Province of Massachusetts Bay on the 19th. of April and the subsequent Steps taken by the Rebels…leave no moment for any other consideration than that of the most effectual means of augmenting the Army under General Gage.” Noting that the King “relies upon the Loyalty and Fidelity of His Canadian Subjects for their Assistance to suppress the Rebellion”, Carleton was authorized to raise a “Body of 3,000 Canadians, in such Form & Manner as you shall judge most proper”. These troops were to be raised and serve under the same footing as the Anglo-American provincial corps during the last war. As such, the officers were to be appointed by Carleton and likewise their commissions were to be signed by the governor as well, “without conveying …any Claim to either half pay when reduced or to rank in the Army except when embodied and serving with His Majesty’s other Troops, in which case each Officer will take the place next to the youngest Officer of the same Rank [bearing] His Majesty’s Commission.1
Dartmouth, who was Secretary at State for Colonial Affairs, was well aware of the stellar services performed by the French-Canadian militia of New France against the British during the Seven Years’ War. The habitants’ skill in both woodcraft and riverine service, not to mention their former prowess in the Petit Guerre, led to the determination that the Canadian provincials were “to act as Light Infantry, either in separate Corps, or in conjunction with His Majesty’s other Troops.” Prior to writing Carleton, he had already secured Royal orders and sent instructions to the Ordnance and Treasury Boards to provide “Arms, Ammunition, Cloathing and Accoutrements” for the use of the 3,000 troops, noting that “the whole will be ready in ten days.” The Board of Ordnance minutes of their 10-11 July meeting noted the “King’s pleasure that 3000 Stand of Arms for the use of the Light Infantry” be sent to Quebec for such purpose, which was “ordered accordingly” (each “stand” consisted of a musket with “tanned” leather sling, bayonet with scabbard, and an 18-hole cartridge box on narrow waistbelt with sliding bayonet frog). The musket pattern ordered and drawn for the new Canadian corps was the Short Land or “Pattern 1769/71” (as it is known to collectors today). This arm, with a 42-inch barrel and lighter mountings, seems to have been developed with the needs of light troops in mind and not necessarily as a replacement arm for the then-standard, 46-inch barreled Long Land musket that armed most of the infantry regiments. Indeed, the first troops to receive Short Lands were the light infantry companies (which had been reestablished in the standing infantry regiments of the British Army during 1771-72), followed by the 42nd Foot or Royal Highland Regiment—always considered a light corps. Its production occurred simultaneously with the longer-barreled Long Land Pattern, the latter of which still remained in production until the early 1790s.2
The demand for Short Land muskets to meet the needs of the standing regiments “augmented” or enlarged for overseas service, not to mention new-raised regular and provincial corps, began to exhaust the inventories of the Tower and the Ordnance storehouses at the naval dockyards. When the Board of Ordnance received further instructions to send an additional 3000 stands of Short Land muskets to Quebec on 19 July, they instead ordered their subordinates to pack up “Militia Arms which are Compleatly ready and differ so little from the Pattern as scarcely to be Distinguished.” This was apparently an expedient measure adopted to avoid further delays in shipping the requisite arms to Canada, as the scabbards fitted to the bayonets of the Short Lands in store were still in production and waiting for their completion would “Require a considerable Time.” Regardless, this second batch of 3000 Marine/Militia pattern muskets never reached Canada during 1776 (being sent later by another ship, the Elizabeth, which returned to Portsmouth due to winter storms and seas). In the meantime, 3120 stands of Short Lands (the actual number shipped in conformance to the original order for 3000) packed in chests, each furnished with 200 rounds of powder and ball, were loaded aboard the Jacob storeship (Captain Barclay, Master), along with four light, three-pounder field pieces. Under escort of HMS Lizard, she sailed from Portsmouth on 30 July 1775, reaching Halifax and eventually Quebec, in October 1775.3
Also included in the ship’s bills of lading were 3120 suits of private’s uniforms, with a proportionate amount provided for their commissioned officers, serjeants, and drummers. A newspaper account of 31 July 1775 confirmed this shipment, noting that “clothing for 3000 troops, Canadian, was sent off yesterday and that the same contractor has orders for 2000 more.” Although the actual contracts and invoices for these uniforms have not been located, from extant Treasury Board minutes and correspondence, it is known that the clothing was procured under contract made by the Paymaster of the Army with the Treasury Board’s authorization. The original contract with Alderman Thomas Harley called for 3000 uniforms, which was later amended to “Cloathing, Accoutrements &c. for the Private Men, Serjeants, Corporals, and Officers of a Corps of 6,000 Canadians, for the Sum of L17, 696.6.-“4
The following month, another account of the Canadian clothing appeared in print. Although the uniform quantities are rather inflated, it contains the first actual description of their makeup:
Cloathing for 9000 Canadians already shipped for Quebec will be followed very soon by cloathing for 5000 men. The uniform is buff vest and breeches with green coat faced red.5
This description is fully confirmed by Carleton’s 1775-76 inventory of the Canadian clothing received and issued during 1775-76 and from subsequent returns of the Quartermaster General’s Department in Canada. From these records, further details can be gleaned concerning the appearance of the uniforms provided under the 1775 contracts. Each soldier was to receive in addition to his green coat, buff smallclothes consisting of a woolen waistcoat and a pair of woolen breeches, a pair of shoes and stockings, shirt and roller, a round hat with binding, and a materials for a pair of leggings (green cloth with “Laces for Legings”–indicating Indian-style leggings for woods service). Corporals’ epaulettes, drum belts and slings, and fife lines and tassels were the only “accoutrements” provided by Harley. Fine buff shalloon was provided to line the officers’ coats, signifying that the linings of the men’s coats were also buff-colored, as well (probably of “bays” or “lining baize”—a cheap, plain-weave, unfulled woolen commonly used to line soldiers’ coats). The fine scarlet cloth and scarlet silk twist provided to face officers’ uniforms verifies the red facings on the enlisted uniforms. Silver-plated, large and small, or “coat” and “waistcoat” buttons, were provided for officers’ uniforms in proportions that suggest that the coats had large buttons on lapels, cuffs, pocket flaps and hips, the small being reserved principally for use on smallclothes. Although there is no indication that the uniforms of the other ranks were laced, 10 yards of narrow silver lace or “braid” for coats, along with a silver epaulette and silver hat binding, were allocated to each of the officers’ suits6.
Although listed as “coats” in the Carleton list, the subsequent quartermaster returns usually refer to them as “Jackets, Green Faced Red”—suggesting short-skirted coats, which would be fully in keeping with the original intent of organizing the Canadian provincials as light infantry. During this period, it is important to note that the short-skirted coats worn by British light infantry companies were synonymously referred to as “jackets”, which their American counterparts sometimes referred to as “coatees”. However, the term was also used to describe a short waistcoat without skirts or pocket flaps (such as those issued to British light infantry companies; in French, this form is known as a “gilet”). It can also indicate a close-bodied, sleeved jacket cut “round” (without skirts) or a “roundabout.” In the case of the Canadian uniforms, it is quite clear that these were short coats with facings, under which were worn waistcoats and breeches. Again, following the light-infantry concept for the corps, it is presumed that the cut of these contract uniforms were closely modeled on the patterns adopted for British light infantry companies in 1772: short-skirted coats or “jackets” with 3 inch-wide lapels, round cuffs and falling capes (collars) and diagonal or “slashed” pocket flaps, under which would be worn a square-cut (skirtless) waistcoat with welted pockets.7
This initial shipment of arms and clothing was off-loaded from the Jacob, inventoried, and deposited in the Quebec ordnance and quartermaster general’s storehouses, respectively. From fall 1775 through summer 1776, significant quantities of the uniforms intended for new-raised provincial corps were issued instead to the troops that composed the beleaguered Quebec garrison rebels (more than 1800 of the 3,085 private’s uniforms actually received, along with proportional distributions of the other grades’ uniforms per unit). They were presented by Governor Carleton to the British and French companies of the Quebec militia, in addition to detachments from the Royal Highland Emigrants, 7th Foot, Royal Artillery, British Marines, and sailors, in recognition of steadfast and meritorious service during that city’s 1775-76 siege by the American rebels. In addition, most of these militia companies and regular detachments turned in large quantities of older pattern or defective arms and drew replacements from the new Short Lands in store.8
“Johnson’s Greens”, 1776-1779
At the same time, in the Mohawk Valley of New York–some hundreds of miles further south, Sir John Johnson (son and heir of the late Sir William Johnson), his faithful tenants and Loyalist followers were keeping a low profile, outwardly remaining neutral in the conflict at hand. In actuality though, they were quietly making their own preparations or war, biding their time in order to choose the ideal moment in which to strike out in support of their King. In late 1775, he sent Captain Allan McDonell to Governor William Tryon bearing an undated, confidential letter that outlined his plan to raise a battalion in his district, for which he had already “named all the Officers…and now have a great number of men ready to compleat the Plan.” However, he noted that that they would “not think of stirring, till we have a support & supply of necessaries to enable us to carry our Design into execution, all of which Mr McDonnell will inform your Excellency of.” However, Johnson’s activities had not gone unnoticed and in January 1776, a large force of patriot militia from Albany and Tryon Counties were assembled under Major General Philip Schuyler, who seized a good portion of the arms and warlike stores that had been gathered by Johnson’s men and forced Johnson to sign an oath to ensure future non-aggression. After the militia was demobilized, Johnson and his followers continued with their preparations. By spring 1776, however, their position had become untenable; in May, the 3rd New Jersey Regiment was ordered to march on Johnston Hall, seize Johnson and his key followers, and neutralize the Loyalist threat in the Mohawk Valley. Acting not a moment too soon, Johnson and approximately 150-170 men, consisting of “most of the Male Inhabitants & all of the Highlanders, Dutch and Irish about it, with 50 Indians…embodied [and] armed” hurriedly assembled and early in the morning of May 19th, secretly departed from Johnson Hall on a forced march through the Adirondacks. Their destination: Quebec.9
The Continentals arrived hours later and, during their occupation, a number of drunken Jersey officers plundered the home one evening. Included in the inventory of goods “retained” by one officer was “2 coats, one of them a Green Regimental faced with red”. It is unclear whether this uniform (presumably Johnson’s) was that fixed upon for his Loyalist regiment, an earlier New York militia uniform, or perhaps even a relic of French & Indian War service. Clearly, it was deemed of low priority for the wilderness trek. Whether Johnson, his “officers” or other men took mix of uniform and civilian clothing with them is unknown. However, the late 19th century, romanticized description of Johnson arriving at Montreal dressed in fringed buckskin jacket and trousers is probably nothing more than the imaginative creation of the author’s mind. Probably, Johnson’s party left wearing practical, everyday clothing made of durable woolen, hemp and linen goods, suitable for rough woods’ service. This seems to be borne out by Johnson’s claim for reimbursement for articles provided by him to his “troops” at “Johnston” and “St. Ridgis” [Regis] prior to- and during their flight to Canada, which included:
Johnson’s Greens – an early reconstruction of the Yorker’s uniform taken from: Uniforms of the Armies in the War of the American Revolution, 1775-1783. Lt. Charles M. Lefferts. New York York Historical Society. New York, NY. 1926.
- 66 Pouches
- 43 Powder Horns
- 250 Pounds Ball
- 50 Pounds Shot
- 66 ½ Ells Russia Sheeting
- 19 ½ Yards Do.
- 6 pairs Leggans
- 55 Yards Linen
- 10 Yds Do.
- 161 pairs Indian Shoes
- 120 Flints
- 7 Handkerchiefs
- 3 Do.
- 8 Blankets
- 5 Blanket Coats
- 4 Hatts
- 17 ½ yards Stript Cotton
- 20 Knives
- 2 ½ pounds Thread
- 3 pounds Do.
- 4 brass Kettles weight 19 lb.
- 4 Axes10
While at Montreal, he purchased additional articles to replace those worn out during the wilderness march, before continuing his march to join the regulars under Burgoyne and Carleton at Chambly:
- 103 Pairs Shoes
- 6 Pairs Pumps
- 16 Pairs Stockings
- 7 Hatts
- 300 Flints11
Governor Carleton, in the meantime, had but limited success in raising his Canadian provincial corps and had granted only a handful of commissions to captains entrusted with raising companies from among the French-Canadian populace. The arrival of Johnson and his men, willing and able to undergo active military service, must have been a most unexpected but welcome sight. Taking full advantage of his vested powers, he authorized the formation of the “King’s Royal Regiment of New York” and appointed Sir John Johnson as its Lieutenant Colonel Commandant” at Chambly on 19 June 1776. The Royal Yorkers were thus placed on the Canadian provincial establishment, providing Carleton with both the authority and means to not only grant commissions, but also provide Johnson and his officers with the arms and equipage that they so desperately needed for active military service.12
Prior to Johnson’s appearance, Burgoyne had ordered 1000 stands of arms forwarded in conjunction with the British advance up the St. Lawrence with which to arm the much-anticipated Canadian provincials. On 28 May, 1000 “serviceable English” muskets were shipped aboard the General Thomas, Mr. Littlewood, Master. Providing for additional troops, such as Johnson’s new regiment and the refugees that began flooding in from the southward, had not been anticipated. Burgoyne requested Carleton to send forward another 500 stands of English arms, which were dispatched via the Success on 30 June (nearly exhausting the remaining stock British arms on hand at Quebec). All (or the vast majority) of the1500 muskets forwarded were probably the same Short Land Pattern muskets shipped to Canada for the provincial corps (based on careful analysis of all deliveries into and issues from the Quebec store during 1775-76). Almost certainly, these muskets were sent forward in complete stands, with their bayonets, boxes, belts, frogs and slings complete.13
As previously noted, more than 3000 suits for this purpose were shipped to Quebec in July 1775 and received there that fall. Besides Carleton’s deliveries of provincial uniforms to the Quebec defenders, he had also issued out 3 officers’ and 84 enlisted uniforms for Captain Beaujeau’s newly raised company of Canadian “Volunteers” or provincials. From the limited stocks still onhand, complete uniforms for 30 officers, 30 serjeants, 20 drummers and 500 rank and file were forwarded to Montreal during summer 1776 to clothe provincial troops.14 This intent is confirmed by a German officer’s report home, which noted that Canadian companies were to be dressed in “green uniforms with straw-colored waistcoats and breeches but with different facings.”15 Although the green uniforms were apparently shipped over with red facings, it would have been easy to have created optional green and buff facings by sacrificing a few coats or smallclothes. However, the other Canadian companies refused to accept these uniforms and requested ones of traditional Canadian form in their stead (which Burgoyne purchased for them during winter 1776-77 (the 1775-77 dress of the Quebec militia and the Canadian volunteer companies will be covered in a forthcoming article). According to a Hessian officer’s 1778 account of the event:
Two years ago, the King had…uniforms shipped here to dress the [Canadian] Volunteers… The men were very offended, saying they were ready to serve the King but not in this clothing. All entreaties were made but to no avail, and the regimentals were used to clothe the New York Regiment.16
Thus, the King’s Royal Regiment of New York drew their first uniforms from the stock forwarded to Montreal originally intended to clothe the Canadian provincials. It is unclear as to what date the provincial uniforms were first issued to the King’s Royal Regiment of New York, but it probably occurred sometime in fall of 1776. The earliest extant orderly book for the regiment covers the period 4 November 1776-31 July 1777. On 16 March 1777, the officers commanding companies were ordered to account for all clothing and necessaries onhand with their troops, as well as the number of troops in their companies. From these returns, the regimental quartermaster developed returns of clothing for each company, which the company officers were ordered to review and correct on 27 March. These activities were to ensure that all troops in the regiment were fully clothed in preparation for the new campaign year. The regiment had grown substantially from Johnson’s original cadre and additional suits of uniforms needed to be drawn for the new recruits, and made-up or altered to fit each soldier. When the light company was reorganized and augmented with men from the battalion companies on 9 April, the “old men” were ordered to “change their coats with those from other Companys who shall come in their places; if their Coats do not Answer [probably as to size] let the wings be taken off & given to those that come in” (this entry tends to further confirm my contention that the coats of the entire regiment were short-skirted, as the addition of shoulder wings seems to have been the only thing that distinguished light infantry company uniforms from those of the battalion men). The company tailors were kept at work through most of March and April to ensure that all of the men were fully clothed.17
As with most of Burgoyne’s army, the Yorkers put their woolen breeches into store for the hot weather season and it was ordered that all men were to be completed with linen trowsers in mid-April. These trowsers were almost certainly the “gaiter-trowser” form adopted by most of the British corps serving in America, which their American opponents called “overalls”. Although cut to allow some ease of movement (they being sometimes worn over breeches), they were fitted relatively close to the leg from the knee downwards and ended in and integral gaiter-bottom (which featured a tongue over the instep of the shoe to keep out pebbles and dirt, and closed on the outseam of the ankle, probably with either horn or cloth-covered bone button-moulds). The contemporary von Germann watercolor drawings of British and German troops on the 1777 campaign show this legwear being worn by the majority of the units and their use are further documented in other expedition orderly books.18
The regiment’s hats had been kept in store during the winter, the men wearing instead fur-trimmed, cloth Canadian caps with the blanket coats during the winter, as provided to this corps and all the British regiments prior to the onset of cold weather. Now the special winter clothing was collected and placed into stores and the hats issued out for wear with the uniforms. On 28 April the men were ordered to appear under arms with “their Regtl’s Clean; their Regt’l hats well Cocked [my emphasis], their Hair Properly Dressed, So as to appear Decent…at the Review.” This entry, if viewed without reference to other records, would lead one to assume that the regiment wore “cocked hats” of the typical tricorne form, as worn by most European armies during this period. However, that hats provided with the Provincial uniforms were the narrower-brimmed “round hat” form. Such hats were, of course, often worn “cocked” or “cocked up” on one side—typically the left. Whether the entire regiment, or at least the battalion companies, wore round hats with one or more brims cocked up in 1777, is subject to debate. During spring and summer 1777, however, orders were being issued among the British regiments to have their cocked hats of the previous year converted into caps or “cap-hats” for the summer campaign. Converting such caps required cutting away most of the brim around the crown, leaving the front of the cap cocked-up to achieve a vertical shield or front-plate, reminiscent of leather light infantry caps. The caps were then embellished with crests made from the hair of cow- or horse-tails, dyed in distinctive colors by each corps. As noted earlier, the exact intent or meaning of “well cocked” is unclear as it relates to the Yorkers’ hats and it could also imply that the cap-hats of the regiment were to be uniformly dressed.19
However, it appears that cap-hats were the accepted campaign or everyday service headgear of the regiment during the following year. Simms recounts an oral interview with a member of the Shew family, in which their capture by Loyalist and Indian forces and their subsequent captivity during 1778 is recounted. While being held aboard the Maria, Godfrey Shew mocked the attempts of Yorker officers to recruit for their regiment from among the captives:
Here is a recruiting officer come to enlist you into the British service! My lads, if any of you want to sell your country for a green coat with red facings, and a cap with a lock of red horse-hair hanging down one side of it, you now have a good chance!20
This account, although recorded down some years following the event, was the actual recollection of an eyewitness. The fact that the uniform worn by the King’s Royal Regiment of New York is correctly described (they would continue to draw the green, faced-red uniforms from provincial clothing stocks until late 1779) would tend to suggest that the headgear is also faithfully recollected. Thus, we have the probability that the entire battalion wore cap-hats during 1778, at the very least. Many British regiments in Canada, such as the 21st and 29th Foot, continued to wear cap-hats for everyday duties and campaign service long after 1777.21 Cap-hats had both a martial appearance and were practical for woods service; there is no reason why the Yorkers may not have employed headgear of this form through most of their wartime service.
From the inception, Johnson had fully intended to operate in the role of proprietary colonel-commandant of the Royal Yorkers, as established by long tradition in the standing British Army. As such, he had hoped to personally purchase the uniforms and accoutrements for his corps and in turn, receive the Crown’s reimbursable allowance for such equipage. However, it would not be until mid-1779 that Crown warrants for such purposes were issued and Johnson received payment for off-reckonings for his regiment. In the interim Carleton, and subsequently Haldimand, continued to approve Johnson’s requisitions for uniforms and half-mountings drawn from the provincial and militia clothing stocks in the Quartermaster General’s storehouses at Montreal and outlying posts. Although most of the early- and mid-war correspondence and records concerning the Royal Yorkers have not survived, such that does confirms that this practice continued through the close of 1779. Although Johnson had finally received the requisite authority to clothe and equip his regiment in 1779, the new regimentals would not arrive until fall of that year. On 6 September 1779, Johnson informed his London agent, John Blackburn, that the regimentals the latter had procured and shipped would reach Canada too late for the present year and “must Answer for “Next Year”. For this reason, Johnson was “Obliged to furnish the regiment with every thing Necessary here, for this Year”, again relying on the general provincial stores for the needs of his regiment. Thus, in his 10 May 1779 letter to Governor Haldimand, Johnson enclosed a return for half mountings necessary to complete 35 recruits, consisting of shirts, rollers, stockings and shoes. In addition, he requisitioned 66 muskets and cartridge boxes (presumably with belts and frogs), as well as 70 bayonets, to complete the 10 companies of the first battalion. Ten days later, in anticipation of recruiting the first battalion to full strength, Johnson forwarded returns for arms, regimentals and blankets “wanting to Compleat The Kings Royal Regiment of New York agreeable to the Establishment”. 188 “firelocks”, bayonets and cartridge boxes and suits of regimentals (coat, waistcoat and breeches) for 1 serjeant major, 1 drum major, 2 serjeants, 4 drummers and 151 privates were included in the returns. The non-commissioned officers were to also receive serjeants’ hats, shirts, rollers and stockings, while 187 each of the same articles, but of privates’ quality, were requisitioned for the other ranks.22
As with the other ranks’, the officers were able to draw fine uniform cloth and trimmings from the provincial clothing stocks forwarded to Montreal in 1776 and possibly in subsequent years. Among the materials forwarded for each officer’s uniform was 10 yards of “narrow silver lace” or “braid” for binding or looping the buttonholes of the coats. It is unclear whether the Yorker officers drew this lace for use in making up their green uniforms during 1776-79; most of the Quebec militia and the Royal Highland Emigrant officers had declined the silver buttonhole lace when drawing their clothing, opting instead for plain facings with worked holes of silk twist. From correspondence between Sir John Johnson and John Blackburn (the regimental agent of the Yorkers during 1779-83), it is known that when the regiment first received its red, faced-blue, uniforms in late 1779, the officers were provided with materials for scarlet uniforms with gold-washed buttons and gold loopings. This practice of laced holes continued in effect with the regiment until it was disbanded and the correspondence on the subject is further borne out by examination of the extant short coat or “jacket” of Lieutenant Gershom French of the 2nd Battalion, now in the Canadian War Museum.7 However, as the red enlisted uniforms were furnished with loopings of white worsted, the adoption of laced officers’ coats in 1779 may have been done to ensure uniformity with their men, rather than being a carryover from an earlier regimental practice among the officer corps.
The King’s Royal Yorkers, 1779-1784
to be continued…..
9. GBNA, CO 5/253/34; NYPL, Philip Schuyler Papers, published in Howard Swiggett. War Out of Niagara (NH: Columbia U. Press, 1933), 72-74; Mark Lender, ed. Citizen Soldier: The Revolutionary Journal of Joseph Bloomfield (Newark, NJ: NJHS, 1982), 46-58.
18. Ibid., 36-37; 19th century copyist’s watercolors of the c. 1778 original drawings by von Germann (whereabouts currently unknown) are in the collections of the New York Public Library and the Brunswick Museum, Germany; Royal Artillery Order Book (Canada), 1776-77 and the Hesse-Hanau Order Book, 1776-77 (Lidgerwood Hessian Transcripts Coll.), both in the colls. of the Morristown NHP Library, are but two of a number of order books containing good details on this legwear and other campaign modifications of uniform.
19. Ibid. Whether or not the entire regiment wore cap-hats in 1777, it is likely that the light company would have cut their hats in this fashion in order to emulate their peers in the British light infantry; the fact that they had added wings to their coats to set them off from the battalion companies suggests a similar distinction in headgear. We have opted to portray the regiment’s light company wearing cap-hats rather than round hats in the new Don Troaini painting of the battle of Oriskany.