Revolutionary War Uniforms
Though General George Washington did adopt an official Continental Army uniform in 1779, not every American soldier was provided an American uniform. British and French soldiers were outfitted by more established militaries and consequently, Revolutionary War era uniforms from those soldiers do tend to surface a bit more frequently than their American counterparts.
Buttons from Revolutionary War uniforms are among the most popular and collected type of Revolutionary War artifact. Much of the original uniform supply you will find for sale are buttons, buckles, or other durable parts of the uniform that could more easily stand up to the effects of over 200 years.
Far from the camouflage and sand colored uniforms of todays military units, the American Revolutionary War uniforms were much different. At the time of the American Revolutionary war in the 1770's and 1780's, life was much different and so was the military The United States Army as it existed at the time was just one single infantry regiment, with two artillery units and eight infantry. Infantry units were dressed in one type of uniform while the artillery units were differentiated with slight differences in their uniform.
General George Washington was in charge of approving the uniforms worn during this time after the Secretary of War first approved them. Soldiers from various states along the east coast were assembled to fight in the war, with the first being a group of cadets under the leadership of Captain Mordecai Gist. These soldiers came mainly from Baltimore and were dressed in a red coat. What at the time was called a “hunting frock” worked well for the soldiers and was adopted by both officers and regular soldiers. While it would have been nice for all the soldiers to have the same color of uniform, it just was not possible, so some soldiers frocks were white while the others were scarlet. Red was certainly preferred, but white was often much more readily available than red so a unique compromise was made. The white uniforms were often dyed with coffee which would change the color, which was a method preferred by Colonel Caleb Gibbs. He had desperately wanted all the soldiers to have red uniforms, but it simply was not feasible so the “coffee stained” uniforms were a good way to avoid white, which Gibbs simply did not like.
In addition to the white, coffee colored and scarlet uniforms, yet another version of the uniform had a blue coat with white lining and red facing on the front and cuffs. Yellow buttons added yet another dimension to these uniforms. An infantry private would often be dressed in the similar blue, but in a vest with a red collar rather than a full coat.
One of the unique ways to identify the different infantry uniforms was through the use of custom buttons. These buttons were often stamped with logos or names that would help in the identification of these uniforms and often described were the soldier was from. Buttons depicting canons, letters that represented certain divisions or even the name of a state or city were common as was a simple “USA” logo.
Part of the uniform of a soldier during the American Revolutionary War a hat as well and the most common was the Tricorn. This was the preferred head gear issued to the soldiers, but was not the only type of head gear that was worn. During a battle, some British Dragoon helmets were seized and handed out to soldiers as well. Sometimes the helmets were modified, changing the color and adding a feather plume to give them a dramatic look that stood out in battle.
Revolutionary War enthusiasts who are interested in re-enactments can easily find replica uniforms that allow them to dress the part while re-enacting key sequences and battles throughout the American Revolution.