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Mention of hat worn by British soldier on Concord march, 19 April 1775

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  • donhagist
    I ve stumbled upon a document in which a British soldier who marched to Concord on 19 April 1775 explicitly mentions what he was wearing on his head. It
    Message 1 of 3 , Nov 8, 2012
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      I've stumbled upon a document in which a British soldier who marched to Concord on 19 April 1775 explicitly mentions what he was wearing on his head. It doesn't allow us to make a blanket statement, but it is significant.

      I discovered that the well-known series "American Archives" is available and searchable on-line:
      http://dig.lib.niu.edu/amarch/advanced.html
      Using this great tool to look for something else entirely, I chanced upon the letter extract reproduced in full below. What we can determine from this text is that:
      - the soldier was a Marine (notice how he concludes the letter, by telling the recipients how to address letters back to him)
      - he was wearing a hat on 19 April 1775

      My own conclusion is that he was a private soldier, and that he was a grenadier. That he was a soldier is just my assumption based on the way that he expresses his place in the action - but I could be wrong; the writer could be an officer. That he was a grenadier I assume because he wore a hat, rather than a cap. Grenadier companies are known to have received cocked hats to wear as an alternative to fur caps, whereas light infantry companies received only caps; and although terminology was in some measure flexible, the "hat" vs. "cap" terminology seems to hold up pretty well in distinguishing cocked hats from the various things worn by members of flank companies.

      If I'm right, this does not mean we can draw conclusions about other grenadier companies on that day. I am quite confident that all of those grenadiers had cocked hats available, and some of them surely had fur caps available, but we don't know which one each company wore (regiments like the 10th and 52nd, which had been in Canada for several years before coming to Boston in 1774, may not have had fur caps on hand, whereas regiments like the 5th and 38th that came directly from Ireland in 1774 probably did).

      I welcome other interpretations and insights.
      Don N. Hagist
      http://revolutionaryimprints.com
      http://redcoat76.blogspot.com

      Extract from an Intercepted Letter of the Soldiery in Boston [American Archives Page v2:440]
      Boston, April 28, 1775.
      The Grenadiers and Light-Infantry marched for Concord, where were powder and ball, arms, and cannon mounted on carriages; but before we could destroy them all, we were fired on by the country people, who, not brought up in our military way, as ourselves, we were surrounded always in the woods. The firing was very hot on both sides. About two in the afternoon the Second Brigade came up, which were four Regiments and part of the Artillery, which were of no use to us, as the enemy were in the woods; and when we found they fired from the houses, we set them on fire, and they ran to the woods like devils. We were obliged to retreat to Boston again, over Charles River, our ammunition being all fired away. We had one hundred and fifty men wounded and killed, and some taken prisoners; we were forced to leave some behind, who were wounded. We got back to Boston about three o' clock next morning, and them that were able to walk were forced to mount guard, and lie in the field. I never broke my fast for forty-eight hours, for we carried no provisions, and thought to be back next morning. I had my hat shot off my head three times, two balls went through my coat, and carried away my bayonet by my side, and was near being killed. The people of Boston are in great trouble, for General Gage will not let the Town' s people go out. Direct for me to Chatham' s division of Marines.
    • britmarinecapt
      Don: I don t have the info in front of me, but the Marines sent back to England for bearskins. That they hadn t arrived in time for Lexington, etc, is, I
      Message 2 of 3 , Nov 8, 2012
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        Don:

        I don't have the info in front of me, but the Marines sent back to England for bearskins. That they hadn't arrived in time for Lexington, etc, is, I think well documented. The question is whether they had them in time for Bunker (Breed's) Hill or not, and if they wore them there. I am not familiar with any documentation regarding headwear and the two Marine grenadier companies serving in the later converged battalions in '76 and '77.

        I believe the two marine grenadier and light companies were formed out of the marines with the fleet - which may all have been from hat companies, and that might explain why they didn't have the grenadier caps. At least one of the Light companies was later stationed in Nova Scotia, and recalled to the fleet in early 1778, again, IIRC. No direct mention of the grenadiers, but they seem to disappear from Howe's army in Philly after the Brandywine campaign and before Clinton marched out in '78 That would track with the recall of the Lights from army service as well.

        Jim McGaughey

        --- In Revlist@yahoogroups.com, "donhagist" <dhagist@...> wrote:
        >
        > I've stumbled upon a document in which a British soldier who marched to Concord on 19 April 1775 explicitly mentions what he was wearing on his head. It doesn't allow us to make a blanket statement, but it is significant.
        >
        > I discovered that the well-known series "American Archives" is available and searchable on-line:
        > http://dig.lib.niu.edu/amarch/advanced.html
        > Using this great tool to look for something else entirely, I chanced upon the letter extract reproduced in full below. What we can determine from this text is that:
        > - the soldier was a Marine (notice how he concludes the letter, by telling the recipients how to address letters back to him)
        > - he was wearing a hat on 19 April 1775
        >
        > My own conclusion is that he was a private soldier, and that he was a grenadier. That he was a soldier is just my assumption based on the way that he expresses his place in the action - but I could be wrong; the writer could be an officer. That he was a grenadier I assume because he wore a hat, rather than a cap. Grenadier companies are known to have received cocked hats to wear as an alternative to fur caps, whereas light infantry companies received only caps; and although terminology was in some measure flexible, the "hat" vs. "cap" terminology seems to hold up pretty well in distinguishing cocked hats from the various things worn by members of flank companies.
        >
        > If I'm right, this does not mean we can draw conclusions about other grenadier companies on that day. I am quite confident that all of those grenadiers had cocked hats available, and some of them surely had fur caps available, but we don't know which one each company wore (regiments like the 10th and 52nd, which had been in Canada for several years before coming to Boston in 1774, may not have had fur caps on hand, whereas regiments like the 5th and 38th that came directly from Ireland in 1774 probably did).
        >
        > I welcome other interpretations and insights.
        > Don N. Hagist
        > http://revolutionaryimprints.com
        > http://redcoat76.blogspot.com
        >
        > Extract from an Intercepted Letter of the Soldiery in Boston [American Archives Page v2:440]
        > Boston, April 28, 1775.
        > The Grenadiers and Light-Infantry marched for Concord, where were powder and ball, arms, and cannon mounted on carriages; but before we could destroy them all, we were fired on by the country people, who, not brought up in our military way, as ourselves, we were surrounded always in the woods. The firing was very hot on both sides. About two in the afternoon the Second Brigade came up, which were four Regiments and part of the Artillery, which were of no use to us, as the enemy were in the woods; and when we found they fired from the houses, we set them on fire, and they ran to the woods like devils. We were obliged to retreat to Boston again, over Charles River, our ammunition being all fired away. We had one hundred and fifty men wounded and killed, and some taken prisoners; we were forced to leave some behind, who were wounded. We got back to Boston about three o' clock next morning, and them that were able to walk were forced to mount guard, and lie in the field. I never broke my fast for forty-eight hours, for we carried no provisions, and thought to be back next morning. I had my hat shot off my head three times, two balls went through my coat, and carried away my bayonet by my side, and was near being killed. The people of Boston are in great trouble, for General Gage will not let the Town' s people go out. Direct for me to Chatham' s division of Marines.
        >
      • Jason
        Interestingly, Bertie s Papers (Berkshire Records Office) show the Light Company of the 7th Regiment, Royal Fusiliers recieved 39 LI caps with feathers in
        Message 3 of 3 , Dec 5, 2012
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          Interestingly, Bertie's Papers (Berkshire Records Office) show the Light Company of the 7th Regiment, Royal Fusiliers recieved 39 LI caps with feathers in 1771, "39 Light Infantry cap-hatts Laced with Tape and Tape bands in 1773, and then 39 more LI caps in 1775. By the prices it is clear that the 1771 order was for leather caps and the later 2 orders were for felt caps. The next time LI caps are ordered, it is in 1777 and they are the same price as the 1775 order, but of a different design.
          Bearskin caps are purchased in small numbers (obvously replacements) for the Grenadiers, Fusiliers, Sgts, and Musicians through early 1776. Unlaced hats with white binding and tassles are provided for all the men each year. In 1777, along with the new style LI caps, the regiment ordered cocked hats with white binding, loops and bands. This pattern was repeated until 1780. Clearly, fur caps were used early, but not exclusively; then after the order placed in1777 (shippment was recieved in mid-1778)its fancier cocked hats for everyone but the Light Infantry who were in felt cap-hatts and no fur caps.
          This ties in nicely with the other thread about musician cap plates - clearly, as Sherri pointed out with artwork, cocked hats were being worn quite commonly by everyone during the war. :)

          Cheers

          Jason

          --- In Revlist@yahoogroups.com, "donhagist" <dhagist@...> wrote:
          >
          Grenadier companies are known to have received cocked hats to wear as an alternative to fur caps, whereas light infantry companies received only caps; and although terminology was in some measure flexible, the "hat" vs. "cap" terminology seems to hold up pretty well in distinguishing cocked hats from the various things worn by members of flank companies.
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