“by Taylors of their respective Companies”

Within the 4th Pennsylvania Battalion of 1776, Captain Lacey's Company had a particularly sharp, custom uniform, but one which did not hold up for the entire campaign.

Within the 4th Pennsylvania Battalion of 1776, Captain Lacey’s Company had a particularly sharp, custom uniform, but one which did not hold up for the entire campaign.

Many of the documents from 4th Pennsylvania Battalion Quartermaster John Harper reside in the collection of Fort Ticonderoga today. These papers document many aspects of the supply of this regiment, including its resupply with clothing and materials while encamped at Ticonderoga in 1776. These papers include receipts for large amounts of cloth for the regiment which have been puzzling for many years. However, a careful study of the regiment in 1776 may indicate how this cloth was used.

The 4th Pennsylvania Battalion was supplied by merchants and tailors in and around Philadelphia. Many captains of this regiment relied on the regiment to supply their companies with clothing and equipment, leaving a wonderful paper trail in the files of Quartermaster John Harper. These papers even include the purchases of blue and white cloth for the regiment’s distinctive uniform, signed by the regiment’s Colonel, Anthony Wayne. Conspicuously absent from these regimental clothing purchases is Captain John Lacey’s company, an absence explained in Lacey’s memoires.

I had used more industry to clothe my men than any of the other Captains, their regimentals were made in Philadelphia, by the taylors there, mine at Darby by my own men, and others at that place, under my own direction and of cloth that I had procured myself. Our regimental coats were deep blew faced with white, white vests and overalls edged with blew cloth. A very beautiful uniform, but on experience was found much better adopted for parade than utility in the hardships of a camp, as they too easily became soiled and hard to keep clean.

With tailoring being one of the most common trades, captains could count on finding tailors within their companies who could repair or even make clothing for their men.

With tailoring being one of the most common trades, captains could count on finding tailors within their companies who could repair or even make clothing for their men.

Three companies of the regiment were fully raised, equipped, and encamped on Long Island by May of 1776, just in time to go north to join the American army teetering near disaster in Canada. These three companies, including Captain John Lacey’s company, retreated with the American Army in Canada all the way back to Ticonderoga, where the rest of the companies finally completed the regiment. After briefly encamping below the walls of Fort Ticonderoga The 4th Pennsylvania Battalion moved up to the west of the Fort onto the French Lines in order to fortify them beginning July 16th. The work of building fascines, digging ditches, raising parapet walls, and cannon batteries continued up through September 18th. Then the regiment set to work building huts to replace their wet and worn tents.

Constructing earthworks and soldiers' huts was hard work, work which likely wore out breeches, waistcoats, and shirts faster than other uniform garments.

Constructing earthworks and soldiers’ huts was hard work, work which likely wore out breeches, waistcoats, and shirts faster than other uniform garments.

This constant fatigue work must have put a great strain on clothing as it coincides with regimental purchases of cloth. By August 27th, regimental Quartermaster John Harper purchased from Continental Army stores, 60 shirts and 191 ¾ yards of wool cloth. This cloth included, “29 yds narrow brown knap, 31 yds ditto, 14 yds coarse broadcloth, 6yds green knap, 15 yds Red ditto, 24 ¾ yds Green Broadcloth, 16 yds purple motheaten cloth, 11 ½ yds drab cloth ditto, 15 ½ yds Green Knap, 29 yds brown Broadcloth” While the regiment’s official uniform of blue coats faced in white and white vests, the majority of this cloth was brown, green, red, drab or purple. Two days later, the papers of Quartermaster Harper show an additional draft of cloth from Army stores of 181 ¾ yards of various types and colors of woolen cloth.

August 29, 1776 received of Major Hay 12 ½ yds narrow brown knap, 8 yds ditto red knap, 31 yds narrow red knap, 7 ¼ yds black bearskin, 15 yds fine knap sarge, 2 ¼ yds wide knap light coloured (purple crossed out), 29 yds narrow red knap, 30 yds narrow brown knap, 32 yds drab cloth, 7 ½ yds clarrett coloured wide cloth, 4 ¼ yds black wide cloth, 13 yds Brown wide cloth much motheaten, 181 ¾ yds——

By September 2nd, the regiment purchased an additional,” 7 yds camblet cloth, striped,” a stout worsted upholstery cloth along with 32 pairs of leather breeches.  In only seven days the regiment procured 380 ½ yards of woolen cloth of various types and colors. These summer receipts of cloth for clothing were just the beginning.

By October, remaining clothing must have needed to be replaced en masse, especially with temperatures dropping and rain falling. Between October 9th and 11th, the Regiment drew 334 pairs of leather breeches. With 502 enlisted soldiers (excluding those, “sick & absent,” in the regiment by November 17th) this total of 366 leather breeches would have clothed a majority of the regiment .By October 25th the papers of Quartermaster John Harper list the clothing purchases for individual companies. Captain John Lacey procured for his men.

Capt Lacy- 3 yd. Light Coulored wide knap, 26 ½ yd narrow brown knap, 4 ½ yds wide black cloth, 11 ¾ yd light coulored wide cloth

By the end of October, 1776 most men in Captain Lacey's company likely had leather breeches and waistcoats made from the brown, black, or light colored cloth procured by Captain Lacey.

By the end of October, 1776 most men in Captain Lacey’s company likely had leather breeches and waistcoats made from the brown, black, or light colored cloth procured by Captain Lacey.

These company purchases of cloth total to 333 ¾ yards of enlisted grade woolen cloths, similarly in various colors and finishes.  In total, between August 27th and October 25th, the regiment drew a total of 714 ¼ yards of various woolen cloths. Compared with the November 17th muster roll this equals a little less than 1 ¼ yards per man, assuming these various cloths were distributed equally through the regiment. Taking Captain Lacey’s Company as an example, he procured for his company 45 ¾ yards of wool cloth. In mid-July Captain Lacey was disappointed to find his company had lost twenty-eight privates since it left Long Island back in May. In his memoires he recalled, “I ordered my Orderly sergant to make me a return of the Company, which to my inexpressable mortification I found to stand as follows, viz. one Cap*, 1 Lieutenant, 1 Ensine, 2 Sergants, 2 Corparals, no Drum or Fifer, and but 48 privates-“ With approximately one yard of cloth needed for  the front, back, and other pieces of a waistcoat, 45 ¾ yards of cloth would produce nearly enough waistcoats to cloth every enlisted man.

By itself there is no evidence that these woolen cloths were distributed equally, but the yardage procured coincides roughly with the amount needed for unlined waistcoats. This is an intriguing possibility given that so many pairs of leather breeches were issued out during the same time period. Together this would constitute a new set of small clothes, or a pair of breeches and a new waistcoat, for the majority of the regiment. With much of the regiment issued leather breeches prior to marching, it’s quite possible that the rest of the men still had their initial issue breeches, but need a new waistcoat. The need to replace breeches and waistcoats coincides very nicely with the fatigue work carried out by the regiment. It was a common practice for soldiers to work wearing merely their small clothes or shirt, waistcoat, and breeches, preserving their coat from being soiled. With Colonel Anthony Wayne’s attention to the dress and appearance of his regiment he may well have made this common practice for his men. Working every day in breeches and waistcoats would have worn out small clothes very rapidly, quickly creating the need for replacement clothing, but not new regimental coats..

It appears quite likely that this cloth was turned into clothing by tailors within the regiment or even each company. This practice is evident even during the raising of Captain John Lacey’s company. He noted his attention to his men’s dress in his memoires stating, “their regimentals were made in Philadelphia, by the taylors there, mine at Darby by my own men, and others at that place, under my own direction and of cloth that I had procured myself.” However, this practice was ordered for the whole Northern Continental Army while it regrouped at Crown Point in early July. Colonel Anthony Wayne’s orderly books do not include the chaotic days of early July. However, the orderly book of the 2nd New Jersey Regiment includes the general orders from the army. On July 6th, General Horatio Gates ordered all the tailors in the regiments to be accounted for, stating, “A Return to be Immeditaly to be maide by the Adjuants of the Sever Regt. of the Taylors of the Several Corps.” This order was in preparation for replacing clothing lost or worn out while in service in Canada. By July 8th General Gates ordered, “The Cloathing may be wanted by their Respective Corps, that each may have a Proportionable Share of what is now Here.”

Regimental orders during the period when the 4th Pennsylvanai Battalion drew large amounts of woolen cloth do not directly refer to the use of the cloth. Instead regimental orders repeated encourage the men to maintain their clean and neat appearance. However, Colonel Wayne did specifically mention waistcoats in his regimental orders from December 5th, 1776.

Capns and Commanding Officers of Companies in the 4th P. Regt. will immediately settle with and pay their Men, stopping out of their Wages the weekly Allowance for the Barber. They will with all possible Expedition cause the Cloathing of the Men to be repair’d in the neatest Manner by Taylors of their respective Companies, and as white Waistcoats and Stockings are now to be had they will draw sufficient for the Men, as also Leggings and Shirts.

Complete button bone cores and partially made button corps still set into cattle ribs provide further evidence of clothing production at Ticonderoga. These round cores were made to be covered with cloth to make cloth buttons. Production of these button cores may explain the lack of button purchases with cloth from Continental Stores in 1776.

Complete button bone cores and partially made button corps still set into cattle ribs provide further evidence of clothing production at Ticonderoga. These round cores were made to be covered with cloth to make cloth covered buttons. Production of these button cores may explain the lack of button purchases along with cloth purchases from Continental Stores in 1776.

Wayne’s orders state that the, “Taylors of the respective Companies,” are to carry out repairs to the clothing. This is consistent with the practice indicated by General Orders in the army in July as well as the initial clothing of Captain Lacey’s company. Further, the order would indicate that it was regimental practice to have replacement clothing made by the tailors within the regiment or each company. This practice could explain how the cloth procured by the regiment was made into clothing. More importantly within the order Colonel Wayne specifically noted that, “as white Waistcoats and Stockings are now to be had they [Captains and Company Commanders] will draw sufficient for the Men.” If Colonel Wayne had merely mentioned waistcoats it would just indicate more replacement clothing, but he noted that white waistcoats were then available. Such a specific detail quickly conjures the image of men of the regiment in a myriad of waistcoats, which Colonel Wayne was eager to replace for the sake of uniformity. Such an interpretation certainly would match his constant attention to the appearance of his men. These white waistcoats must not have clothed every soldier, as that same day the regiment drew only 150 waistcoats from Continental stores inside Fort Ticonderoga. That same day the regiment drew another 16 ¼ yards of broadcloth and 32 pairs of breeches, along with 97 pairs of leggings* and 104 mittens. All of this coincides with regimental orders from two days later. Colonel Wayne in his December 7th orders mentions all these clothing items, stating:

The Officers commanding Comps will give in the Returns of Waistcoats, Mittins, and Leggins, wanted for their Comp[an]y immediately.

When available, buckskin breeches were ideal leg wear for 4th PA soldiers. Today Fort Ticonderoga shoemakers are experimenting with building leather breeches based on some period boot maker's advertizements offering them. The majority of leather breeches came from specialist leather breeches makers.

When available, buckskin breeches were ideal leg wear for 4th PA soldiers. Today Fort Ticonderoga shoemakers are experimenting with building leather breeches based on some period boot maker’s advertizements offering them. The majority of leather breeches came from specialist leather breeches makers who used merely needle and thread to sew the breeches’ seams.

All this evidence together is circumstantial, but it’s the current interpretation of the usage of all the cloth drawn by the 4th Pennsylvania Battalion. It is possible that some of the cloth was made into breeches. Regimental orders and the papers of Quartermaster John Harper are equally silent on building breeches as about building waistcoats. However, accounting by the state of Pennsylvania for their 4th Battalion carried out after 1776 counted 444 pairs of leather breeches issued to the battalion, though it is unclear if this number reflects any breeches drawn Continental stores in 1776.  The large number of ready made leather breeches indicates that the majority of this cloth was not needed for breeches, leaving waistcoats as the most likely explanation.  Perhaps more important than whether or not the regiment’s purchases of cloth were used specifically for waistcoats, is the amount of effort they represent to keep the 4th Pennsylvania Battalion clothed in the late summer and fall of 1776. The sheer quantity of clothing worn out by these soldiers is a testament to the massive fatigues they undertook. Despite all this effort to keep the regiment clothed, by December 4th Colonel Wayne sent Captain Persifor Frasier off to Philadelphia to procure complete new uniforms for every man in the regiment. All the cloth and clothing delivered to the regiment still was not enough to clothe them into the winter.

 

*The leggings mentioned in Colonel Wayne’s December 7th regimental orders, appear to be made of Russia drilling. Reports from Pennsylvania Committee of Safety member Owen Biddle, from the fall of 1776 for supplying their battalions include hundreds of, “Drilling leggings”, which were occasionally alternately labeled, “Drilling Spatterdashers.” This indicates that leggings that arrived for the regiment were similar short, or calf-length leggings.

 

 

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