Portraying a Citizen Army: Clothing Rabble in Arms


The mix of civilian clothing, that was the ‘uniform’ for many soldiers in 1775.

The April 26, 1775 Connecticut Assembly Resolves that raised an army for war required that every man bring their own clothing and equipment from home stating:

And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That a premium of Fifty-Two Shillings per man shall be advanced and paid to each non-commissioned Officer and inhabitant upon their enlistment, they supplying themselves with a blanket, knapsack, clothing, &c., to the acceptance of their respective Captains, and that one month’s pay shall be advanced and paid to each of said Officers and enlisted inhabitants. And it is further enacted by the authority aforesaid, that the establishment of pay and wages shall be as follows, viz: the pay for their whole services:

Thus the Connecticut soldiers of Colonel Hinman’s and other regiments that garrisoned Fort Ticonderoga in 1775 were not in any kind of military uniform, but their own civilian dress impressed for war. The idea of 18th century civilian clothing can conjure up a variety of images as diverse as macaronis in silk stockings and powdered wigs, to impoverished rabble in tattered rags, and even mountain men, steeped in frontier lore. However, that picture of farmers, mechanics, and shop-keepers taking up arms is perhaps the closest to the truth, but we can delve deeper. There were a variety of clothing options available in 1775 just like today. Tailors and merchants offered winter and summer weight clothing; dress clothing and work clothing; sleep wear and outerwear. Luckily newspapers from the period give us an excellent tool to navigate this world of civilian clothing. If a soldier deserted from a company, his commanding officer would generally put an advertisement in a local newspaper describing this soldier in both his physical appearance and his dress. A typical deserter advertisement from Connecticut in 1775 reads:

Deserted from Ensign John Sumner, of Ashford, belonging to Capt. Daniel Lyon’s Company, of Woodstock, in Colonel Huntington’s Regiment, in Norwich, in Connecticut, one who calls himself by the Name of William Daby, a transient Person, about 5 Feet 10 Inches high, 27 Years of Age, a slim Fellow, with brown Hair, and dark Eyes – Had on when he went away a blue Coat, Leather Breeches something old, a Pair coarse white Tow Stockings, or a Pair of mix’d coloured Worsted ditto which he stole, is a Fiddler by Trade, and looks something wild with his Eyes. Whoever shall apprehend said Deserter, and return him to me the Subscriber, shall have Three Dollars Reward paid by John Sumner, Ensign.
Norwich Packet, 28 August 1775


3 Complete Suits, Coat, Waistcoat, & Breeches: Typical of New England Clothing in 1775.

Beyond valuable information about the appearance and character of these deserted soldiers, we get invaluable information about the clothing actually brought from home by these Connecticut soldiers. In this case the soldier wore what was probably a full length coat, ending by his knee. He wore leather breeches which were a heavy duty work and outdoor garment. Based on the weight of his breeches his coat may well have been stout durable woolen broadcloth. His thin white tow stockings were coarse and unrefined, but light-weight for the hot, dry summer of 1775. It looks like he wanted another pair of stockings too before he left the company. In another deserter description from Colonel Hinman’s regiment at Ticonderoga we find:

Deserted from the 4th Regiment of Foot, raised for the defence of the colony of Connecticut, commanded by Col. Benjamin Hinman, and of my company, on the 24th of May, one Benjamin Buffington, about 5 feet 5 inches high, light complection, high forehead, thin foretop, brown hair, black eyes, a handsome sett of teeth, tall shoulders, and tolerably well proportioned; when he talks, stands stooping, and tells much of his honesty. Had on when he went away, a grey outside jacket, lappelled, green plush breeches and streaked trowsers, two hats, a new beaver or castor, and an old beaver, two or three pair of stockings, and two pair shoes. Whoever will take and secure said fellow, and return him to my company, or in any of the prisons in this colony, so as he may be in the service again, shall have five dollars reward, and all reasonable charges paid by Samuel Elmer, Major of the 4th Regiment.
Connecticut Courant, 19 June 1775


“a dark brown Coat, with black Cuffs and Cape, Deerskin breeches with a white Linnen Shirt and seemed Worsted Stockings”

Thanks to this slouching liar leaving the regiment, we know that he brought with him to service several changes of clothes in terms of both shoes and stockings. He had a heavy-duty pair of breeches, made of plush, a very thick woolen velvet, and a pair of durable striped canvas trousers for a cooler summer wear or to keep his breeches clean on a cool day of work. His grey outside jacket would have been a short wool jacket with lapels that could button over in cool weather or be buttoned back on a hot day. It also appears that this man liked hats; carrying two expensive beaver felt hats with him. All in all he mustered ready to serve, even if he didn’t stick around long enough to defend Ticonderoga.


A mariner’s cuff on a short coat or sailor’s jacket of drab or light colored broadcloth.

Deserter advertisements like these, plus many more, serve both as valuable evidence in understanding the civilian clothing that soldiers wore in 1775, but they also give us complete suits to copy. With a little interpretation of the types of clothing described in these advertisements, the Interpretation Department is building complete suits of clothing for those staff members who will be portraying these citizen soldiers of 1775. This season as you walk the hallowed grounds of Ticonderoga, you’ll be able to see soldiers that walked right out of the newspaper in 1775.

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Notes from the Landscape: New Garden Plants and Programs

Spring arrived this week on our calendars, but the signs of spring have been around us for weeks!  Plants in the King’s Garden are starting to wake up and plans are underway for an exciting season ahead.

Snowdrops - One of the earliest spring flowers.

Visiting public gardens is a great way to expand your knowledge of horticulture and find inspiration for your own garden or landscape.  Fort Ticonderoga has numerous opportunities in the coming months to learn and grow with us.  To kick off the growing season, the first annual Garden and Landscape Symposium will be held April 14th.  Entitled “Planting the Seeds of Knowledge for Home Gardeners”, this day-long seminar features speakers from around the region who are experts in North Country gardening.  For more information or to register by the April 6 deadline, please visit this webpage.

Sign up online or visit the garden to learn about volunteer opportunities in the King's Garden.

For a sneak peek of the King’s Garden, our pre-season Spring Plant Sale takes place on May 19th, when perennials will be dug and divided from 10 am to 2 pm.  We have added vendors offering annuals, vegetables and a large selection of herbs to help round out your garden.  Volunteering in the garden is a great way to learn more about the garden’s history, its plants, and how they are cared for.  Information on how to become a King’s Garden volunteer will be available at the plant sale.

Digitalis ferruginea: This interesting foxglove was found at Swallowtail Seeds. The Rusty foxglove will bloom in our gardens in 2013.

The garden staff begins installing the 5000 or so plants that make up our seasonal display in late May.  New introductions include Portulaca ‘Happy Hour Red’ and the stunning foliage of ‘Mahogany Splendor’ Hibiscus, along with many heirloom vegetables for the Discovery Gardens.

In all, 273 unique flowers, vegetables and herbs are transplanted or sown during the growing season.

The information and inspiration continue throughout the summer with programs on raised bed vegetable gardening, culinary herbs, demonstrations by our staff gardeners, horticultural tours and a coach bus excursion to the Berkshire region of Massachusetts.  A complete listing of King’s Garden programs and events is available here.

The King’s Garden is open June 1 – Columbus Day from 9:30 am– 5:00 pm.  I hope to see you here soon!

Heidi teRiele Karkoski
Curator of Landscape

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Construction Details of a Small Sword

View of the completely disassembled hilt.

While cleaning weapons in preparation for the new upcoming exhibit Bullets & Blades: The Weapons of America’s Colonial War and Revolution, we had the rare opportunity to completely disassemble an American small sword; a sword made by the Boston, Massachusetts silversmith William Cowell, Jr. (1713-1761), ca. 1740-1760. (The pommel of the sword was loose and easily slipped off the tang with little additional assistance.)

With the sword disassembled and cleaned, several interesting construction details are visible. 


Note the vertical line where the two halves of the pommel were soldered together.

The Pommel.                                The pommel is composed of two cast halves silver soldered together along its center. Note the clear solder joint line extending downward from the top of the pommel. The ring at the bottom of the pommel is a second formed piece of silver soldered together into a ring then soldered to the bottom of the pommel.

The grip.
The sword’s grip is formed from a single carved wooden core covered in twisted silver wire. The silver wire forms what appears to be a braided texture to the grip, but the wire is not actually braided. The braided effect is formed by laying pairs of oppositely twisted wire next to each other. Each pair of twisted wire is secured to the grip by passing the ends of the wires through small holes in the upper and lower ends of the wooden grip.

Note how the oppositely twisted wires for a braided effect. The ends of the wires are crimped over the top of the grip to hold them in place.

The wire at the bottom of the grip is held securely in place by friction when the blade tang is pushed through the hole in the grip. The wire on the top end of the grip is clearly shown to have been forced upwards out of the upper hole of the grip and folded over the top of the grip.

The knuckle bow – quillon block.
The knuckle bow, quillon block, pas d’ane rings and quillon are formed from one casting of silver. However, the bottom of the quillon block has a decorative rectangular spacer that provides an attractive joint between the knuckle bow casting and the counter guard.

A rectangular spacer provides an attractive transition from the knuckle bow assembly to the counter guard.

The hilt assembly.
As is seen in the photo below, the assembly of the hilt is a fairly straight forward process. The counter guard and knuckle bow is fit over the blade tang along with the wire-covered grip. The pommel is then fit over the end of the tang holding the grip securely in place and locking a post at the top the end of the knuckle bow in place. The blade tang is lightly worked with a hammer to slightly mushroom the end locking the entire hilt assembly securely onto the blade.

View of the hilt during final assembly.

Blog post by Christopher D. Fox, Curator, Fort Ticonderoga.

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