1775 British Garrison Living History

26th Regiment of Foot, February 1775

On the morning of May 10th, 1775 the British soldiers and their families posted to Fort Ticonderoga considered themselves on peacetime garrison duty, even as events proved otherwise. This 1775 British Garrison event intends to portray the soldiers of the 26th Foot who guarded Fort Ticonderoga on the eve of the Revolutionary War. Beyond stewards of this storied Fort, the soldiers of the 26th were part of the British Army’s system to defend their global colonial empire after the French & Indian War. A Scots regiment, the 26th Foot was alternately known as the “Cameronians,” and the “Covenanters,” referencing its original raising from armed religious protesters in southwest Scotland after the Glorious Revolution. The 26th Foot rotated from the Irish Establishment onto garrison duty in the American Colonies in 1768. Initially, posted to New Jersey, the regiment was transferred to Canada and dispersed into garrisons along the Saint Lawrence and Lake Champlain Valleys.

By February of 1775 Fort Ticonderoga’s reputation far exceeded the real strength of this post. British Engineer Captain John Montressor described Fort Ticonderoga in 1774 as Ticonderoga “composed of decayed Wood and Earth,” suggesting the, “ruinous situation,” of the fort was beyond repair.  He added, “the unhealthiness of the place, the Garrison being then ill with Fevers and Agues, the badness of the Water.” The only serviceable part of the Ticonderoga was the barracks since they were “repairable, being made of Stone.” The 26th Foot had maintained a substantial garrison at Fort Crown Point, the vastly larger Fort 15 miles down Lake Champlain, until the Fort burned down on April 21, 1773 thanks to a soap making business run out of the soldiers’ barracks. Despite the general decay of Fort Ticonderoga it was still the best regional option when Governor General Guy Carleton began to build up troops in the area as a possible counter to rebellion in New England.

In February, and even as late as May, rebellion remained merely rumors for Captain William Delaplace and his garrison. Delaplace did not command his company at Ticonderoga. Instead he commanded a company sized guard, drawn from many companies of the 26th Foot, including his own. Despite their elite status, even three grenadiers were drafted into Delaplace’s guard. Delaplace also commanded five artilleryman detached to tend to cannons and munitions from Royal Artillery. These brought the garrison to forty-two, by May 10th. By 1775 many of Delaplace’s men had served since rotation onto American service, if not long before. Lieutenant Jocyelyn Fletham, who arrived in May with fresh soldiers noted in his roster of captured men “those marked O are old wore out & unserviceable- & very few that can stand fatigue but those mark’d with an S: being chiefly the party brought down by Lt Feltham a few days before are serviceable those without any mark are middling.” Along with the soldiers captured in May, were approximately twenty-four women and children, the families of this peacetime guard. Fort Ticonderoga’s barracks had a designed capacity of 400 men, but with ten percent that number of soldiers they like spread out, turning the barracks into more comfortable billets. American accounts from the capture describe training guns outwards between south soldiers’ barracks of stone and north soldiers’ barracks of wood to cover the British soldiers and their families within.

Despite being a Scottish regiment, the 26th foot is recorded both in the December 19, 1768 Royal Clothing Warrant and the Grenadier Book of 1768 in standard British soldiers dress. The regiment adopted highland dress in 1881, but in 1775 the Scots nature of these soldiers was reflected only in surname, accent, and the occasion flat scotch bonnet worn off duty. Records of the Annual Reviews and Inspections of the 26th Foot are currently missing during tour in America, obscuring any deviations from the 1768 Warrant. When the regiment returned for American service, no aberrations in dress were noted in their review. Outside of special winter clothing, the Captain Delaplace’s guard appears to have been attired and equipped as per regulations and common practice in the British Army. For the purpose of portraying these soldiers, regimental details are important, but wherever possible and especially with winter clothing these guidelines are designed to include other impressions while still providing a uniform appearance.

Shirts

Best: Hand-stitched white linen shirt with ruffles narrow band cuffs with thread Dorset buttons or made for sleeve buttons (cuff links). Hand-stitched blue and white checked linen shirts.

Acceptable: Machine stitched checked or white linen shirts.

Unacceptable: Cotton calico or plaid shirts.

Neckwear

Best: Black velvet neckstocks buckled at the back.

Acceptable: Black Horsehair neckstocks, cotton neckerchiefs worn off-duty.

Unacceptable: Leather or linen neckstocks, or linen rollers.

Cocked Hats

Those without 26th Regiment hats are recommended to wear fur-trimmed Canadian caps.

Best: Hand-finished, round blocked, black wool cocked hat, bound in white, with a black horsehair cockade, white wool cockade loop and button.

Acceptable:  Black wool cocked hat, bound in white with a black cockade and white loop, minor visible machine stitching or oval blocked.

Unacceptable:  Slouch hats, grey or brown wool felt hats, cut down felt caps, straw hats.

Forage Caps

Best: Hand-finished, well fit madder broadcloth cap turned up with yellow broadcloth.

Acceptable: Madder broadcloth cap with turban with yellow broadcloth front flap with minor visible machine stithcing. Plain blue Scots bonnets.

Unacceptable: Anything else

Coats

Unlike regiments in later northern campaigns, there is no evidence for soldiers of the 26th modifying their regimental coats for service. Weather permitting, they paraded in their full-length, laced regimental coats. On peacetime garrison duty it is likely that soldiers turned their previous year’s coat into a second clothing coat for fatigue and comfort off duty. These simple unlaced short coats would have been the soldiers’ property, in addition to their regimental coat. For the purposes of this event a second coat could be worn for fatigue, off-duty, or if no other coat is available. Participants without a 26th coat or yellow faced regimental coat, could wear a blanket coat as a primary outer garment.

Best: Hand-finished, well-fit, wool broadcloth British regimental coat of madder red wool conforming to the 1768 warrant with yellow facings, laced, and lined with white bay or serge lining.

Acceptable: Well-fit wool broadcloth British regimental coat of madder red wool conforming to the 1768 warrant with yellow, laced, lined with white bay or serge lining with minor visible machine stitching. Second clothing coat, or blanket coat in lieu of a regimental coat.

Unacceptable: Civilian coats or roundabout jackets.

Waistcoats

Best: Hand-finished, well-fit, white regimental broadcloth waistcoat, with welted pockets, lined in bay or serge.

Acceptable: Well-fit, white regimental waistcoat with minor visible machine stitching.

Unacceptable: Civilian or baggy waistcoats.

Breeches

Best: Hand-finished, well-fit, white kersey or broadcloth regimental breeches with buckled or buttoned knee bands.

Acceptable: Well-fit breeches of white or buff broadcloth, kersey, or Russia drilling with minor visible machine stitching.

Unacceptable: Trousers, overall trousers, baggy breeches.

Stockings

Best: White or grey wool yarn or worsted stockings constructed with back seams.

Acceptable: White stockings or socks of wool yarn, worsted, linen or cotton.

Unacceptable: Colored, or polyester stockings.

Shoes

Best: Hand-finished, short or long quartered, round toe, shoes with black waxed calf uppers, fitted for buckles.

Acceptable: Machine made, black leather, shoes with buckles or ties, high-lows.

Unacceptable: Modern Footwear, moccasins, shoe boots, half-boots, high-lows, Civil War bootees, or riding boots.

Winter Clothing

Severe winters required the British Army North American to procure extra clothing appropriate to the climate. General Orders for the British Army in America state in September of 1774 that, “The Regiments will look out for leggings and mittens, against the severity of the winter, the General gives them timely notice, that they may send to New York or Philadelphia for them if necessary.” Even as late as April 26th General Orders required, “The men to mount guard in half gaiters for the future; but to carry their leggings with them, that they may be put on, if a change of weather should require it, especially at night.” The exact material for these woolen leggings is unknown. While brown and blue wool donation cloth was supplied in later campaigns. For the purposes of this event, black wool is preferred for uniformity. The soldiers of the 26th likely also had half-gaiters, but given the variable weather of March a pair of black wool leggings is recommend.

Legwear

Best: Well-fit, hand-finished British Army leggings of black cloth with a 5-7 button placket at the ankle, instep strap, worn with black leather garters below the knee.

Acceptable: British Army leggings in blue or brown cloth, or black half-gaiters.

Unacceptable: Anything else.

Mittens

Best: Hand-finished mittens of blue, white, or black broadcloth, kersey, or bearskin.

Acceptable: Knit mittens of various colors

Unacceptable: Leather gloves or modern mittens.

Blanket Coats

Outside of the regimental clothing paid for by the normal stoppages from soldiers’ pay, blanket coats were essential for service in Canada. Using additional deductions from soldiers’ officers procured blankets for these garments. Unlike regimental clothing, blanket coats were consider soldiers’ property from the time they were made. A letter published in the Pennsylvania Gazette, records on October 28th that after  the sieges of Saint Johns and Chambly  “He [General Montgomery] met General Wooster near Ticonderoga; our people had taken from the Regulars some blanket coats, stockings and shoes, four hogsheads of rum and some wine.” Writing from Quebec, General Richard Montgomery wrote to General Phillip Schuyler of captured stores on December 5th, 1775 including, “the year’s clothing of the seventh and twenty sixth regiments.” These regimental stores included enough blanket coats to issue, “an excellent blanket coat had assigned to each man.” Hesse-Hanau Captain Frederick von Germann drew a British soldier in Winter dress while serving with the British Army in Canada in 1776. This soldier donned a blanket coat made of a 3-point blanket, closed with blue ties down the front and ornamented by round rosettes at the hips of the same blue material.

Fur Cap
Von Germann also illustrated the British soldier in winter wearing a red wool cap trimmed in fur. Brunswick General Baron von Riedesel described similar caps as part of Canadian winter dress writing, “The aristocracy dress…casquets of the most beautiful fur instead of hats.” Royal Artillery Lieutenant James Hadden described preparations for the winter of 1776 in is journal noting, “Previous to this all the Troops were provided with …. a Woolen or Fur Cap & Mittens to protect the Face, Ears, & Hands against the inclemency of the Season.”

Best: Madder red cloth cap, trimmed in a broad band of fur turban.

Acceptable: No fur cap.

Unacceptable: Anything else.

Cartridge Pouches

Best: Hand-made 1760s style soft bodied cartridge pouch with a white buff shoulder strap.

Acceptable: British 36 or 29-hole cartridge pouches, on a white buff leather shoulder strap. 18-hole belly box as additional cartridge box.

Discouraged: 18-hole belly box as primary cartridge box.

Unacceptable: Hunting pouches, soft cartridge pouches, new model American pouches.

Arms

Best: Long land pattern British muskets, with a well fit bayonet and a white buff leather sling.

Acceptable: Short land pattern British muskets, with a well fit bayonet

Unacceptable:  All others.

Side Arms

Best: Whitened buff waist belt with a belt plate or buckle, holding a black leather scabbard and bayonet.

Acceptable: Shoulder converted waist belt with a belt plate or buckle, holding a black leather scabbard and bayonet.

Unacceptable:  Black leather belts, shoulder belts, horse pistols, naval pistols, unsheathed bayonets, tomahawks, or belt axes.

Knapsacks 

Best: British painted or goatskin knapsacks.

Acceptable: None.

Unnacceptable: Anything else.

Blankets

Best: Hand woven British blankets 2-3 point check, Dutch, or Rose blankets.

Acceptable: 2-3 point, Dutch, rose, plain white blankets.

Unacceptable: Civil War grey blankets.