The Regimental Coat of the 4th Connecticut Regiment_ 1777 -1778 by hcj


									           The Regimental Coat of the 4th Connecticut Regiment, 1777 -1778
                                   Matthew Keagle

        Nowhere was the uniform of the 4th Connecticut clearly spelled out, but the
evidence indicates that soldiers were issued brown coats turned up with red. In the spring
of 1777 commissary Andrew Huntington shipped cloth containing 17 pieces of brown
wool, and a part of a piece of red wool. 1 Another inventory of cloth contained, “12 Pc
Cloth / Blue & Brown” as well as, “24 yards Red facings. All of this fabric was intended
for, “soldiers Cloaths” and there was even, “I Pc fine Red Cloth” that presumably was
meant to make facings for officer’s uniforms.2 That the 4th Connecticut had uniforms
made out of this wool is uncertain, but probable. The fact that they did wear brown
uniforms is almost certain.
        Brown was clearly a common uniform colour in Connecticut, evident as early as
1776 with the colony’s demand for brown coats and waistcoats. The council of safety
had representatives in Boston buying clothing early in 1777 and urged, “that one
regiment be of Dark brown”3 A, “well dressed” deserter belonging to the 4th Connecticut
in April of 1777 wore, “a Suit of Regimentals, the Coat brown faced with red,” and he
probably represents the first example of the uniform of the 4th Connecticut. The brown
faced red coats may have been issued that spring and based on notes in Captain Fitch’s
papers he was still issuing uniforms to men as late as December of that year. 4
        Despite his uniform coat (and what were probably military overalls) the deserter
still wore a good deal of civilian clothing. Whether this clothing was civilian clothing
issued to him, or what he enlisted with, is unknown. The uniform of the regiment during
the summer and fall of that year seems to be pretty well illustrated by a deserter from
Captain Fitch’s company in November who also, “wore away a brown regimental coat
faced with red,...”5 By the fall of the year the brown faced red regimental coat appears to
have been standard. While soldiers who died at Valley Forge clearly had regimental
coats, their colours are not specified but they were almost certainly brown faced red.
        Another indicator of the colour of the uniforms issued in 1777 is that of the
uniforms issued in 1778. In that year the state received cloth from Otis and Andrews in
Boston and ordered John Bigelow to oversee the construction of uniforms from that
shipment.6 Bigelow was to ensure that the cloth was made into uniforms under the
observation of the officers of the various Connecticut regiments to ensure it matched
those in use at the time. Even General Washington understood, “that the Cloaths were
made to suit the uniforms of the respective Regts.”7

  Andrew Huntington to Joshua Elderkin, May 27, 1777. Connecticut Archives, Revolutionary War, Vol.
XI, 461, Connecticut State Library (CSL).
  Inventory of Cloth, Jul. 18, 1777. Connecticut Archives, Revolutionary War, Vol. XI, 463, CSL.
  Council of Safety Minutes, Feb, 14, 1777. in Charles J. Hoadly, ed., The Public Records of the State of
Connecticut, vol. 1, (Hartford: Press of the Case, Lockwood &Brainard Co., 1894), 173.
  Capt Andw Fitchs Minet Book. Andrew Fitch Account Books and Papers, CSL.
  Connecticut Gazette, Oct. 3, 1777.
  Council of Safety Minutes, Dec. 10, 1777, Jan. 19, Mar. 26, 1778. in Hoadly, Public Records, 576.
  George Washington to Jedediah Huntington, Nov. 19, 1778. in George Washington Papers, LOC. (Accessed May 15,
         Thus when five men deserted from the regiment in November they all took away,
“a Suit of Regimental Cloaths, the Coat dark brown with red Facings, light brown Vest
and Breeches, trim’d with Continental Buttons marked USA.”8 This probably represents
new, complete uniforms from Bigelow. It should come as no surprise that they match the
brown faced red uniforms of 1777, since they would have been made to match those,
further confirming the uniform of the regiment.
         John Durkee, who had been the Colonel of the 4th Connecticut, died in May of
1782 on leave in Connecticut and present in the inventory of his estate were three “Broad
Cloth Regimental” Coats. Of these, the highest valued, and presumably the least worn
was made of blue broadcloth, the least valuable, and presumably most worn, was made of
brown broadcloth.9 The 4th Connecticut, like the other regiments from New England,
was ordered to wear a uniform of, “Blue faced with White” according to Washington’s
instructions of October 2, 1779. Knowing that fully equipping the men would take time
the General also desired the officers, “to endeavor to accommodate their Uniforms to this
Standard, that when the men come to be supplied there may be a proper uniformity.”10
          Accounts of cloth issued to the officers of his regiment in 1780 clearly indicate
that blue and white were being supplied as early as February 1780.11 Durkee himself
probably followed Washington’s order, or he may have had a new coat made up when he
became the Colonel of the new 1st Connecticut Regiment in 1781, which was partly
formed from his old Regiment.12 If that was the case the blue uniform could have been as
little as a year old when he died, and at most no more than two years old, and worn
during fairly static campaigning. The brown regimental coat could have been made as
early as 1777, and worn during the active campaigns of that year, through his injury at the
battle of Monmouth, and beyond, while his men were wearing their brown faced red

                                 Details of Our Reconstruction

        While circumstantial evidence clearly suggests the 4th Connecticut were clad in
brown coats turned up with red the details of those uniforms are quite vague. Therefore
we must look to contemporary images and descriptions from 1777 and 1778 to
reconstruct a garment likely to have been made in Connecticut in 1777.
        The basic cut of the coat was probably very much like that of a contemporary
British regimental, with full lapels, collar, etc. The length of the coat, though, may have

  Connecticut Gazette, Dec.11, 1778.
  An Inventory of the Estate both Real and Personal of Colo John Durkey Late of Norwich, undated
probably 1786. John Durkee Papers, CSL.
   General Orders, Oct. 2, 1779. in George Washington Papers, Library of Congress. (Accessed May, 14,
   Account of Cloathing Delivered to the officers of the 4th Connect Regt for the year 1780. Connecticut
Archives, Revolutionary War, Series 2, Vol. IV, 8a, CSL.
   Henry P Johnston, The Record of Connecticut Men in the Military and Naval Service During the War of
the Revolution, 1775-1783, (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, Inc., (1889), 1997), 315.
Reproduced on Family Archive #120 (Military Records: Connecticut Officers and Soldiers, 1700s-1800s).
   Johnston, Record of Connecticut Men, 182.
varied. Congress’ instructions to commissioners to France to obtain uniforms urged that
they get ones similar to those in use already. One feature they desired was that the coats
be, “short skirted, according to the dress of our soldiery.”14 Thus this reconstruction will
feature short skirts.
        Short skirts are also apparent on the uniform depicted on an American soldier
drawn by a German participant in the Burgoyne expedition in 1777. While the soldier
may represent an enlisted man of the 7th or 12th Massachusetts regiments, it nevertheless
depicts a New England soldier in 1777 or 1778.15 Massachusetts and Connecticut had
considerable ties in the period with both states purchasing cloth and clothing from one
another. Many of the details then for the 4th Connecticut uniform are taken from this
image of a Massachusetts’ soldier.
        Among these features is the short length, mentioned earlier. Another interesting
feature is the pointed cuff. While this seems unusual it is interesting to note that a similar
cuff appears on a coat worn by a Connecticut militia general in 1778. Jabez Huntington
was painted by John Trumbull in 1778 and appears wearing a pseudo-military uniform.
He has on a pair of leather breeches, high boots, and a short white belted waistcoat, very
similar to that depicted on the soldier by von Germann, and also those worn by American
soldiers drawn by a French officer at Yorktown in 1781. His coat extends perhaps to the
middle of thigh, and is presumably made of a grey wool, lined with a white material.
While his coat is not faced like a military coat, and its buttons have a floral pattern, the
cuffs are nevertheless pointed like those depicted on both the officer and soldier in Von
Germann’s illustrations. This leads us to adopt the pointed cuff for this regimental coat
as well. Additionally other portraits from New England officers depict a pointed cuff as
        The uniforms provided to the men in 1778 were described by both Brigadier
General Jedediah Huntington and Washington being of poor quality and made of, “very
ordinary unsuitable Cloath & almost all without Lining...”16 There is little to suggest that
the clothing of 1777 was of exemplary make and we have chosen to half line the coats.
They will be lined solely in the skirts and faced along the front in red serge or bays. The
coats worn in the Von Germann images both have linings made to match the facings
rather than a different colour, such as white, worn by the British, and later Continentals.
        The spirit of economy is represented in these coats and therefore the lapels and
cuffs are sewn down and non-functional. The collar is functional although it will be
made of a single layer of cloth, as was done on a surviving British coat from the period.
The buttons will be plain white metal. The first instance of buttons with some kind of
design are USA buttons in November of 1778, on the clothing from Bigelow.17 Before

   Congress to Secret Committee, Feb. 17, 1777, quoted in Marko Zlatich, Specifications for Imported
Continental Army Uniforms, 1775-1778, Military Collector and Historian Vol. XXXXIV, No. 3 (Fall
1992), 120.
   Philip Katcher, Uniforms of the Continental Army, (York, PA: George Shumway, 1981), 106.
   Jedediah Huntington to George Washington, Mar. 10, 1779. George Washington Papers, LOC.
lecode=mgw&next_filecode=mgw&itemnum=1&ndocs=100 (Accessed May 16, 2008)
   Connecticut Gazette, Dec.11, 1778.
that no designs are known to have been issued, and few, if any, regimental buttons are
known to exist from Connecticut at all.18

                            Measurements, Button Placement, Etc.

        These directions are intended to allow participants to be able adapt a regimental
coat pattern that fits them into the 4th Connecticut coat of 1777. Pieces of an existing
pattern that need to be adapted are noted, for instance skirt lengths and lapel width. Some
elements of the coat are provided as patterns to achieve uniformity.

        The lapels will be made 2 1/4" wide along their whole length. There should be
sufficient allowance to be able to turn under and cast down to the interior of the body.
The lapels will have 9 buttons placed equally along the length of the lapel 3/4" in from
the outside edge. The bottom button will be placed 1" from the bottom of the lapel and
the others spaced evenly up the lapel.
        The collar will be peaked in the back. Take an existing peaked regimental coat
pattern and trim it to the same extent that you trimmed the lapels. Generally the collar
should match the relative width of the lapels. The collar is a single layer of cloth, with a
1 1/8" un-worked slit for the top button of the lapel. The seam allowance of the neck
edge of the collar will overlap inside the neck edge of the coat and both sides will be cast
        The cuffs are pointed and will follow the enclosed pattern. Please adjust the
width according to the wrist of your pattern. The front point should extend 4 1/2" from
the top of the point to the edge of the sleeve.
        The pocket flap is provided in the enclosed pattern. It has 3 buttons, the top and
bottom button are set 1" down, and 1" in, from the corner of the flap. The remaining
button is centered between them. The pocket flap itself is non-functional and sewn so
that the top edge is in line with the bottom of the lapel and the top of the side vents.

Coat Body:
        The skirts on the coat body will be 9" in length from the end of the lapels. There
will be 2 buttons on the hips at the top of the side vents. The side vents will be false.
That is, the front side will be turned under and sewn in a single fold, there will be no
pleating in the lining. The back vent will not overlap.
        The lining will be partial. It will extend along the front edge of the coat for 3-4",
and fully line the skirts. You can choose whether or not to place pockets in the skirts.
There will be no pleating in the lining at the side vents, the lining will lie directly over the
false pleats of the coat body. The skirts will be turned back and tacked to the coat front
near the pocket flap.
        Trimmings. There will be 2 hooks and eyes at roughly at the level of the 1st and

  Don Troiani, Military Buttons of the American Revolution, (Gettysburg, PA: Thomas Publications, 2001),
3rd buttons of the lapels. There will be 9 buttons on each lapel, 2 on the hips, and 3 on
each pocket flap for a total of 26 buttons. The buttons will all be plain, flat pewter.

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