October 29, 2014

Dirty, Ragged, People...

October 10, 1776, Leesburg, Virginia - 
"The 6th Regt. of Virginians are camped here on their way to the Northward. A set of dirty, ragged people, badly clothed, badly disciplined and badly armed." 
(Cresswell, Journal,p. 163)


  A description of the regiment in October of 76 describes "a set of dirty, ragged people...". An army on the march would begin to look pretty tattered and torn. By this time the Regiment has travelled 162 miles away from Williamsburg and by December will be by "Banks of the Delaware, PA." (Lesser, Sinews, p. 43). 

 So what does an army on the move and encamped look like? Especially a "badly clothed, badly disciplined and badly armed" army. 


 Well the conditions of army life weren't as romantic as we like to believe. Desertion was rampant in the continental armies.

 In these deserter descriptions we can get a good idea of what these men looked like.

Four deserters were reported in Purdie's VA. GAZETTE 10 May 1776. One wore a hunting shirt dyed black, blue duffel (wool) coat, blue leggings and new shoes. The second wore a black and white mixed Virginia cloth coat and waistcoat and new hat and shoes. The third, a copper striped coat and waistcoat of Virginia cloth and new leggings. The last, a light colored Kersey coat and leather breeches. Two deserters were described in the postscript of Purdie's VA GAZETTE 10 May 1776. One wore a new suit of gray broadcloth, an old hunting shirt trimmed with red and leather breeches. The other wore a hunting shirt trimmed with red, leather breeches and had a jacket and breeches made of light colored sagathy. On 18 October 1776 two more deserters were listed in the same newspaper, one in a snuff colored coat and waistcoat with a silver button and loop to his hat. The other wore a dark colored hunting shirt, striped Virginia coat and waistcoat under it and Russia drab breeches.

Three deserters, all wearing hunting shirts trimmed with red, two in leather breeches and one in a gray broadcloth waistcoat and black stockings, were listed in the same newspaper's 8 November 1776 issue.

June-July 1776 - "Deserted from my company of the 6th regiment of continental regulars, two soldiers, viz. JOHN PHILLIPS... carried off with him ... a gun belonging to the country. JOSIAH CREW... wears his own light hair tied behind.

NICHOLAS HOBSON" (The Virginia Gazette)

"Deep Springs Camp, Sept. 17, 1776. Deserted last night from my company of riflemen, the following soldiers, viz, JOSIAH JONES... carried away with him a hunting shirt trimmed with red, a pair of leather breeches, several new shirts, and other things which I cannot recollect at present. DAVID BARNETT... carried with him a hunting shirt trimmed with red, a pair of leather breeches, a pair of new shoes, and several yards of linen, which I had delivered to him about two days before he deserted. JOSEPH CANTERBURY... carried along with him a hunting shirt trimmed with red, a gray coloured broadcloth waist coat and breeches, a pair of black stockings, two pair of shoes, and several yards of linen, which I delivered to him a few days before he deserted. They... were raised and enlisted in Amherst, where I expect they will endevour to get.

SAMUEL JORDAN CABELL, captain in the 6th Virginia regiment."

  A well worn, used impression only adds to the experience when portraying the past. These people lived in these clothes everyday. It wasn't a "costume" (a term in the reenacting world I prefer us not to use), it was what they wore for work, leisure and at times military service.

 I recommend the following for fabric.

 Burnley and Trowbridge
 William Booth, Draper
 96 District

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