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Revolutionary War Uniforms on Both Sides

Revolutionary War Uniforms on Both Sides

The Revolutionary War in the United States was a turning point in the history of both involved nations as well as in the history of the world. It marked the birth of a powerful new nation as well as the decline of the previously unstoppable British Empire. Revolutionary War uniforms have been portrayed in films as well as in art, but there is a great deal of detail and history that is often missing from popular portrayals.

Because the army fighting for freedom from British rule was not yet truly consolidated as a nation, there was a great deal of variety in the uniforms that various branches of the military in different locations chose. Some already had uniforms, while others may have had almost no uniform at all, being less wealthy. Which of course brings us to another point in the variation in Revolutionary War uniforms, which is of course the wearer’s status. Officers wore different and more decorative uniforms than the lowest soldiers in the fields. They had the money to dress themselves in the best.

Initial Revolutionary War Uniforms

The first color to be made official for the uniforms of soldiers on the American side was brown. Regiments wore facings in various color combinations in order to distinguish themselves. Not all of the Revolutionary Way uniforms were brown however due to the previous selection of uniform colors by older contingents of the army.

In 1779, General George Washington was authorized by the Continental Congress to create a specific order of clothing and uniforms for the armies from all of the states. The base color for the uniforms was to be blue, and different colored facings were chosen for each of the regions including several states. The order went into great detail as to the appearance of the uniforms, including the color of the lining and facing and the color and appearance of buttons, buttonholes and edging.

The facing of the blue uniforms distinguished the states as follows: For the states of New England as well as New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut the facing selected was white. New York and New Jersey would have buff colored facings. Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia were given red facings. Finally, blue facings were selected for North and South Carolina as well as Georgia.

American Revolutionary War Uniforms

In the field, most of the Revolutionary War uniforms of the American army were somewhat simpler. Washington selected hunting shirts. These shirts were determined to be the most practical choice for everyday wear, and could be adapted for winter or summer. Made of various fabrics including leather and wool, these shirts were the main attire of the troops, and were dyed many colors to represent the regiments. Thus, in spite of the order that the main color of the troops should be blue, American troops fought in carrying colors, usually blue, brown or red.

British Revolutionary War Uniforms

The British Revolutionary War uniforms are a well known costume that was much more consistent due to the organization and history of the British army. The soldiers of the British army came to be nicknamed the “Redcoats” for their scarlet coats. They were usually faced with white or gold, and of course officers in the army wore the most decorated coats. The well-established British were generally better dressed than the Americans, whose uniforms were somewhat cobbled together and far less expensively made, especially those of the officers.

Revolutionary War Uniform Hats

Both sides of the army were known for wearing tricorn hats, but these also varied based on the soldier’s rank. Various hats were part of the uniforms of different regiments and units. In some cases, especially on the American side, troops may have simply worn whatever hat they owned, since not all were provided with a uniform hat.

The style of the uniforms on both sides also followed the fashions of the day. Long tailed coats, knee length breeches and stockings, waistcoats and more were all choices that were modeled after the current popular styles in men’s clothing. As most of the fashion at the time came from Europe, American style was closely modeled after the styles made popular in England and France.

While both were modeled after the same fashions, American and British Revolutionary uniforms differed mainly in their quality and level of decoration. They may have been similarly styled, but it was unlikely that a British soldier would be mistaken for an American one.