Today marks the anniversary of the Battle of Plattsburgh, a crucial battle in the War of 1812 that helped to secure the northern border of the United States. At the time of the battle American and British delegates were meeting in the Netherlands to negotiate a treaty that would end the war. With the American victory at Plattsburgh and the subsequent defense at the Battle of Baltimore the Americans put themselves in a much stronger position.
To commemorate this occasion here is a look at some of the troops who fought in the War of 1812.
Warrior 129: Frontier Militiaman in the War of 1812:
Image taken from Warrior 129: Frontier Militiaman in the War of 1812
These three militiamen depict the variations in the basic militia uniform, particularly the hunting shirt and field equipment. The figure at left represents an affluent member of an established pre-war militia regiment. He wears the uniform of a hunting shirt and trousers, and is armed with a privately purchased rifle. The drab cloth is more typical of the latter periods of the Creek War and subsequent campaigns, as are the canvas army leggings. He is also equipped with a butcher’s knife at his belt, a camp knife worn around the neck, and rifle tools on a lanyard around his neck. The center figure is a member of a wartime volunteer militia regiment in the New Orleans campaign, wearing the uniform of drab-colored hunting shirt and trousers. Additional gear provided by the Federal government to the state of Tennessee includes a smoothbore musket and bayonet (held by the left hand), white cloth cross-belts supporting the bayonet and black leather shot pouch, and leggings. The figure at right is a gun captain in the Nashville Volunteers artillery company, wearing the early war blue uniform. He is armed with a privately purchased sword, and wears a leather thumb-stock, used to plug the vent while swabbing the cannon’s tube, on his right hand. Additional gear, clockwise from lower left, includes: a powder horn made from a cow’s horn; a boat gun – a cut-down musket suitable for firing from a canoe – with a woven wool sling; a hand-carved shot gauge used to hold shot for immediate use; a butcher knife and simple belt sheath; a metal canteen; one of several designs of tomahawks, this one with a cloth cover; typical weapon tools – pan brush, powder measure, vent pick, and screwdriver; a small camp knife, which often substituted for a screwdriver to seat musket flints, and pan brush; another type of trade tomahawk, this one with a riveted leather sheath; gourd canteen with leather cover and carved wooden plug; and a metal drinking cup with a deer-antler flint knapper attached. The knapper was used to shape musket flints.
Men-at-Arms 319: British Forces in North America 1793-1815
Image taken from Men-at-Arms 319: British Forces in North America 1793 - 1815
(1): Lower Canada Sedentary Militia, autumn of 1813.
This figure reconstructs the general appearance of rural French Canadian sedentary militiamen who were called out in an emergency. The costume is the typical dress, largely home-made and homespun, worn in the countryside consisting of a capot (usually grey) with a multi-coloured sash around the waist, breeches, long boot-like moccasins and a wool cap. When mustered, the men were issued arms, ammunition and accoutrements which could be white or black.
(2): 3rd Battalion Lower Canada Select Embodied Militia, private, Light Company, 1813.
The flank companies of the battalions were clothed with new uniforms in the summer of 1813. In the autumn, the Light Company of the 3rd Battalion was with Lt. Col. De Salaberry’s advance force when it met with General Wade Hampton’s American army moving up towards Montreal along the Châteauguay River. During the battle of 26 October, Hampton sent a strong column in the wood on the east side of the river to outflank the Canadian position, but it ran into Capt. Daly’s 3rd Light Company and a company of Sedentary Militia. Daly ordered his men to charge, destabilising the much stronger American column which turned and fled.
(3): Canadian Light Dragoons, trooper, 1813
Capt. Coleman chose the practical uniform shown here for his troop which was soon deployed in Upper Canada and fought in several engagements. This dress was probably worn from the spring of 1813 to early 1814.
Men-at-Arms 345: The United States Army 1812-15
Image taken from Men-at-Arms 345: The United States Army 1812 - 15
(1): Pikeman, 15th Infantry, winter 1812/13.
During winter 1812/13 the 15th was trained to fight in a three-rank formation (as opposed to two, as practised by the rest of the infantry), the two front ranks armed with muskets and bayonets and the third rank with 12-foot pikes, thereby achieving direct employment of ‘cold steel’ by all three ranks in a bayonet charge. For volley fire the pikemen were also armed with shortened muskets, and carried swords in lieu of bayonets. It was in this formation that the 15th fought during the successful attack on York, Upper Canada on 27 April 1813. The regiment (including music) was issued all-grey coatees with black binding trim and grey woollen overalls in late 1812, due to a shortage of blue and scarlet cloth. The cap plate is the pattern first issued to infantry in 1812 and is based on an original 15th example excavated at Sackets Harbor, NY. See text, page 40, for notes on accoutrements.
(2): Private, 16th Infantry, summer 1813.
With the 15th Infantry, the 16th spearheaded the attack at York and was similarly dressed in stop-gap uniforms of non-regulation colour. In winter 1812 the regiment received its first issue of black coatees, faced scarlet and fully trimmed with white tape. The uniform proved so popular that it was again requisitioned and received in 1813. In late spring 1813, the 15th and 16th Infantry were among the first units to receive the new leather infantry caps with upraised fronts, most of which were edged with white paint in imitation of binding (during the early contracts) as shown here. The regimental cap plate, one of the new forms struck in pewter and first distributed in early 1813, was originally intended for the felt cap and appeared ‘bulky’ on the new caps. The soldier’s ‘summer’ overalls are of cotton drilling, commonly issued in place of linen during 1813.
(3): Private, 28th Infantry, fall-winter 1813.
This regiment was raised and organised in Kentucky during early 1813 and served in the Northwest Army; a detachment fought as marines during the battle of Lake Erie, and the regiment distinguished itself at the battle of the Thames. During its short existence it wore the new ‘Blue Coats with red Cuffs & Collars & White tips’ authorised in early February 1813 to replace the full-trimmed 1812 pattern uniform. This soldier wears the felt cap with plate issued to the unit in 1813. His overalls are of drab wool, either new ones of the 1813 pattern or older gaitered ones with the bottoms removed (commonly done by veterans on campaign and worn instead with the issue half-gaiters).
Men-at-Arms 226: The American War 1812-14
Image taken from Men-at-Arms 226: The American War 1812-14
(1): Sergeant, 10th Royal Veterans Battalion, 1812.
The 10th was formed in Canada just before the war as a place to use men too old or infirm to fight. The battalion first received these gaiters and trousers and, although ordered into grey trousers in 1811, were allowed to wear them until worn out. This sergeant differs from most British Army sergeants, who carried swords and pikes, by his more practical, for the frontier, use of a musket.
(2): Private, Royal Marines, 1812.
Royal Marines served not only in the many naval actions of the war, but two Royal Marine battalions were sent to Canada in the autumn of 1813 where they saw a great deal of action along the border. A third battalion was sent to Virginia in 1814, while other Royal Marines raided along the Georgia Coast, served in the New Orleans Campaign, and fought alongside the Creek and Choctaw Indians in Louisiana.
(3): Major-General, British Army, 1812.
While a fancy, embroidered coat was worn for dress, this plainer version was preferred for field use. A major-general wore his buttons in pairs, with five pairs on each lapel, two above each cuff, and two on the waist at the coat's rear.