Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Revolutionary War Soldiers - some thoughts

I live less than two miles from the place where the Battle of Monmouth was fought. In fact. Main Street here in Freehold had been plundered by British troops. The British behaved so badly that even the Hessians were appalled.* 

Hessians, indeed. One bunch of Hessians were actually Brunswickers. They were part of Burgoyne’s army that came out of Canada. The Brunswick general, von Riedesel, brought his wife and family along on the campaign. They were all captured at the Battle of Saratoga. Baroness von Riedesel, a typical German noble, did not know what to make of the Americans. She was baffled by everything here. Among her remarks was that our troops wore no uniforms. They fought in civilian clothes. Yet every one of them had a very military bearing.

Snobby German trophy-wives aside, few of our troops had genuine uniforms. Most wore work clothes or hunting attire. In fact, Washington felt that hunting shirts were ideal. These were usually homespun shirts with fringes, all in a whitish color. A few units made uniforms by having everyone’s hunting shirts dyed the same color.
Rifleman and Militiaman on left, soldier and dragoon on right

The cut of hunting clothes was hardly discernable form buckskins.

American riflemen wore buckskins or hunting clothes. The stereotypical rifleman of the time was a crude rustic who was usually illiterate. True bumpkins, many came from the Carolinas, Vermont, New Hampshire, the New Jersey Pine Barrens and., of course Pennsylvania.

When I reviewed the Tim Mee Frontiersmen, I was pleased to note that they are all easily painted to be American militia and riflemen in hunting shirts of buckskins. The rub in all this is turning them in to regular militia in hunting shirts. The heads with raccoon hats can be replaced by heads with tricornes harvested from BMC and other large Revolutionary War figures.

Men in hunting clothes on the right, regular milita on the left.
They may be big and crude, but I like the BMC figures. They are big and robust. For Revolutionary War games in large scale, the BMC figures give you plenty with which to work. The price is right and you get a nice assortment of poses. Plus, there are excellent little redoubts and both cannons and mortars. You can do your own version of Yorktown or the Siege of Charleston.

The Tim Mee Frontiersmen are as much a charm today as they were what I was a little boy. Back then, I mixed them with cowboys and Indians. These days, they make an excellent frontier militia for the Revolution and War of 1812,. They are also great for the Alamo as Tennesseans with Davy Crockett. The frontiersmen can also be the Mountain Men who hunted out in the Rockies in the 1830s and 1840s.

Lafayette's Light Infantry
The best Revolutionary War figures from the old days were by Marx. Those by MPC were better than Lido, whose set was mediocre at best.

Many make the same mistake with the Revolution that they do with the Civil War. They think it is strictly a two-tone conflict. And just as Blue and Gray were not the only Civil War uniform colors, so the Revolution was not limited to Blue and Red. The British Red coats were supplemented by green-coated American Tories, Blue coated Hessians, white-uniformed Anhalt Germans and Indians in every shade of attire imaginable. Along with civilian clothes and hunting shirts, those American Patriot units that had uniforms might be any shade of blue, green., white, brown, or even red. Our French allies might wear white or shades of blue.

Uniformed infantry
With the Revolution ,there is plenty of lot of variety to keep the miniature modeler, collector and wargamer happy. There are several good books on uniforms, too. I like the Blandford book Uniforms of the American Revolution, The Company of Military Historian’s book The Era of the American Revolution published by Presidio Press, The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Uniforms from 1775 to 1873 The American Revolutionary War from Lorenz Books. There are a few details that are disputed, but these are useful guides to the troops and uniforms. Don Troiaini’s Soldiers in America by Stackpole Books has a smaller selection of beautiful illustrations for the French and Indian War to the Civil War, with nice images of Revolutionary War troops. Also, The American Soldier: US Armies in Uniform, 1775 to the Present has a well-illustrated section on the Revolution, as well as the Army and Marines on up to the late 1980s. It was published by The Military Press. Many of its illustrations were originally in Osprey publications.

One problem: at this time, only the Lorenz "Encyclopedia" is in print. The others have to be hunted down, and the trick is to wait until you find a copy at a price you are willing to pay.


*When British troops came to Norway at the end of World War II, they behaved quite badly in comparison to the regular German troops who had occupied the country since 1940.


  1. This is nice summary of the conflict.

  2. Nice appreciation of the toy soldiers by TIM MEE - I too loved, and love these clunky pioneers!