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DSCN4288In 1777, the uniforms of the Continental Army remained largely uncodified and, well, non-uniform. At Ticonderoga, German accounts from the spring of 1777 state that “Few of the officers in General Gates’ army wore uniforms, and those that were worn were evidently of home manufacture and of all colors. For example, brown coats with sea-green facings, white linings, and silver dragons(epaulettes or shoulder knots), and gray coats with yellow buttons and straw facings, where to be seen in plenty.”

Brown coats with sea green facings. There’s one in our regiment, and it is a lovely thing. The Adjutant thought it would be interesting for the troops to turn out in these coats at Saratoga, an event to which the coat can be documented (being soon after Fort Ticonderoga) and an event that will take place on the historic site. So we’re making them, in a project that started Saturday, and here we are: ready to have the lapel width adjusted, because my eye tells me it is too big, and yes, I’m told that it was cut a but wide. So this morning, a lapel trim is in order.

An American Soldier. ca.1852 copy of a ca.1777 watercolor by Hessen-Hanau Captain Friedrich von Germann. Niedersächsisches Staatsarchiv, Wolfenbüttel, Braunschweig

An American Soldier. ca.1852 copy of a ca.1777 watercolor by Hessen-Hanau Captain Friedrich von Germann. Niedersächsisches Staatsarchiv, Wolfenbüttel, Braunschweig

But really, these coats.

Here you can see the style that we’re making, with applied lapels and shanked buttons, simple turn backs on the front skirts, and flat collars. The cuffs are also applied, non-functioning cuffs that come to a point in front. (Also, documented blue stockings!)

These coats will be worn with overalls, waistcoats and shoes, because we know from John Buss’s letters that the regiment was issued overalls and shoes in the summer of 1777. No visible stockings, sadly.

This is the kind of project I can get pretty stoked about, with its combination of aesthetics and documentation. A coat described in a German diary, made in pettable wool broadcloth that will be unlike anything else on the field? Of course I want to help make that vision real.

Imagine a moment on the field, with these documented coats, so unusual (the sea green may have been a faded blue, but sea green is what was seen), worn in a place where they were worn. I don’t need to remind you about the authenticity/commemoration thing, do I? Because it’s pretty clear that’s what’ll happen three weeks from now in New  York.