Fifteen Glorious Years- or was it thirteen?
The 95th rifles existed between 1803 and 1816. After their genesis in 1800 as the Experimental Rifle Corps, they moved swiftly through an incarnation as The Rifle Corps, before becoming a numbered regiment as the 95th (Rifle) Regiment of Foot in 1803. With the raising of additional battalions in 1805 and 1809 the regiment became firmly established as the champions for those reformers who believed that a specialist Light Infantry armed with superior rifled weapons were a viable proposition for the British army. In 1816, as a compliment to their service and in recognition of their specialist nature, they were taken out of the line, and renamed The Rifle Brigade. Coincidentally this limited first incarnation of the Rifle regiment from 1800-15 coincides precisely with the period in which the British army first sported caps.
A quick word on terminology.
The British army issued caps universally to the infantry other ranks from 1800, and revised the pattern three times during the existence of the 95th: in 1806, 1812 and 1815. The first cap replaced the ultimate version of the cocked hat. In period terminology a hat was head-wear with a brim (even if cocked), whereas the term cap described head-wear without a brim. It was not until 1816 that the British infantry began to term the fourth, latest model of cap a shako. The British cavalry had adopted a ‘chacot’ in 1810, but the infantry continued to refer to their headwear as a cap throughout the period of the 95th’s existence, the term shako can properly only be applied retrospectively. The terms ‘stovepipe’ used to describe the first two models and ‘belgic’ for the third or 1812 model are also not contemporary but are evocative later constructs. As we shall see Horse Guards termed these items ‘a pattern cap’ or ‘a new pattern cap’ and naturally the soldiers developed nicknames for each model.[i] The first 1800 cap was known colloquially at the time as the ‘smoke-jack’, the second 1806 cap the ‘sugar-loaf’ and the third 1812 cap as the ‘bang-up’[ii] or ‘Wellington cap’.[iii] For convenience, I have appended a date to each mention of ‘pattern cap’ in order to distinguish the successive developments.
It is my intention here to list only the caps issued to private soldiers through the regimental purchase system. This C18th system had survived into the C19th and required the colonel of a regiment, or colonel commandant for the 95th, a three battalion regiment by 1809, to purchase clothing, including caps, from a contractor through a regimental agent. The colonel then recouped his outlay from government at an agreed rate. The focus of this article is primarily on private soldiers as officers were required by regulation only to equip themselves with a cap, or caps, similar (so not necessarily identical) to those of the men.[iv] In practice this meant that officers’ headwear was prone to be more fashion-led, tailored to individual taste or colonel’s vagaries, and also naturally of a higher quality. Crucially, although each colonel commandant of battalion for the 95th suggested a cap maker to his officers, they were not absolutely required to follow his recommendation, so officer’s caps cannot be considered strictly regulated in the way that the men’s were. Although, even if constructed of infinitely better materials, they generally seem to have followed the style of regimental caps closely, as we shall see when images of officers in caps are examined. These images are necessary to our study owing to the relative paucity of images of other ranks or surviving other ranks caps.
The Three Pattern Caps of the 95th.
General Orders for the army reveal that the model of Infantry cap was changed regularly: from its inception in 1800, it altered in 1806 and again in 1812, with a fourth pattern being ordered in 1815 and issued in 1816, by which time the Regiment had been re-designated as The Rifle Brigade. Our inquiry is focussed on the first three caps which were distinguished as follows.
In 1800 the first infantry cap of felt with a plume centre front was issued. It was lacquered or shellac’d. [v]
In 1806 a similar pattern of felt cap without the lacquer was substituted. [vi]
In addition to this regular issue of new sealed patterns for the army, some Orders related to minor changes in the cap are pertinent to the 95th Rifle Regiment, and others are unique to either Light Infantry, 95th Rifles, or both. Especial attention has been paid in this article to the 1812 cap, often termed the ‘belgic’ cap, as during the C20th an orthodox view developed that holds that the Rifle and Light Infantry Regiments were not required to comply with this issue, and did not adopt the cap. I have attempted to demonstrate that this was not the case, being unsupported by the evidence, and that the Rifle Regiment sported the 1812 cap for the final years of their existence.
The 1800 Pattern Cap.
The first model of cap was trialled by the 5/60th as early as 1797, and by the 16th, 22nd, 34th and 65th Foot in 1798.[ix] This accorded with the standard method of trialling kit used by the Georgian Army. This form of experimentation involved small quantities of proposed new equipment, say 10 or 20 units, being issued to several battalions whose Colonel then reported back to the Adjutant General on the utility of the new item. Sometimes several different versions were sent out to different regiments.[x] It appears these at least some of these early models of proto-cap may have been of leather since in 1799 a sketch of the cap to be made of felt instead of leather was forwarded to HRH the Commander in Chief. [xi]By 11th December 1799 a model of this cap in felt had been approved by HM the King,[xii] and on 24th February, 1800 Horse Guards issued the General Order to adopt the new headwear.
The cap was composed of a felt crown, 8 inches high and 7 inches in diameter, it was shaped as a cylinder and flat at the top. The felt was lacquered by an unrecorded process. Some surviving models have an unfolding fall internally or externally to cover the neck. There was a leather sector peak over the eyes extending 2.5 inches at the apex of the curve. A thin brass die struck plate of universal pattern occupied the front. The plates measured 6.25 by 4 inches, but was not used by the rifle regiments,
“The Rifle Corps not to wear the brass fronting on their caps, but in lieu to have a bugle and crown with a green cord round the cap.”[xiii]
A black Hannoverian cockade of tooled leather was at centre top, held by a button of regimental pattern, behind which was a central plume or tuft holder, usually internal. All measurements are by nature approximate, variations being common in surviving examples.
Further details on this first pattern of cap are found in the collection of warrants today known as the 1802 regulations.
“Caps made of Felt and Leather with a Brass Plates, Cockade and Tuft (conformable to a Pattern left at the Controller Office for Army Accounts) to be Worn, instead of Hats, by the Non-Commissioned Officers, Drummers, Fifers and Privates of the Guards and be every Description of Corps of Infantry, excepting the Highland Corps, who are, when in Europe, N. America, to continue to wear the Highland Bonnet, but when in the East and West Indies, are to wear the Felt Caps similar to other Regiments. They are to be made of sufficient size to come completely on the head. To be worn straight and even and brought well forward over the eyes. The felt cap and the tuft is to be supplied annually. The leather part, brass plate and leather cockade once in every two years. It is permitted to engrave the number of the Regiment on each side of the Lion, on the lower part of the brass fronting (plate) and those regiments that are entitled to badges are permitted to bear them in the centre of the Garter. The Grenadiers who are allowed to wear these caps occasionally may also bear the Grenade in the same manner as other regiments wear their badges. The tufts worn by the Battalion Company to be white with a red bottom, by the grenadier company to be all white and by the Light Infantry to be dark green. The whole to wear the button of their respective Regiments in the centre of the cockade, excepting the Grenadiers who are to have a grenade. The Rifle Corps not to wear the brass fronting on their caps, but in lieu to have a bugle and crown with a green cord round the cap. The serjeants, buglers and rank and file to wear green feathers”.
The various orders for the Rifle Corps and 95th indicate green worsted tufts or feathers. In time, these conflicting orders settle down to worsted tufts for the private riflemen and feathers for buglers and serjeants.
The adoption of this 1800 cap by the Rifle Corps is confirmed by a clothing warrant specifically for the Rifles from the Dublin Records Office detailing that,
“…each Sergeant, Corporal, Drummer (bugler), and Private Man shall have.. A Cap, cockade and tuft as above specified (viz., A Cap made of Felt and Leather with Brass plates Cockade and Tuft conformable to a pattern approved by Us, the felt crown of the cap and Tuft to be supplied annually, the leather part and Brass plate and the leather cockade every two years.)” [xiv]
This warrant is additionally useful as it shows that the cap plate, shaped as a bugle horn was to be of brass.[xv] Later editions of bugle horn badges for the Rifle Brigade and its notable successors have obscured this detail and many post period images confuse the brass Georgian bugle horn badge with a silver Victorian example.
That the cap was intended to be lacquered and continued to be so is demonstrated in numerous references. For instance in 1805 a letter regarding compensation details them as such.[xvi] The author has found one anomalous letter from the 96th regiment dated 1804 when the regiment detail why they are not using lacquered caps. Their excuse? That they had caps to use up before adopting the lacquered cap. Since the lacquered cap was the first model adopted, presumably the 96th had acquired non-regulation caps and were being taken to task by the Commander in Chief, through the Army Inspectors.[xvii]
More pertinently for the rifles, there is a letter extent from Horse Guards to Colonel Coote Manningham in 1805 letting him know that,
‘HRH cannot sanction any deviation from the Kings orders in regard to the caps worn by the 95th Regt’[xviii]
We can only speculate as to Coote Manningham’s request since the original letter has not been found. Possibly an early attempt to alter the peaks, or add battle honours? We may never know. What we can confidently assert, was that the Commander in Chief was averse to any ‘special’ 95th cap at this point.
The 1806 Pattern Cap.
Stealing oranges, 1811. “We were at some loss to provide for their transfer to a suitable place, as our dress was pocketless, and fitted as tight as a glove; but we contrived to stow away about a dozen each in our then sugar-loaf-shaped regimental caps, and placing them carefully on the head, we marched off…” [xix]
By 1806 an altered pattern of felt cap was distributed. The main difference was that the lacquering was dropped. The lacquering process had proved to be either defective, ineffective, expensive or all three.
“It having been represented to the Commander in Chief that the use of the lacquered cap which has been adopted for the Infantry of the Army has been found from experience to be attended with much inconvenience and prejudice to the troops, HRH has submitted the same to the King and HM has been graciously pleased to command that those regiments of infantry which are entitled to Caps for the Year commencing the 25th Dec 1806 shall have them made of felt in strict conformity to the pattern cap which is lodged at the Office of the Controllers of Army Accounts, the leather parts of which and brass plates are to be supplied once in two years and the felt crown and tuft annually as before. [xx]
There were no other recorded changes to the cap at this time, although a process for waterproofing the cap by applying a substance to it was rejected by the clothing board in 1808.[xxi] Presumably because this resin based application was similar to the lacquering just discarded.
A precedent for retarding the adoption of regulation was also set in 1806 with a dispensation granted for the 82nd to retain the old pattern of cap for one year.[xxii]
By 1811, preparations were underway for a new model of cap. Not all of the discussions concerning the last model cap have not been found, although there is a letter about a new invented cap from Mr John Hand of Crompton Street Soho Square that may concern this cap but lacks details.[xxiii]
The 1812 Pattern Cap.
“The new uniform was a perfect contrast. A Cap like a straight quart mug only the size of the noddle it was meant to fit- a sort of screen rising above the front half of it- a very rich gilt Cap plate, a small feather, and very rich cords and tassels of gold, intended to secure the Cap from being lost while skirmishing.” [xxiv]
The board of general officers (clothing) made the following recommendations for changes on 29 June 1811.
“… the cap at present worn by the infantry is objectionable as to its form, which renders it unsteady on the head, and of little use in defending the head from the weather _ much less from sword wounds; and the board, conceiving that, without making any material alteration as to the quality, or any difference whatever in the expense, a cap may be constructed, which would not be liable to the above objections, but might combine the advantages of comfort, durability and utility in point of defence.”[xxv]
The new cap was intended to have a reinforcement of iron for protection, but this was dropped in favour of alterations for economy that would enable the cap to last twice the period expected of the 1800 and 1806 models. By February 1812 it had been decided that,
“…the infantry cap shall be the same, which has been approved by HRH, with the exception of the Iron, and that the sum saved by this means shall be expended by the Colonels in an Oil Skin Case (cover) which will ensure the cap lasting the proposed time.” [xxvi]
Accordingly the following circular was issued, from Horse Guards 18th March 1812,
“I have received the Commander in Chief’s Commands to apprise you, that The Prince Regent has been pleased to approve for the Infantry, a Cap, of a superior quality to the one heretofore in use: to which is added, a Cap case of prepared Linen, to be worn in wet weather. It is confidently expected, that this Cap, with the aid of the Case, will last Two Years; but in order to secure this important Advantage, it will require a very particular Attention on the part of the Colonels, that the Caps now to be furnished are in every respect as good as the Pattern Cap, and that no greater profit arises to the Vender of the Cap, than he was heretofore allowed, but that the whole sum allotted for the Provision of Caps, for Two Years, shall now be faithfully expended in meliorating the Material of this Cap, which is calculated to last that Period.
In order to secure the Colonels of Regiments from the possibility of any increase of Expence from this Arrangement, The Prince Regent has approved a Cap of inferior Value, (calculated to last til the next Delivery of Caps), for the Use of such Recruits as are raised in the course of the Year, in which Caps are not delivered to the Regiment.
Regiments which have been supplied with Caps of the Pattern heretofore in use, are to be permitted to wear them until the Expiration of the Period for which they have been furnished.”[xxvii]
Changes to Regulation by sub Regulation.
Three other important regulations detail changes that occurred to alter the caps of the 95th:
It appears that it was always intended that the cap badge for the Light Infantry and Rifle regiments was intended to be a bugle-horn, rather than a plate of the universal pattern[xxviii]
In 1809 the peak of the cap for rifle regiments was altered from a round shape to a square cornered one.[xxix] This alteration is also seen in portraits of light company officers, and may have been regulation after the fact, following light infantry affectation
In 1814 a regulation was issued confirming that the use of the bugle-horn cap badge continued on the 1812 cap[xxx] and requiring numerals to be applied to identify the LI regiment.[xxxi] It is unknown whether the 95th followed this practice since only one undated sketch shows this.
Changes to regulation below Army Level.
After regulation, occasional minor changes to the cap are described as happening within theatre. For instance the adoption of chin tapes when performing amphibious landings.[xxxii] Or sometimes an additional cockade to support a local cause,[xxxiii] or as a regimental internal distinction. For instance, the 95th used green and white sub-cockades to indicate marksmanship.[xxxiv] At some point a worsted band or tape may have been added to the 1806 caps for the sergeants at least.[xxxv] On the whole, alterations to standard pattern were discouraged by Horse Guards.[xxxvi]
Regulation caps were considered part of the clothing of a battalion[xxxvii] and in common with the rest of the regimental clothing were supposed to be issued annually on 25th December.[xxxviii] In practice there is some evidence that some battalions issued their clothing in April instead.[xxxix] The perishable felt body of the cap was supposed to be re-issued every year, until the introduction of the 1812 model that was supposed to be more durable and to last for two years.[xl]
It sometimes happened that a battalion had ordered new caps to be prepared before receiving a new regulation requiring a new pattern.[xli] In these circumstances, Horse Guards could permit a battalion to continue in the old pattern clothing for a period not exceeding one year. This was the case in The Peninsula generally in 1812, and the rifles also intended to use up clothing in store at Lisbon in lieu of their 1811 and 1812 issue.[xlii] But in early 1813 the regiments were expected to be up to date, and the 95th were no exception. Colonel Barnard records that in April 1813 the 95th were re-equipped, with only the 1st battalion being maintained in the old 1806 pattern caps.
“I have had caps enough in store to help the appearance of the 1st Batt. as it used to be but the 2nd and 3rd sport bang ups as the soldiers of the 52nd who were the first in the Division that put them on have christened them.” [xliii]
The 1st battalion could be expected to continue in these old caps as long as, but not longer than one year, so to April 1814, by which time they had experienced another re-issue, and indeed possibly a further refit on arriving in England.[xliv]
Exemptions to Regulation.
We have established the successive regulation caps, those of 1800, 1806 and 1812. We have also indicated the sub changes of regulation, particularly those applied only to the Light Infantry or Rifles. We have also examined the evidence for in theatre changes. Let us now turn to exemptions from regulation. It is clear that battalions could, and did, apply to the Commander in Chief for permission to either innovate changes to pattern equipment or to request a suspension in the introduction of new regulation. The most common examples of this process include changes to the cap plate to display battle honours awarded or anticipated or requests to display elite status via grenadier or light infantry ornaments. Much more rarely exceptions were also granted for reasons of economy or practicality. For instance the Colonels of the regiments listed above applied for a suspension of issue of the 1812 pattern cap on the grounds of substantial stock remaining unissued in store. The presence of stores of this nature is evidence of a failure in the supply system as the off reckoning system was intended to reduce exactly this sort of redundant stockpiling. Stores should not have been kept at Lisbon, but the denudation of the transport system of the country by the passage of successive host, ally and invading armies meant that the British commissariat could spare little or no capacity for transporting clothing issues in theatre. Their priorities were ammunition, forage and food in that order. One has some sympathy for their failure when recalling that it was not their job to carry the re-issues, and when it was done, it was done as a courtesy where spare capacity was available or by private arrangement through regimental quartermasters. The regimental agents were responsible merely for getting the issue to Lisbon. The colonels knew that it would be personally ruinous to write off the unused stock and were reliant on the charity of the Commander in Chief to correct the anomaly.
No Light Infantry or Rifle regiments are indicated in this correspondence collection. Yet the prevalence of stores of unissued clothing and caps at Lisbon during the latter stages of the campaigns under Wellington in the Peninsula (1811-12) was sufficiently common for the Duke to look personally into the matter and in Dec 1812 take the unprecedented move of applying for an in theatre exemption.[xlv] This was granted, and appears to have been for one year, in line with practice as applied to those regiments that applied directly to the Commander in Chief in England.
The second condition under which exceptions were made is illustrated by a notable and possibly unique example where the 1812 cap was not issued owing to practical expediency. This involved the 28th regiment who are notoriously rumoured to have persisted in the 1806 cap with a bizarre combination of brass ornaments. The visual evidence for this comes from the painter George Jones who rushed a set of pencil sketches into print in 1817 to exploit public interest in Waterloo. He must have seen, or had described to him this anomalous arrangement, and since he was in Paris in 1816 where the 28th formed part of the occupation forces it is possible that he was an eye witness.[xlvi] In fact the exception is detailed in WO papers, and was owing to a loss of stores by shipwreck.[xlvii] As with other cases, this exception was made for one year only. It may have applied only to the service battalion, as pattern cap plates for the 28th are extent in at least three examples. All three are 1812 pattern plates with regimental distinctions, so must be the property of the depot battalion. This difference in styles or patterns of cap worn is important, as it has a bearing on the issue of caps to the 95th.
The issue of 1812 Pattern Caps to the 95th.
There is no specific information until April 1813.[xlviii] One would expect the 95th to conform to regulation which would require the cap to be issued with clothing on 25th Dec 1812. However, the companies of the 95th from all three battalions serving in the Peninsula fell within that class of battalions granted a suspension of regulation under Wellington’s initiative of 1812. This is confirmed by Barnard, who mentions that in 1813, the 1/95th continued in old stock from store. The other two battalions being issued the new model 1812 cap. As we have seen the system of supply was supposed to eliminate excessive stockpiling of kit precisely because obsolescence overtaking stored kit could be so damaging to a colonel’s pocket. Some hints as to the reason for this un-issued kit being hoarded at Lisbon comes from Quarter Master Surtees who details his frustration at length in his diary. The section of this journal relating to 1811-1813 reads as a litany of desperate at the sheer impossibility of finding transport to move kit when the commissariat have consumed every mule, cart and barge for their exclusive use. In the prevailing shortage of cattle and cars Surtees found that a bleating mess of a regimental QM was not the potent figure he might have cut in his own storeroom at depot.
We know from Barnard when the 2nd and 3rd battalions were first issued the pattern 1812 cap. We can make a reasonable assumption that they persevered in this cap, as depicted in so many images of the 95th in 1815-16. It would be perverse to invent an excuse for a reversion to an obsolete model. An interesting question arises. When, if ever, did the 1st battalion adopt the regulation cap? Barnard tells us that the 1/95th drew model 1806 caps from store at St Jean de Luz in April 1813. The body of these caps would have been expected to last a year, as usual.. The April 1813 re-issue of the pattern 1806 would take them to either Christmas 1813, or to April 1814 at which point another issue should have been made. Did another issue occur to the 1/95th between April 1813 and Waterloo in June 1815? In theory there should have been two more issues of the 1806 pattern, or just one of the more robust 1812 pattern that was expected to last for two years, twice the time allotted to the previous model.
Although no regimental records have been found detailing cap issues beyond the letter of Barnard to his fellow officer Cameron, we can reconstruct some clothing, and hence cap, re-issues from memoirs and journals. (Caps were considered part of clothing and supposed to be issued at the same time.) [xlix] Although the surviving regimental records are so poor the 95th have been blessed with a superabundance of memorialists and those of the first battalion shed some light on the question. So do the diaries of the first battalion offer any indication of a clothing issue between that of April 1813, and the last battle of the wars in June 1815? The answer is yes. On the 19th of February 1814 George Simmons records,
“The 1/95th with the 43rd LI marched to St Jean de Luz for their clothing. I took the advantage of being on telegraph duty, and remained with the army.” [l]
Corroboration is found in the memoirs of Surtees, written up from his journal. He was then serving as Quarter-master to the first battalion 95th and regimental clothing was his responsibility. He details his tribulations from early 1812 at which point the army was advancing rapidly from its depots and had not yet realigned its supply line as it later did to Passages and subsequently St Jean de Luz.
“On the 26th February… From hence I was dispatched to Lisbon for the regimental clothing, which had then arrived at that port; but being unable to procure the means of transport, I was obliged to return without it. I rejoined them in the camp before Badajos about the 25th of March.” [li]
“.. and as the men began to be ill off for want of clothing, I obtained leave to proceed forthwith to Abrantes; to endeavour to get both the clothing and goods brought up to the regiment.” [lii] “I found at Abrantes a detachment of our second battalion proceeding to join the army; but, to my sorrow, learnt that there was no chance of procuring transports for the clothing etc, for some months to come.” [liii] Retreat to Burgos, late 1812, “The army, as might be expected from the late severe and harassing service they had been engaged in, began to be extremely ill-off indeed for want of clothing, many of the men being nearly quite naked; in consequence, the most pressing orders were sent from Headquarters to use every means possible to have the supplies immediately forwarded, for Abrantes at this time contained stores belonging to almost every regiment in the army… …After waiting a few weeks, the means of transport were at last given me by the commissary there…. We started about the beginning of January 1813.” [liv] He then details the re-issue in spring 1813,
“But as the season approached which was to call us to the field, a review of the whole division was ordered to take place… Every regiment was in high and complete order, the whole having by this time been fully equipped for the campaign.”[lv]
He also records a further issue, after the regiment returned to England in September 1814,
“Here also we began to replenish our wardrobes, which, it will easily be imagined, were not the most magnificent in the world on our first arrival.” [lvi] We have seen that the evidence from Surtees and Simmons tallies with what we have seen in the WO papers and further that they record at least two issues of clothing to the first battalion during the course of 1814. Presumably the expected official re-issue in December 1814 was unnecessary in these circumstances, but whether that was the case or not, clearly a lack of opportunity cannot be the explanation for a failure to re-equip with the regulation cap.
The Last Word?
Let us now momentarily allow the body of evidence to evade the grip of probability and slide momentarily in the morass of speculation. With one arm remaining tethered to the solid tree of documentation we should be able to extract ourselves relatively unscathed when we have done hypothesizing, so its permissible to indulge ourselves. There are various possibilities for the 1/95th’s 25th December 1814 issue even without considering the possibility of a 25th Dec 1813 issue, or the 19th of February 1814 issue recorded by Simmons:
- It didn’t happen. The 1st battalion continued in obsolete pattern exhausted caps as presumably happened in 1812-1813 campaign. This would see them wearing their battered headgear for three years from 1813-1816. Three times as long as the items were intended to last, and in defiance of regulation and of the Commander in Chief.
- There was a re-issue of pattern 1806 caps from store in Dec 1814, and possibly in Dec 1813 as well. This assumes a huge reserve of several thousand caps had somehow built up, when we know that there was insufficient in reserve to re-equip more than one battalion in 1813, as Barnard has shown. Since each battalion had its own supply chain it is possible that the 1/95th had managed this feat of stockpiling while the other battalions had been more prudent.
- There was an issue of the regulation cap- the pattern 1812. Either in December 1813, four months before expiry date of the old caps, to catch up with regulation, or in April 1814, on the expiry of the old caps, or in Dec 1814, or on the dates recorded by Simmons and Surtees.
- There was a mixed issue. 1806 pattern to service companies and 1812 pattern to depot companies. Note that this may already have happened to the 1/95th in 1813. Barnard details the arrangements in the Peninsula, but not those in England. The 28th provide a precedence for this expedient.
The existence of the George Jones’ image does make one of options 1, 2 and 4 a remote possibility. It is easy and very reasonable to discard this lone voice of dissent, but his depiction of an unusual cap for the 28th is in his favour. Adopting one of the three less likely hypotheses could present an elegant solution to the problem of conflicting images- without overplaying the importance of one or two dissenting depictions.
However of these four possibilities the third chimes the true note. To expect the 1/95th to avoid or ignore three dates on which they were required to update their obsolete headwear, which in any case would have been so exhausted as to be ragged is a stretch of probability. In addition as we have seen, there is no record that an exemption from regulation was requested or granted to the 1/95th, or indeed, any of the light infantry or rifle regiments.
Genesis of a Myth.
What was the source of what has until now been accepted as a canonical view that light infantry and rifles preserved the 1806 model cap? The rightly renowned mid C20th historian CP Lawson has been identified as the earliest exponent.[lvii] Valuably, Lawson outlined his flawed but understandable, reasoning, and admitted the lack of evidence he was labouring under prevented him being dogmatic about his view- that was left to his successors. He also emphasised the absence of official documentation, which has proved to be the case, nothing relevant being found in Orders or BGO reports for instance, hence the reliance on memoirs, letters and images. So, if you accept the evidence presented here, what we are left with is almost a reversal of the former orthodox position, that view being that the 95th and light infantry regiments stayed in the 1806 cap when the rest of the army went to the 1812 caps. Anyone defending this position has to prove a negative- the army went to the 1812 model- nothing has been found to say that the lights did not, the view is probably of early C20th origin, and is opinion. Since there is next to no evidence to support this position, which appears to be derived from just two images[lviii] and since there is a much larger weight of evidence in images, and in accounts of those involved supporting what should be the default position, that the army went over to the 1812 cap, and so did the rifles, it is possible to correct the record.
[i] p.134 History of the Royal Sappers and Miners, volume i, Connolly, Bibliobazaar, facsimile of 1855
[ii] Bang up “Quite the thing, hellish fine. Well done. Compleat. Dashing.” Definition taken from The 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, Francis Grose.
From The Cassell dictionary of slang, “bang-up: [early C19th] first-rate, excellent, fashionable, stylish.”
[iii] Regimental clothing description from dress regulations for the 19th foot from 1816 which quotes the current dress regulations in use and describes the 1812 cap for officers.
[iv] p376. Regulations 1811. General Order. Horse-Guards, 24th December, 1811 ‘…Officers of Infantry to Wear a Cap of a pattern similar to that established for the Line. ”
[v] WO26/39 Warrant for compensation, dated 1803, for lacquered felt caps.
[vi] WO7/34, 85 Official letter of approval for the prior adoption of the felt cap throughout the infantry, 2 July 1807
[vii] WO7/56, 95 Board of officers recommendations for changes , 29 June 1811 “… the cap at present worn by the infantry is objectionable as to its form, which renders it unsteady on the head, and of little use in defending the head from the weather _ much less from sword wounds; and the board, conceiving that, without making any material alteration as to the quality, or any difference whatever in the expense, a cap may be constructed, which would not be liable to the above objections, but might combine the advantages of comfort, durability and utility in point of defence.”
[viii] Circular Letter addressed by the Adjutant-General p395 General regulations and orders for the Army 1811 onwards.
[ix] General Order letter-book vol. 365, 16th Sept 1797, 27th Jan 1798, see p.4 The British Infantry Shako 1800-1897, Bryan Fosten and Gary Gibbs, The Military Historical Society, 2008
[x] WO3/367, 429 For instance the famous trials of gaiter, overall and trouser combinations in 1809-11 that lead ultimately to the adoption of grey trousers for overseas service in the Peninsula and overalls for marching wear on home or overseas service. For example on 24 Sept 1814, a six month trial of John Carpenter’s knapsack was ordered.
Mr John Carpenter having proposed for the Commander in Chief’s consideration a knapsack for the use of the Army, & it having been deemed expedient to afford a fair trial of its merits, I have the honour to acquaint you that HRH has approved of the knapsacks of Mr Carpenter’s invention being sent the _ Battalion _Regiment & I am to desire that you will cause them to be distributed & at the expiry of six months after the receipt of them, that you will transmit to the Adjutant General for the Commander in Chief’s information, a Report upon the Quality and merits of these knapsacks, stating full the grounds upon which you form your opinion respecting them in order to enable HRH to determine as to the expediency of introducing them into the Service.
I have etc, Darling”
Appended to this document is a list of the regiments, 1/7th Foot, 1/43rd, 1/52nd, 1/95th, 2/95th.
[xi] p.4 The British Infantry Shako 1800-1897, Bryan Fosten and Gary Gibbs, The Military Historical Society, 2008
[xii] General Order Letter Book, vol 365, ibid.
[xiii] 1802 clothing warrants.
[xiv] Clothing Warrant 1801 from Book of Entries, Military and Martial Affairs, 1801 i.e.3.59. Record Office. Dublin. Reproduced in History of The Rifle Brigade, Verner, vol. i p.42
[xv] I have used the confusing but customary term, ‘brass’ throughout to refer to the yellow metal composites used for uniform and cap items. ‘Silver’ is used to refer to ornaments in white metal colours. Where actual silver is indicated I have referred to it as ‘silver-plated’, or as ‘solid silver’ as necessary.
[xvi] WO26/39, 220.
[xvii] WO3/152, 420
[xviii] WO3/39, 202
[xix] p.259 Random shots from a Rifleman, Kincaid, Pen and Sword 2007
[xx] WO 3/193, 311
[xxi] WO7/34, 184
[xxii] wo3/42, 1
[xxiii] WO7/35, 60 Dated 17 May 1811
[xxiv] Lt. John Le Couteur of the 104th foot, in Canada, 13th July 1812. p.70, Merry Hearts make Light days, ed. Don Graves, Carleton, 1994
[xxv] WO7/56, 95
[xxvi] BGO report 14th Feb, 1812
[xxvii] WO123/148 Horse Guards Circular dated 18 March 1812
[xxviii] A soldier of the 68th confirms that there was no difference between the regular and light infantry cap in 1808 except the plate. Christmas 1808, in the 68th. p.17 The vicissitudes of a soldier’s life; or, a series of occurrences from 1806 to 1815
[xxix] WO3/47, 474-5 “…alteration in the Peaks of the caps of the Rifle Corps has been approved, and that they are in future to be square instead of round, as has hitherto been the case.” 17th April 1809, Clothing regulations for Riflemen
[xxx] It appears that this difference in cap badge was already intended. See, Royal warrant for the provision of clothing etc. to the Infantry, 15th July, 1812. Two pages reproduced from PWR GEN p.233-5 (Bn 741-2) Note that the provision for cap and cover is identical throughout all units, the rifles are also provided with a cap cover, which was kit issued only with the 1811 belgic cap. The rifles are not issued a brass plate however, and this is confirmed in 1814 by another GO stating that they will continue with a bugle horn. In the following pages, the scale of compensation for these articles is given, and the cost for the rifles cap and cover is precisely the same as that for the rest of the line.
[xxxi] P.380 General Regulations and orders for the Army 1811 onwards. General Order. Horse-Guards, 28th December, 1814. HIS Royal Highness the Prince Regent having been pleased to command, that the Caps of the Rifle and Light-Infantry Corps, and the Rifle and Light-Infantry Companies of Regiments, shall have a Bugle- Horn with the Number of the Regiment below it, instead of the Brass Plate worn by the rest of the Infantry, The Commander-in-Chief has directed, that the same shall be established throughout the several Companies and Corps of Riflemen and Light Infantry in His Majesty’s Service. By Command of His Royal Highness The Commander-in-Chief, HARRY CALVERT, Adjutant-General.
[xxxii] Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research (Vol. XXVI, p. I66).- “Lieut.- Generals of Divisions will immediately give orders that proper means are taken for securing the soldiers’ caps by fixing tapes so that they may be tied under the chin to prevent them falling off:’
[xxxiii] p.149 General Graham, Brett-James, NY 1959,“The first troops, urged by their commander to cherish the goodwill that the brave and high-spirited Spanish people entertained towards the British nation, and wearing in their hats a red cloth cockade stamped with the initials of Viva Fernando Settimo in token of this sentiment….” 1808, Sir John Moore’s army.
[xxxiv] See The Green Book, or Standing Orders of the Rifle Regiment, 1801
[xxxv] WO7/35 Pages 131 and 132, dated Dec 1811
[xxxvi] WO3/39, 202 Coote Manningham’s request for unspecified alteration to cap refused. 11 June 1805,
[xxxvii] WO3/50, 115, letter requesting that regimental headwear be always sent out at the same time as the clothing. 1810
[xxxviii] WO3/50, 17 Horse Guards take an interest in the late delivery and fitting of clothing. They side with the colonel against the supplier, but observe that clothing need be on the men’s backs by 25th Dec, in case they are ordered on active service. 24th January 1810
[xxxix] The Guards for example, and perhaps also the Rifle Regiment, see Barnard above, and PWR Foot guards Inspection Report 1812. “The clothing is ready but it is not customary to the Guards to issue ‘til St George’s Day, the 23rd April.”
[xl] WO123/148 Horse Guards Circular dated 18 March 1812
[xli] See WO3/203, 404, for the 63rd or, WO3/42, 1 for the 82nd for instance.
[xlii] WO3/360, 213 ‘… I am directed to acquaint you that it will be unnecessary to order clothing to be sent for the six companies of the 95th regiment serving in Portugal, as it appears there is a large supply now in store at Lisbon, which may be appropriated for the ensuing year.’ Letter from Horse Guards to Colonel Beckwith 95th Regt. 25 June 1812
[xliii] The headgear situation is described by Barnard in a letter to Alexander Cameron of 1st April 1813 and included in the Rifle Brigade Chronicle, 1931. “I have had caps enough in store to help the appearance of the 1st Batt. as it used to be but the 2nd and 3rd sport bang ups as the soldiers of the 52nd who were the first in the Division that put them on have christened them.” Barnard at St. Simon, April 1, 1813, to Alexander Cameron,
[xlvi] The artist George Jones military career: Possibly South Devon Militia 1808, commissioned Captain, Royal Montgomeryshire militia 17th Feb 1812. There is no evidence that he served abroad. His output as an artist 1812-16 suggests he was fully employed in GB. Post Waterloo (1816) he sketched the battlefield and some of his drawings were published 1817. These are often presented as eyewitness drawings, but bear in mind that by 1816 some uniform and cap changes had taken place, so he was probably already relying on actual eyewitnesses to tell him what was worn rather than drawing from life. The series of Waterloo prints, comes from volume iii of Booths, the Battle of Waterloo etc. pub 1817 “Illustrations to the Battles of Quatre-Bras, Ligny, and Waterloo, with circumstantial details. By a near observer. And the various communication of important particulars from staff and regimental officers, in a series of thirty-four etchings, comprehending general views of the british positions, regimental and individual acts of heroism, gallantry, and incident, drawn from the most correct information, by Capt. George Jones, and engraved by S. Mitan, &c.”
[xlvii] WO 7/56, 539-541
[xlviii] The headgear situation is described by Barnard in a letter to Alexander Cameron of 1st April 1813 and included in the Rifle Brigade Chronicle, 1931. “I have had caps enough in store to help the appearance of the 1st Batt. as it used to be but the 2nd and 3rd sport bang ups as the soldiers of the 52nd who were the first in the Division that put them on have christened them.” Barnard at St. Simon, April 1, 1813, to Alexander Cameron,
[xlix] WO3/50, 115
[l] p.336 A British Rifle Man, G.Simmons, N&MP, 2007
[li] p.137, Twenty five years in the Rifle Brigade, Surtees, Greenhill, 1996
[lii] p.169, ibid.
[liii] p.171, ibid.
[liv] pp183-4, ibid.
[lv] p.188 ibid.
[lvi] p.324 ibid.
[lvii] P.23 A History of the Uniforms of the British Army, CCP Lawson, volume V Kaye and Ward 1957
[lviii] CCP Lawson cites the print by Charles Hamilton Smith as the total of his evidence. The CHS prints were performed over the entire period in question and compiled into an album published in 1813. Therefore the details are not necessarily contemporary to the publishing date. In fact CHS also illustrates a light regiment in the model 1812 cap, which rather negates Lawson’s hypothesis.