Category Archives: cavalry

When is an Estorff’s not a Lüneburg?

(This post expanded November 2017)

Here’s another King’s German Legion uniform spin-off, and a good example of the sort of existential nightmare we have to tackle when available primary sources are few.

Among the newly raised Hanoverian units with Wallmoden’s Corps in the war in Northern Germany in 1813 was the Lüneburg Hussar regiment, also known as Estorff’s after its commander, also known, in a nod to HRH, as the Prince Regent’s. Among the von Röder paintings of Wallmoden’s forces in the Anne S K Brown collection is an officer of “Estorfsche Husaren” (below left); he wears a scarlet jacket with dark blue collar and cuffs, a scarlet pelisse, both with silver lace, grey overalls and a fur cap with a dark blue bag. The von Röder images are a bit quirky, and don’t always show quite what we might expect, but they do seem to be faithful attempts at an eyewitness record. [Click to enlarge images.]

Left to right: von Röder, Elberfeld, Vernet – a measure of agreement

Roughly compatible with this is an image dated to March 1814, from the Elberfeld Manuscript (“Darstellung … durch Elberfeld passierten Truppen”) in the Lipperheide collection at the Kunstbibliothek Berlin – or at least, from José Maria Bueno’s re-drawing of it, as I don’t have the original handy (above centre). Plus a third primary image of an Estorff, similar but with a dark blue jacket, by Antoine Charles Horace Vernet (Carle for short) from the Royal Collection (above right); the lace should be silver or white, but otherwise it’s a fit. (For a long time, this was catalogued as the King’s German Legion 3rd Hussars, which it certainly isn’t. We’ll revisit that particular confusion in a moment …) Yes, the red/blue jacket issue is a problem, but at least we have a measure of agreement between these three.

Added Nov 2107:

Since posting these three sources, I’ve come across a number of 20th century images by Winand Aerts, based on  primary sources, that confirm this picture, showing the blue cap bag, blue jacket and red or scarlet pelisse, with reversed colours for a trumpeter. One image, in an album at the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, is a copy of a period sketch by J B Rubens  in the Bibliothèque Royale in Brussels; the hussar wears overalls strapped, cuffed and patched. It’s a fair copy of the original (not reproducible here), though Aerts reduces the number of front loops for no reason other, I suppose, than carelessness. The remaining six are from Aerts’s album of Hanoverians at Paris; these are based on Rubens (supposedly), the Elberfeld Manuscript, a portrait of a veteran, and the recollections of an unnamed officer. Aerts’s work is not invariably watertight, and the second figure here, allegedly based on Rubens, shows inexplicable differences to the cap, collar, cuffs, sash and overalls. It’s also noticeable that one of his Elberfeld figures shows obvious differences (plume, pelisse trim) to the equivalent figure as re-drawn (above) by Bueno, though both have directly copied the same source. These are the sort of annoyances that plague research mediated by secondary sources …

So far, so good. Now let’s see what a more celebrated eyewitness source makes of the same regiment. Here (below left) is the Suhr brothers’ quite different take on the Estorffs (an officer, judging by the sash) – all dark blue with yellow facings and silver lace, including a light between the overall stripes; most surprising perhaps is the cap, maybe an unrolling mirliton type or, perhaps more likely, just peakless with cords. (I’ve borrowed this image from the very useful Napoleon Online site, from the copy at the Kunstbibliothek Berlin.) This startling difference requires modern commentators to posit two quite separate Estorff uniform styles – the “early” uniform as in Suhr and the “later” uniform as in von Röder, Elberfeld and Vernet. Or, as Achard and Bueno suggest in their edition of Suhr: “Possibly, we have here one of the first uniforms of the regiment, which had to wear garments and equipment from various regiments, before the regulation uniform was created.” Well, yes, possibly. And then again, possibly not.

Suhr’s “Estorff” plus Hamilton Smith’s 3rd Hussar equals Neumann’s “Estorff”

Move on a century or so, and we have a plate on the Estorff/Lüneburg Hussars (above right) from the watercolours by Friedrich Neumann known as “Landwehr und Freiwillige Truppen”, also in the Lipperheide collection at Berlin. (Borrowed from Napoleon Online again.) Apparently a private, but broadly similar, despite the grey overalls and the very different headgear and horse furniture. In fact the pose of the figure, and even the background foliage and fencing, seem so similar to Suhr that the derivation is obvious. But wait a minute – haven’t we seen this figure somewhere else? Those overalls, the sheepskin with the yellow scalloped edge, other smaller details – yes, it’s Charles Hamilton Smith’s 3rd Hussar of the King’s German Legion (above centre)! Neumann has borrowed it directly, but curiously, has replaced Suhr’s peakless cap and Hamilton Smith’s dragoon cap with the peaked fur cap associated with the 2nd and 3rd KGL Hussars. What’s going on?

The Elberfeld 3rd Hussar, via Bueno

Though Neumann’s work is sometimes mentioned today with reverence, something has clearly gone adrift here. As a possible solution to the puzzle, I’d suggest that both Suhr’s and Neumann’s figures in fact portray, with more or less accuracy, the 3rd Hussars, who after all were brigaded with the Estorffs/Lüneburgs at the time; either Suhr’s original identification was mistaken, or else at some point along the centuries both attributions have slipped. In support of this, we can point to another figure in the Elberfeld book, labelled as a “Hanoverian hussar”, which, despite some obvious discrepancies of detail, is a close relative to Suhr’s image. Since Elberfeld already contains an identified Estorff Hussar, as seen above, this one can only be intended as the 3rd Hussars. (Again, the version here is that re-drawn by Bueno.) The date of the original sketch, January 1816, would have been a month before the Third was disbanded.

So, I think both blue “Estorffs” – Suhr and Neumann – should be properly understood as records of the 3rd Hussars of the KGL, like their Elberfeld cousin; and on that basis the trio will be added in due course to my page on that regiment, though Neumann’s version, as a much later synthesis from conflicting sources, has to be considered the most artificial and the least valuable of the three.

Incidentally, isn’t Bueno’s drawing admirably stylish? So economically crisp, so fluent and animated; I’ve always liked it, and have always envied his prolific energy. But in this game the devil is in the detail, and such economy of style by its nature tends to eclipse detail …

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King’s German Legion revisions

My KGL cavalry pages have seen some fairly extensive revision, correction and expansion lately – particularly those for the Hussar regiments and the Light Dragoons of 1813, which, though I say it myself, are now looking fairly comprehensive. Or as comprehensive as the evidence allows. If more information arrives, it will be added. The menu for these pages is in the sidebar to your right, or up the top and drop down.

As pages here in WordPress Land are not tagged, this post is just a way to throw some tags and images at Google, hopefully to allow searchers to discover the pages in question. Otherwise, please ignore this and carry on …


A new pelisse for the light dragoons

It’s usually a good idea to finish researching before posting, but my piece in June on that most mysterious of garments, the light dragoon pelisse of 1811, turns out to have been a bit lacking, so below is a new, expanded version, now with a new postscript and image added at the end on 30th August. (The original post is deleted.)

HRH Prinny’s scandalously Frenchified “plastron” uniform of late 1811 for the Light Dragoons is familiar from many images, and from surviving jackets. But here, from the Royal Collection, is something less familiar – a watercolour by Denis Dighton of a private of the 12th Light Dragoons with some sort of pelisse flying from his shoulder. [Click all images to enlarge.] The depiction is rather vague: dark blue, with a few white buttons and what looks like crimson fur lining and cuffs. Dighton squeezes the shape in awkwardly between cap cords, sabre, pouch and distant horizon, which I suppose might indicate a late addition to the painting. It’s all a bit odd. At the risk of attracting a heap of correcting emails, this is one of only two contemporary images of a light dragoon I know that show such a thing. But what exactly is it?

The ledger of tailor Jonathan Meyer contains entries for a number of pattern garments made for the Prince Regent in 1811. (My thanks to Meyer & Mortimer and to Ben Townsend for access to images of the pages.) For September 26 1811 an account is made for a pelisse, “pattern for Light Dragoons,” in superfine blue cloth, lapelled (i.e. double breasted) and of jacket size at 1½ yards of cloth. The body was lined with scarlet plush, the sleeves with scarlet silk, two dozen plated half ball buttons were used, the hips were fringed and necklines were attached. Side and sleeve seams, as on the more familiar jacket, were welted in scarlet cloth. While the Dighton image shows pelisses worn by privates, Meyer’s details indicate an officer’s garment, and the Board of Clothing was charged a whopping £8 12s for it.

Remarkably, we have a tailor’s drawing of just such a pelisse as Meyer describes – if not the very same one –  in William Stothard’s “Rigementals” book in the Anne S K Brown collection. It’s captioned “Pleece to the Princes Pattron [pattern]. 1813,” though that year seems to be the date of the drawing, not of the making of the garment. Again, Stothard’s entries are invariably of officer’s clothing. Though the nine button front is shown as if intended to be buttoned across, Stothard’s drawing shows the skirts, with fringe and pleats, entirely in the light dragoon style.

Anne S.K. Brown Military Collection, Brown University Library

Shag (coarsely napped cloth in imitation of fur) or plush (finer and shorter napped) is shown on collar, cuffs, turnbacks and lapel facings; interestingly, the false pocket is also shown lined and/or edged with it. The double lines drawn on the side and sleeve seams confirm the piping in facing colour as mentioned by Meyer, though there is no sign of this in the Dighton image. The drawing does not show any necklines.

As we’ll see in a moment, the facings of the pelisse should have been in the regimental facing colour. Though the 12th had yellow, Dighton shows the pelisse faced in crimson, as if for the 9th or 23rd; red or scarlet as in the Meyer pelisse would suggest the 8th or 16th. It could be that Dighton was shown a pattern pelisse with crimson or red lining, and, taking that for a universal colour, put it into his image of a man of the 12th. In late 1811 the proposed men’s pelisse was clearly still enough of a live option for Dighton to include it in his documentation of the new uniform; in the event, along with some other enthusiasms of the Prince Regent, the idea was abandoned as too expensive or too impractical, and it was never issued.

But the pelisse was in general wear by officers; the General Order of December 1811 regulations authorised for officers “a short surtout … to be worn likewise as a pelisse on service.” Here are some examples:

The Meyer ledger also contains three orders for pelisses for officers of the 9th Light Dragoons, from 1811 and 1814. These are of superfine blue cloth with gold fringe and necklines, and one is noted as lined with crimson plush.

The Hawkes tailor’s book at the National Army Museum has a brief description of a pelisse of 1816 for the 11th Light Dragoons:

Short Pelesse of do [blue superfine cloth] to be lind with buff Shag Collar Cuffs lappels and turn backs Regl. Butts

Mollo and Haythornthwaite also cite Sir Thomas Reed’s recollection of officers of the 12th at Waterloo in blue cloth pelisses lined with yellow silk plush.

The Buckmaster tailor’s book at the National Army Museum has notes for a pelisse for an officer of the 14th, probably in 1814 (“strap” here meaning the top of the jacket lapel):

Pelisse same as Jacket, only no Point in centres of strap top facing, Lin’d & Facd with Orange shag

Mollo quotes Lieut Col Luard of the 16th, recalling that the regiment’s officers also wore the pelisse on the night preceding Waterloo.

In 1813-14 officers of the Light Dragoons of the King’s German Legion [see page 10 of my KGL pages] bought from Meyer superfine blue regimental pelisses with gold fringe and necklines; the colours of the facings are not given.

Haythornthwaite’s version

Put together, all these examples confirm that the pelisse was cut exactly like the jacket apart from the form of the lapel tops, and that shag or plush was applied to the lining, lapels, collar and cuffs of the pelisse in the regimental facing colour. The mention in Meyer of a gold neckline for an officer of the 2nd KGL Light Dragoons, whose metal colour was silver, suggests that, like the light dragoon officer’s cap cords, the pelisse neckline may have been universally in gold.

As an afterthought, I’m left wondering why the 1811 officer’s pelisse is almost entirely missing not only from period images, but also from modern illustrations. There is, for instance, almost no sign of it in Carl Franklin’s pretty exhaustive compendium. It does show up, shorn of all detail and apparently with a white lining, in a Cassin-Scott figure taken from Dighton’s image of a man of the 12th in (I think) Philip Haythornthwaite’s Uniforms of Waterloo of 1986. The only remotely accurate portrayal appears in the Fostens’ The Thin Red Line of 1989, on an officer of the 13th in Plate XIII (see also below). This is copied wholesale (along with most of the rest of the plate) into the D Lordey page of light dragoons in the Quatuor Les Uniformes des Guerres Napoléoniennes of 1997 by Coppens, Courcelle, Lordey and Pétard. (Was this licensed? Or straight plagiarism?) More importantly, Lordey manages in the process also to alter the correct buff lining to white. Oh well. You can’t have everything …

The Thin Red Line original, and the Lordey copy with incorrect lining

Postscript

Langendijk’s original

And here, a bit late in the day, is the original source for the pelisse of the 13th, in a watercolour, apparently of an officer of that regiment, by Jan Anthonie Langendijk in the Royal Collection. (This has been published only in black and white.) The image shows the plush or shag facings well, though, oddly, it includes epaulettes and, below the rear fringe, old fashioned double turnbacks that look like a mistake, while the front lapels, as far as we can see them, appear to be of normal cloth. This pelisse is shown faced white with silver lace/metal; the “white” is an easy misapprehension for the actual pale buff of the 13th, but silver would be a definite error for the 13th’s gold.

Another Langendijk image in the Royal Collection, of an officer of the 2nd Light Dragoons of the King’s German Legion, also shows the pelisse in wear. The plush or shag collar and cuffs are clearly shown, but again, an epaulette is worn, while the lapels appear to be of cloth, and are worn like those of the jacket, buttoned back and closed as if with hooks and eyes.

The turnback problem may account for why the Fostens and Carl Franklin choose to show this from the front only. These two images may include some doubtful features, but they are still good contemporary evidence for the use of the light dragoon pelisse.