An unremembered loss

As it’s Remembrance Sunday, here’s an image from the Anne S K Brown collection that rather startled me while browsing. This unsigned watercolour is attributed to Robert Dighton junior, and certainly has the look of his style. The collection’s cataloguer has tagged it as a staff officer in undress uniform circa 1805, which may or may not be right; at any rate, we no longer know who he was.

Dighton junior is better known for the light cavalry officers whose dandyism he details with almost homoerotic enthusiasm, but here the elegant white pantaloons terminate in an artificial leg whose inelegant form insults its living partner. Military images of the period avoid showing dismemberment; the dead and dying tend to fall gracefully and unbloodied, often in classical positions. Dighton’s matter-of-fact portrait is unusual. One wonders how an officer missing half a leg managed to continue in service, unless in an invalid battalion, but the alternative, I suppose, would have been the misery of half-pay.

It would be better if the world had found a way to enjoy the dandyism and avoid the dismemberment, but so far it hasn’t, and that’s a fact. In the final analysis, there’s nothing good about war.

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A bit of glory but no death: the Warrington Bluebacks

There can’t be too many surviving blue coats from the armed associations of 1798, so it’s nice to know that the Lancashire Infantry Museum has an example, previously in Warrington Museum, worn by the Loyal Warrington Volunteers of Lancashire. Their site’s image [click to enlarge all images] doesn’t quite show the whole thing, but the skirts were full length and lined dark blue, the turnbacks held by pairs of red hearts. As the “Bluebacks”, under their Captain Commandant Edward Dakin, managed to stretch themselves to an almost regimental panoply of one battalion and two flank companies, the light company would surely have worn a jacket version; headwear was a fur crested round hat, though the grenadier company wore something more “cumbrous” – presumably a fur cap.

The terms of their acceptance at first restricted their services to the defence of the streets of Warrington alone. When, at the Lord Lieutenant’s request, the battalion was consulted on extending this to an entire five mile radius of the town, the men were assembled to do an Alamo, and a chalk line was drawn on the floor. First to cross was intrepid James Ashton of the light company, crying “Come along, lads – death or glory!” To a man, they followed him, and Ashton was for evermore known by his peers as “Old Death or Glory”. In the event, the supreme sacrifice was not demanded within the prescribed ten miles.

The anecdote is told in James Kendrick’s sketch of the volunteers in the Proceedings and Papers of the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire for 1854, along with much else of a florid, rhetorical and italicised nature; Doctor Kendrick concludes with a strange diatribe against teetotalism and vegetarianism (“now so rife amongst us”), presumably exemplifying the “refinement” that then threatened to sap the vitality of the youth of England. As a medical man, Kendrick should have known his onions, and perhaps the rifle volunteer movement of five years later would prove his point.


On disbandment in 1801 the colours of the Volunteers, inscribed “Pro Rege et Patria”, were placed over the altar of the parish church, but by Kendrick’s time had “disappeared”. However, some record of them must have been preserved, for they feature, along with the drums, in the background of a fine retrospective portrait of James “Death or Glory” Ashton himself, painted in 1852 by a W Taylor, now in Warrington Museum and online at the Art UK site. An aged Ashton peers grimly out at the viewer from beneath a superimposed and mildly inaccurate reconstruction of the uniform; the colours and drums, however, have a slightly more authentic look to them.


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 …


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 …


Where are the Warwickshires?

After all the gunners and Germans, back to the auxiliaries for a quick post, just in the hope that it might spark a response from somewhere …

The evidence trails left by Georgian county militia regiments are sometimes quite generous – prints, portraits, uniforms, unit histories … Odd then, that so little seems to be left, at least in the public domain beyond the archive bundles, of the Warwickshire Militia. Charles Lethbridge Kingsford’s The Story of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment (1921) has a couple of pages – the usual dates of embodiment and disembodiment, names of forgotten colonels and so forth, but it’s not much. Lawson’s History of the Uniforms of the British Army cites a single inspection report, while maps of militia encampments of the 1778 to 1783 embodiment suggest that the regiment’s green facings were of a mid shade, with a bluish tinge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here then, judging by the facings and silver lace, must be a Warwickshire officer. (Click to enlarge.) The subjects of this 1763 portrait by Arthur Devis are Francis Vincent, barrister, and his wife and daughter at Weddington Hall in Warwickshire. (The painting is now at Preston, and also viewable on the Art UK site, here.)  The composition is a little strained, and Vincent, who clearly posed separately for Devis, seems detached, even a little out of scale. The date, if accurate, would correspond with the end of the regiment’s first period of embodiment and Vincent’s return to his family. The papers in his hand and on the floor clearly tell a story, but his arrival with the good(?) news has an odd solemnity, as does the gaze of Mrs Vincent as it meets the viewer.

It’s a strangely compelling image. But can it be a sole survivor? Where are there other images of the Georgian Warwickshires?


A “strangely organized corps”: the Gunner Drivers

A new page on this site (go here, or use the menu at the right, bottom of ‘Pages’) is my imperfect attempt to sort out something of the dress of that rather odd affair, the Royal Artillery’s Corps of Gunner Drivers, aka Corps of Royal Artillery Drivers, aka Corps of Captain Commissaries. If not exhaustive, it’s maybe a bit exhausting, and better as a page than a post, so this is just a plug for it and a way to attach some tags.

It’s another of those the-more-you-stare-at-it-the-less-you-find-you-actually-know topics. But I hope it helps to make sense of the different jacket styles, and to throw a little light on the officer’s dress in particular, which is also picked apart on the corresponding page in the King’s German Legion series (on the Pages menu on the right).

Reviewing the state of knowledge of a topic like this brings out the sceptic in me. Modern illustrators and retailers of uniformology have sometimes borrowed and embroidered shamelessly, whipping up castles in thin air from the same pitifully few sources. But then, even at the time, Regency painters and purveyors of military prints cheerfully pirated each other’s “observations”. Maybe the least we can hope for is not to add to the sum total of misinformation in our turn.

Enough philosophy. And now, the Gunner Drivers


New jackets for the artillery

(This post revamped and extended August 30.)

My revisionist trawl through the dress of the King’s German Legion (ten pages so far, artillery and engineers still to come – menu to your right) has thrown up some small surprises along the way; the more you think you know, the less you really do.

What jackets, for example, did artillery officers adopt with the great uniform shift of 1811-12? All the secondary sources seem to show something with an extended lapel and bags of heavy gold embroidery, often including a loop diagonally at the top, as here in what I think must be a photo from an old JSAHR.

Interesting then that three period tailor’s books show instead for “Foot Artillery” officers a blue jacket with a pointed “strap” lapel, with scarlet facings, turnbacks included, and gold Russia braid loops terminating in crow’s feet. Versions here [below] are from Stothard’s “Rigementals” (Anne S K Brown), a copy of the Hawkes pattern book, and the Buckmaster “Old Regulation” book (the last two at the National Army Museum, with thanks to Ben Townsend for sharing images). There are slight variations: Hawkes shows eight loops in the length of the lapel but the others nine, the scrappy Buckmaster sketch loses the outer two crow’s feet over the buttons at the rear hip, while Stothard alone shows both rear and side seams, and so on. But the broad extent of agreement is impressive. [Click images for slides / enlargements.]

The relative economy of the braid means that this has to be an undress jacket, and it was indeed worn, as shown by this detail from an Occupation print (Le Bon Genre 83) – ten loops down the lapel, but otherwise a perfect match. Two other period images of what may be a variant version of this jacket are attributable to the KGL, and will be discussed on their forthcoming Artillery page.

Le Bon Genre

If this was the undress, what of the dress version? Of the three tailor’s sources, Hawkes alone appends this note: “The Dress Jacket richly Emb[roidere]d with Gold.” And indeed, I find in the Meyer ledger [see KGL pages and posts passim] that a lieutenant of a foot battery of the King’s German Legion ordered in 1814 “An embd Regtl jacket”.  “Embroidered” here has to mean hand embroidered gold loops, doesn’t it? An expensive option, which set our lieutenant back almost £20 – a cool £1280 in today’s money, according to one online historical inflation calculator.

Hamilton Smith

On a related tack, what’s this [above] that Charles Hamilton Smith shows in his 1812-ish chart for the Horse Artillery? Red lapels with braid loops – “unaccountably” according to the commentary by Philip Haythornthwaite, who rightly denies that such a thing was ever worn. Though the crow’s feet, or eyes or whatever, seem to be at the wrong edge of the lapel, this image has to be related to our foot artillery officers’ jackets above, even though it shows what Smith thought the other ranks were supposed to wear. Could it be that a proposed Horse Artillery pattern crept in, only to be dropped by the Clothing Board after Smith’s chart had gone to press?

So it seems, for William Stothard’s notebook also contains, without commentary, this fascinating drawing [below] of a new pattern jacket for officers of the “Horse Artilleory”[sic], in full 1811 light dragoon style, complete with rear pleats and fringe, and a strap lapel with braid loops as per the foot artillery. It becomes obvious that the light dragoon lapel (one button in the top strap, then a gap, then the rest) is the missing style link that explains the form of our foot artillery jacket lapels, both braided and laced.

Stothard’s “Horse Artilleory” jacket (Anne S K Brown Collection, Brown University Library)

So what became of the “”Horse Artilleory” jacket? In the event and by whatever rationale, this slightly left-field idea of the Prince Regent’s was quietly kicked into the long grass, and the RHA kept a proud grip on their existing multi-looped dolmans, as retained even today by the King’s Troop.

As a postscript, here’s a related puzzle – a detail from a watercolour by Denis Dighton in the Royal Collection, dated 1813, showing gunners of the Royal Artillery in lapelled jackets modelled on those of their officers, complete with a diagonal loop of lace at the top. (The lace in this image has a goldish cast but can only be intended for yellow, surely? The shape of the loops – square ended, pointed or perhaps even bastion – is not really clear. The inverted lace triangle on the rear skirts is an odd touch, too.) Such jackets were never worn, so why does Dighton show them? As a record of a proposed pattern for the other ranks that never saw the light of day?