11: Foot Artillery

The discussion that follows assumes a basic knowledge of the dress of the British artillery for this period, rather than starting from scratch. For the Legion’s horse artillery see page 12 and for the KGL Gunner Drivers see page 13. Sources mentioned are mostly documented on page 1. Click to enlarge images.

As the clothing of British artillery, that of the KGL included, was the responsibility of the Board of Ordnance, this might appear a straightforward topic. Beamish’s history of the Legion confirms that “The [KGL] artillery were put under the board of ordnance from the 1st August, 1806” (Vol 1 page 85), and that “The uniform of the artillery … was in every respect similar to that of the same corps in the British service” (page 81). This is also indicated by the Hamilton Smith chart. Maybe it was essentially so, but some questions remain, particularly with regard to the dress of officers.

Hamilton Smith’s chart boxes for the RA and KGL foot artillery

 

A KGL gunner in the Beamish plate and Centrepiece

Other ranks

Let’s deal first with the other ranks, whose clothing, insignia excepted, does seem to have corresponded with that of the Royal Artillery. The Beamish plate of a foot gunner in the post-1811 uniform, and the equivalent figure in the Beamish Centrepiece, appear to demonstrate this. The plate shows grey trousers; the forms of the cuffs and cap plate are unclear. Loops are clearly single spaced, as shown on the Hamilton Smith chart. The gunner brandishes the foot artillery sabre. Later versions have followed on these lines and modern illustrators such as Mike Chappell have based their KGL artillery figures in some detail on Royal Artillery prototypes.

Musicians

Von Pivka (1974) shows a drummer post-1811 in the other ranks’ blue jacket with no drummer’s lace but with yellow epaulettes. I imagine that an early 20th c image by Aerts may have been the source here, though I haven’t actually seen it. At any rate, von Pivka’s figure has a speculative feel.

 

Officers

The Meyer ledger

As the evidence in the Meyer ledger (thanks to Ben Townsend and Meyer & Mortimer for photos) is largely for the period before the 1811 uniform changes, it makes sense to look at it first.

Seven foot artillery officers of the KGL have surviving accounts in the ledger. None of this material necessarily contradicts the example of the Royal Artillery, but as it shows what the Legion’s artillery officers actually wore, bearing in mind that they were responsible for their own clothing, it’s worth summarising here.

Coats and jackets

Four entries from 1809 to 1812 include coats or materials for five coats; one order of 1814 includes a jacket. Details for the coats are compatible with the RA pattern: of [dark] blue superfine cloth with scarlet superfine collar, cuffs and lapels, unlaced, with white cassimere turnbacks and lining, and white ratinett or calico sleeve linings. Skirt ornaments are the same price as for those of the line infantry battalions, so are likely to be the same “KGL” diamond ornaments, as illustrated by Chappell and others. Each coat requires three small buttons (two on the collar and one for an epaulette) and 42 large – 20 on the front, eight for the cuffs, eight for the flaps and six for the skirts. The epaulettes are of “rich gold”.

The jacket of 1814 is simply noted as “emb[roidere]d Regtl”; this would be the dress jacket as discussed and illustrated below, with loops heavily embroidered in gold thread – an expensive item.

Spencers

An interesting entry appears in 1809 for Lieut Col Röttiger – a uniform spencer or undress jacket without tails. This is of superfine [dark] blue cloth with superfine scarlet collar, cuffs and lapels, the body lined for warmth with scarlet plush, the sleeves lined with crimson silk, and using 30 large uniform buttons – presumably 20 on the front, eight on the cuffs and two at the rear waist. There is no sign of lace or of epaulettes. I have not come across any other mention of such a spencer in use by artillery officers, and I can’t say if this was common practice in the Royal Artillery.

Waistcoats

Accounts for four officers between 1810 and 1814 mention five waistcoats: two, from 1810-11, are of white Marcella (a textured fabric sometimes called “quilted”), the other three, from 1810 and 1814, of buff cassimere, one noted as having gilt buttons. These are common types, also worn by officers of other arms.

Pantaloons

Three foot artillery officers account in the ledger for six pairs of pantaloons between 1809 and 1811. Four pairs are [dark] blue, of six thread plain or milled stocking, one with Austrian knots in silk French braid, the others with blue silk royal cord. Of the two other pairs, one is of patent white cotton stocking, ornamented with white cotton cord and figuring braid, the other of plain drab coloured patent worsted stocking, though this last may possibly be for civilian wear. Both blue and white pantaloons were standard wear for artillery officers.

Overalls

A pair of overalls purchased in 1810 is a of superfine [dark] blue cloth, with leather strapping and boots (cuffs), and with chains. Three others in the ledger date from 1814, one described as of mixed cotton stocking, so presumably grey; no colour is given for the other two. This is not a lot of help, but at least dark blue or grey echoes some visual evidence noted further below (a von Röder painting and a Beamish plate), where scarlet or red stripes are also shown.

Greatcoats

A greatcoat of 1810 in Meyer is of superfine [dark] blue cloth, double breasted, with plain gilt buttons and linen sleeve lining. There is no sign of any ornamentation. Another, from 1814, is noted just as “blue cloth” and “Military”, but at a price that might suggest some ornament. These coats seem comparable with those in Meyer’s accounts for the KGL Horse Artillery, outlined on page 11. There is no clear sign of the single breasted blue great coat mentioned by some sources on the RA, nor of the “regulation” grey greatcoat of 1812.

Cloaks

A “Horseman cloak” ordered in 1810, apparently for a lieutenant of a foot battery, is of [dark] blue second quality milled drab, lined with white flannel, the cape lined with [dark] blue shalloon. It uses 14 large gilt buttons, at a price suggesting a regimental pattern of button, and 11 of the smaller “habit size”, though how these are arranged isn’t clear to me.

Beamish’s officer: paired and reversed loops?

Other primary sources

Contemporary images are of the later, post-1811 period. The most difficult element here is the lacing on the jacket, with regard both to its spacing and to the form of the loops.

First, the spacing. The Beamish plate of an officer gives the impression that the lapel loops could be arranged in pairs, but this may be carelessness on the part of the artist, not helped by the positioning of the arms folded over the chest. (However, it’s worth noting that Beamish’s KGL Engineer officer is clearly shown with buttons in pairs, as discussed on page 14 – a detail that could easily encourage us to take the artillery figure the same way, perhaps in conformity with the paired loops of the KGL Line Infantry battalions.) Double spacing here would contradict both the evidence of the other ranks’ dress and the von Röder painting discussed below, but the error is continued by Knötel in a plate in his Vol III, as shown at the foot of this page.

The von Röder painting: gold braid undress loops – but reversed?

Secondly, the form of the loops: the Beamish image is a little clumsy, and it’s not clear whether the loops are intended as pointed, in gold embroidery, as known on RA officers’ dress jackets, or, more likely, as in gold braid ending in crow’s feet (trefoils) as on the undress version of the jacket. (Examples of each are shown below. For an extended look at the less familiar undress jacket, see this post.) Beamish’s loops show a clear “light” at their centre, but because of the heavy lines of the drawing this comes out as black rather than scarlet – another faulty detail perpetuated in Knötel’s rather disastrous plate.

The terminal shape of each loop, whether point or crow’s foot, is shown by Beamish at the button end – the opposite of the normal practice. I’d happily dismiss this as a careless mistake if it were not corroborated by the eyewitness 1813 painting by von Röder, which shows braid loops in the same position – either a parallel mistake or evidence to suggest that KGL artillery officers may have chosen, perhaps for aesthetic reasons, to reverse the braid loops on their undress jackets. (Interestingly, something similar is shown in Hamilton’s Smith’s chart entry for the Royal Horse Artillery, as discussed in this post.)

The von Röder figure’s lapels lack the pointed “strap” at the top, but otherwise the jacket is a good match. As already noted, the loops are singly spaced, not paired.

To sum up, what seems to be shown in these sources is a Royal Artillery pattern undress jacket with single braid loops, possibly with the crow’s feet reversed to the button end. (Or possibly not.)

The Beamish plate shows grey trousers or overalls with a scarlet or red stripe; the von Röder painting, rather unusually, shows dark blue with the same, plus a black sword belt and light cavalry style sash.

The RA dress jacket with gold embroidery, and the undress version with gold braid loops from a period print

Summary of officers’ dress

Essentially as for the RA foot artillery, with evidence for:

  • Pre-1812, dark blue coat faced scarlet, unlaced, white turnbacks
  • Post-1811, dress jacket with single spaced embroidered gold loops; undress jacket with gold braid loops, single spaced but possibly in reverse position
  • Undress dark blue spencer faced scarlet
  • White or buff waistcoats
  • Dark blue or white pantaloons
  • Dark blue or grey overalls or trousers, with or without red or scarlet seam stripes
  • Dark blue double breasted greatcoats with plain gilt buttons
  • Knötel’s unfortunate version of the Beamish figure

    Dark blue cloak lined white, with uniform buttons

Later versions

von Pivka’s strange paired bastions

The rather problematic plate by Knötel is discussed above and shown at right. Von Pivka (1974) follows this, keeping the loops in pairs but correcting the light in each loop to scarlet. He interprets the loops as a clear bastion shape like those of the other ranks, but with the bastion point at the button end of the loop. Frankly, the spacing is still wrong and the bastion idea doesn’t make as much sense as what I’ve suggested above. Other modern interpretations of KGL Artillery officers seem thin on the ground.

page1: some sources

page 2: Line Battalions

page 3: 1st Light Battalion

page 4: 2nd Light Battalion

page 5: Light Dragoons 1803-7

page 6: 1st Hussars 1808-16

page 7: 2nd Hussars 1808-16

page 8: 3rd Hussars 1808-16

page 9: ‘Heavy’ Dragoons 1803-13

page 10: Light Dragoons 1813-16

page 12: Horse Artillery

page 13: Gunner Drivers

page 14: Engineers

page 15: Depot Company, Independent Garrison Company, Veteran Battalion

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