Wednesday, April 24, 2019

G. Washington: Craftier than We Thought!

A Fringed Hunting Shirt Worn in the American Revolution
(on display at the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia)

I recently found an interesting article on the website of The New England Historical Society, entitled "Seven Fun Continental Army Facts." Here's a link so you can read the whole thing:
Several of these "facts" that were most gratifying, as they support historical bits I have included in my historical fiction. Here's an example from my first such novel for young readers, The Riddle of Penncroft Farm:
“Wait a minute,” I protested. “What about his blue-and-tan uniform like George Washington’s?” I found my history book and opened it to a picture of Washington. Geordie sprang up from the bed. “Your ignorance is vastly amusing, Lars. Early in the war, hardly anybody had a real uniform—except for rich people like Washington. And those uniforms were all different colors, not just blue and buff. Some American uniforms were as red as the ones the British soldiers wore.” He looked at the history book picture and chuckled. “Nay, country boys like Will were lucky if they had a whole pair of ordinary breeches, let alone a whole uniform. Sometimes they’d make themselves leather hunting shirts to use for a sort of uniform. In truth, Washington liked to have them wear those shirts, because the British figured everybody in one was a genuine sharpshooter. Most of those American boys couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn, but they surely did look the part!   - The Riddle of Penncroft Farm,  © Dorothea Jensen 

And here's what the New England Historical Society article said on this subject:

Those blue-and-buff uniforms didn’t arrive until later in the war, and then only a few states had those colors. In the early days, Washington suggested the ‘rifle dress.’ It included a fringed hunting shirt (a long loose coat usually made of homespun) and long pants with gaiters or leggings dyed the color of a dry leaf. The soldier topped off his rifle dress with a round dark hat turned up once or three times with a cockade or sprig of green. He also had a white belt for the cartouche box and a black cloth around the neck.
Washington liked the rifle dress because of its practicality and because it scared the British soldiers, who thought only sharpshooters wore it. “It is a dress which is justly supposed to carry no small terror to the enemy, who think every such person a complete marksman,” wrote Washington.