Monday, October 24, 2016

Uniforms of "Catriona" from Contemporary Pictures

Since I analyzed the uniforms of Robert Louis Stevenson’s popular novel Kidnapped, it is time to tackle the uniforms described in his sequel, Catriona.

The first time we encounter a soldier in this book (aside from a few unnamed privates arresting James More MacGregor) is in the character of Lieutenant Hector Duncansby, who challenges David Balfour to a duel with the intention of killing him. It is not stated what regiment Duncansby belongs to, so this makes it difficult (if not impossible) to determine his uniform.

The fact that Duncansby is specifically mentioned as a “Highland boy” could suggest an association with the 42nd “Black Watch” Highlanders. However, it is also stated that he clasped his hands under his coat’s skirt, and the Black Watch’s coat was specifically cut short (that is, without skirts) and designed to be worn over a kilt. It is likely that Duncansby belongs to the 1st Royal Scots Regiment, which also recruited Scottish personnel. Its coat skirts were of a conventional length and its officers carried smallswords, rather than the broadswords of the 42nd Highlanders. The illustration shows two British officers dressed in a conventional 1750s uniform.

After his run-in with Lieutenant Duncansby, Balfour arrives at Lord Advocate Prestongrange’s house. He spies some halberds tucked away in a corner and suspects that his arrest is near. These “halberds” are the polearms now known as Lochaber axes, and they were carried by the Edinburgh City Guard, who served as a police force for that city. Evidence for their unusual weaponry is found in the 1704 “Act For Regulating the City Guard.”
The re-created Edinburgh City Guard.

"That the Captain of the Guard cause two men of the best qualified in their guard walk nightly through the streitts with a large batton or poleaxe in their hand, who are hereby appointed to give notice immediately to the firemasters and guard in case of fire, and the said Captain is to take accompt of the diligence each morning and the Captain of the guard is always to keep a list of the firemasters and ane accompt of their dwelling places." (1)

Halkett's Regiment in Dutch service
David Balfour is not arrested by the Edinburgh City Guard, but is later kidnapped by a band of wild Highlanders and imprisoned on the Bass Rock. There, Andie Scougall tells a tale of his father Tam Dale, who served as a soldier on the Bass when it was a prison for Covenanters. The Bass Rock was garrisoned by an independent company (2), that is, a company that is not part of a regiment but serves on its own. The deputy-governor of the Bass Rock was Charles Maitland, later 4th Earl of Lauderdale (3).

Balfour is eventually reunited with his friend Alan Breck Stewart, who mentions that he has a cousin who serves in the Scots-Dutch Brigade, in Halkett’s Regiment. The Scots Brigade was a unit of 3 Scottish regiments who had served in the Dutch Army since 1572. Halkett’s Regiment was a unit in that brigade and its uniform is illustrated in the picture above.

Near the climax of the book, Balfour again meets Captain Hugh Palliser, who is an actual naval captain from history. (4) This picture (left) is an actual portrait of Captain Palliser in the uniform of a captain of the Royal Navy. The ship in the background (which also features in Catriona) is Palliser’s frigate the Sea Horse.

At the very end of the book, a company of French infantrymen manning Dunkirk’s garrison is mentioned. The illustration above shows French infantrymen’s uniforms of the 1750s.  The vast majority of French infantrymen wore grey-white coats.

This concludes our two-part study of the uniforms of Kidnapped and Catriona. Perhaps soon I will analyze the uniforms of another novel set in the 18th century.

(2) pg. 57, The History of the Uniforms of the British Army, volume 1, by C. C. P. Lawson.
(3) pg. 267, Memorials and Letters of John Graham of Claverhouse, Viscount Dundee, volume 2, by Mark Napier.
(4) pg. 69, Braddock’s Defeat by David Preston

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Yorktown Paintings by David R. Wagner

On this day in 1781, Lord Cornwallis surrendered his army of 8,000 British, Hessian, and Loyalist troops to Continental General George Washington and French General the Comte de Rochambeau.  Yorktown is regarded as the last major battle in the American Revolution, for while there would still be other battles, Yorktown convinced the British government to come to terms with their rebellious colonies.

Painter David R. Wagner has painted a comprehensive series of paintings, tracing the routes of Rochambeau's French army from their initial encampments at Rhode Island to ultimate victory at Yorktown.  These can be viewed at  With detailed historical research and a wise use of color, I greatly enjoy all of these American Revolution paintings.  Because his "Revolutionary Route Series" contains over 50 paintings, I have spotlighted those that deal specifically with the siege of Yorktown.  All descriptions are from his website.
Sabre Au Clair
The flanking charge of Lauzun's Legion during The Battle of the Hook on October 3, 1781 at Gloucester Point, Virginia.

Virginia Militia Battle Tarleton
On October 3, 1781, Lauzun's legion clashed with British forces headed by Tarleton. The battle took place across from Yorktown on the Gloucester side of the York River. After a protracted engagement, in which the Virginia Militia were involved, the forces under Tarleton were forced to withdraw. It was a preview of the surrender of Cornwallis just 14 days later, bringing the war to an unofficial end.

Night Assault on Redoubt #9
On the night of October 14, 1781, attacks against Redoubt #9 and Redoubt #10 were ordered. The assault on Redoubt #9 was a French undertaking, with American forces assaulting Redoubt #10. The French Royal Deux Ponts and Gatenois Regiments took on the Hessian Erbprinz Regiment. Because it was dark, and both the French and Hessian troops wore dark blue coats, many were killed by "friendly fire" as they could not be easily identified as friend or foe.

Assault on Redoubt #10
Although the Rhode Island Regiment was consolidated into a single unit in May 1781, the contingent of black troops was still called the "1st Rhode Island" and were commonly referred to as "Olney's Batallion." After dark on October 14, 1781, three days before the surrender of Cornwallis, the column moved forward in silence, muskets unloaded, bayonets fixed, in good order. Leading were eight pioneers with axes with the forlorn hope to be first through the cleared breach. With one man per company, then Col. Gimete (French officer) with five young officers in advance; next was Olney's Company and then the rest of the force. "When we came under the first of the abattis (logs and brush), the enemy fired a volley of musketry. The British continued to shoot, but aimed high. The pioneers then cut through the abattis. Olney moved past them, climbed the outer wall of the Redoubt, stepped on to the parapet between the two palisades. Twelve of his men followed closley. He called out, "Capt. Olney's company, form here." Six or eight British bayonets pushed at him. Some scaled his fingers, one pierced his thigh, another stabbed him in the abdomen just above the hip bone. Two of his men had loaded their muskets and came to the aid of their Captain, firing at the enemy soldiers attacking him. With this the redcoats ceased their assault; some ran away, some surrendered. The rest of the American force now entered the redoubt without opposition. The redoubt was taken in ten minutes. Lafayette praised very well known personages for their performance in the assault, but made only a cursory reference to Olney -- a situation occuring in all wars where the wrong people get the credit. Afterward, Gimete, the French officer, visited Olney in the hospital to say that Lafayette needed to rectify his omission; but the veteran Continental answered, "Let it go, the day is past." It was eventually brought to Washington's attention and the Rhode Island flag was ordered to be flown above the Redoubt through to the surrender a few days later.

And the Guns Fell Silent
In October at Yorktown, a young British drummer boy was ordered to the parapet to beat the call for a parley. No one knows the boy's name nor where he stood when the guns fell silent as he began to beat his drum. Behind him followed a British officer waving a white handkerchief, thus signalling, for all practical purposes, the end of the American Revolution.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Once to Every Man and Nation

As October gives way to November, interest is heightened about the Presidential elections of the United States. Yet as citizens make ready to choose their Chief Magistrate, I have sensed much fear at the possible results. Some are concerned with the appointment of Supreme Court justices, others worry about economic policies and their effect on the nation. Could the church of America be forced to celebrate actions God condemns as sin? Or will the United States be controlled by “experts” from the United Nations? Perhaps all of the above will happen, and then what will our country be?

This fear is very real as I know from first-hand experience. I shudder when I think what life could be like for my children…or even in 8 more years. But God in Isaiah 51:10 states: “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.”

Because He knows that we are prone to fear, God promises us that He will be with us through all our trials. But we need to keep following God and not fear what men can do to us. (see also Jesus’s words in Matthew 10:28). Furthermore, if we desert our principles to fear, how can we expect our leaders to do any differently? For leaders are a reflection on the kind of people that they rule. 

A hymn called “Once to Every Man & Nation” captures the trust we should have in God while facing danger. Below are the first and fourth verses:

Once to every man and nation,
Comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of truth with falsehood,
For the good or evil side;
Some great cause, some great decision,
Offering each the bloom or blight,
And the choice goes by forever,
’Twixt that darkness and that light.

Though the cause of evil prosper,
Yet the truth alone is strong;
Though her portion be the scaffold,
And upon the throne be wrong;
Yet that scaffold sways the future,
And behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadow,
Keeping watch above His own.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Patrick Ferguson at the Battle of Brandywine

Captain Patrick Ferguson
A slim captain dressed in a short green coat slipped through the forest. He looked quickly left and right, visually checking that his corps was in position. They had an important task: spearheading the advance of General Knyphausen across the Brandywine River. Captain Patrick Ferguson concealed himself in the brush and checked that his weapon was ready for action. This was no ordinary musket, but a highly-sophisticated breech-loading rifle. Ferguson held a patent for it and had even demonstrated it before King George III.

The British realized the importance of Ferguson’s rifle, and ordered him to form a unit of riflemen to aid them in their war against the American rebels. 100 men were put into Ferguson’s Riflemen, and since their guns could fire 6 shots a minute, they were a formidable asset to General Knyphausen’s column.

As Ferguson watched the countryside, he noticed two riders come slowly toward his ambush. One was unusually dressed in a hussar uniform, while the other rode a bay horse and wore a large cocked hat. Ferguson ordered three of the best shots in his corps to come and shoot down these officers, but countermanded the order. To deliberately target officers like this was not civilized warfare.

The hussar made a circuit away from Ferguson, but the other came within range. Slipping out of the brush, Ferguson called, ordering him to stop. The rider looked back and slowly continued on his way, heedless of Ferguson’s deadly rifle. Again Ferguson motioned for him to halt, but the rider’s back was turned and he kept on.

What an opportunity! Patrick Ferguson, one of the best marksmen in the British army, could have shot this rider, who was obviously a general officer, in the back. Yet as he fingered the trigger, a thought flashed through his mind. It is not pleasant to shoot an unoffending individual in the back, he mused, especially while this individual is only attempting to do his duty. Ferguson lowered his rifle and the man rode away.

Minutes later, a musket ball slammed into Ferguson’s right elbow. He was helped to the field hospital, where the bullet was extracted. As he was recovering, he told this story to other wounded British officers. One of the surgeons, who had been attending the wounded Americans, heard it.   He informed Ferguson that the officer he had earlier refused to shoot was none other than the rebel commander-in-chief, General George Washington.

God’s hand of Providence had clearly kept George Washington safe at this battle of Brandywine.
"Washington's Encounter Along the Brandywine"
Painting by Pamela Patrick White.

Ferguson's own account of the battle is as follows:

A member of Ferguson's Rifles, as illustrated by Don Troiani
"We had not lain long...when a rebel officer, remarkable by a hussar dress, passed towards our army within a hundred yards of my right flank, not perceiving us.  He was followed by another, dressed in dark green or blue, mounted on a bay horse, with a remarkably large cocked hat.
I ordered three good shots to steal near...and fire at them, but the idea disgusted me.  I recalled the order.  The hussar in returning made a circuit, but the other passed again within a hundred yards of us, upon which I advanced from the woods towards him.
On my calling, he stopped, but after looking at me, proceeded.  I again drew his attention and made signs to stop but he slowly continued his way.  As I was within that distance at which in the quickest firing I could have lodged half-a-dozen of balls in or about him before he was out of my reach, I had only to determine.  But it was not pleasant to fire at the back of an unoffending individual, who was acquitting himself very coolly of his duty, so I let him alone.
The day after, I had been telling this story to some wounded officers who lay in the same room with me, when one of our surgeons, who had been dressing the wounded rebel officers, came in and told us they had been informing him that General Washington was all the morning with the light troops and only attended by a French Officer in a hussar dress, he himself dressed and mounted in every point as above described.  I am not sorry that I did not know at the time who it was."