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"Not Merely an Article of Comfort"
British Infantry Greatcoats During the War of 1812
by Robert Henderson    

            Soldiers serving in Canada during the War of 1812 had two enemies: the Americans and the climate.  Of all the seasons, winter posed the greatest challenge to a soldier when conducting his duties.  John Douglas, an Assistant Surgeon for the 8th Regiment, recounted how a several-day march could be:  

obstructed by the falling of snow; and the drifted state of this in the woods rendered it hazardous to prosecute the journey.  The faces of the men were often frost-bitten, when much exposed to the north wind.  Sometimes, indeed, the tear was no sooner secreted from the eye, than it congealed into an icicle upon the eyelashes, so as to restrain their motion... The night, too, proved more uncomfortable than the day.  Though the men were stretched before the fire, the intenseness of the cold was severely felt.  The toils of the day were not always followed by the reflection of sleep. Its return seemed to be prevented by a certain degree of cold, and a deficiency of covering...Men who were in a state of intoxication, perished in a few instances from the severity of the winter's cold.[1]

             Because of this threat to the service, the British army struggled to maintain a continual supply of proper winter clothing.  Certainly, the availability of winter clothing allowed British and Canadian forces to more readily undertake limited sorties against American positions under harsh weather conditions.  This is evident in the captures of Ogdensburg and Fort Niagara, the engagement on the River Raisin, and in the harassment of Wilkinson's rear guard from Salmon River to Plattsburg.  As well, lengthy marches were often undertaken to reinforce various stations prior to spring.  In the winter of 1812-13, the 104th Regiment and the 2nd Battalion, 8th Regiment marched on snowshoes in the dead of winter from Saint John, New Brunswick, to Quebec City; an enterprise taking over forty days to complete.

            Aside from winter, accounts of the conditions faced by the soldier in other seasons during the war displays the necessity for warm clothing year around.  During the spring of 1814, the grenadiers of the Canadian Fencibles and a detachment of Voltigeurs marching to the Battle of Lacolle "from the snow melting... were obliged to wade through mud and water up to their waists for many miles."[2]  In the early summer months the nights were noted as cool, when soldiers "slept cold and comfortless in the barns and out-houses of the settlers [or] sometimes, when overtaken by night, a fire was kindled in the woods, around which they stretched themselves till morning."[3]  John Douglas noted that with the arrival of August, "evenings now feel chilly, and the dews fall in great abundance, so as to wet the clothes of those who travel at night."[4]  Autumn was particularly severe.  After the engagement on the Chateauguay River in October 1813, Lieutenant Charles Pinguet wrote to his brother: "We then suffered so much from cold and foul weather that some of our men fell sick every day.  I was forced to return to the [rear] with pain in every limb... [author's translation]"[5]

 Introduction of the Greatcoat

             With this in mind, a prerequisite item of clothing for the troops serving in Canada was the greatcoat.  Savings from a change of clothing style in the British Army in 1798 provided part of the finances necessary for Colonels of regiments to dress their men in the first issue of greatcoats.[6]  In 1801, the financing of greatcoats was undertaken by the Secretary at War through the Treasury and it became a gratuitous issue through the combination of the colonels' savings and public funds.[7]  By December 1802 all infantry regiments due greatcoats were assured a regular issue.[8]  Though financed by the Secretary at War, they continued to be manufactured by the various regimental agents' clothiers or tailors in the regiment.  Possibly because of a lack of uniformity or quality in the greatcoats manufactured or tardiness in their delivery to the men, it was decided in 1808 that all future production would be by contractors of the Treasury.[9]  From this juncture to the end of the Napoleonic wars, the Secretary at War was solely responsible for the fabrication, distribution and regulation of the greatcoat along with all its incurred costs.

             Greatcoats were certainly a welcomed addition to the soldier's clothing.  Prior to their introduction, a soldier had to be content with his coat, waistcoat and, in Canada, a privately-purchased greatcoat or blanket coat of questionable quality, along with inconsistent issues of flannel drawers and jackets.  Once they were introduced, each soldier was expected to keep his greatcoat in serviceable condition for three years and at the end of that period, if necessary, a new one was to be issued.  In British North America, because of "the length and extreme severity of the winter season",[10] and "from constant wear for seven months of the year"[11] it was deemed necessary in 1811 that troops in Canada be supplied with greatcoats every two years instead of three.[12]  By 1812 this regulation was expanded to include all troops "in active and continued operations in the Field" such as those engaged on the Iberian Peninsula.[13]  At this time, a new pattern of greatcoat was introduced to answer to the unique climate of Canada.

Supply Problems and Shortages

             Because of the distance between the contractors in England and the troops in Canada, new issues of greatcoats often arrived considerably late[14], if at all.  In 1809, the ship carrying the greatcoats of the 10th Royal Veteran Battalion and those of the Canadian Fencible Regiment was lost at sea.[15]  This created a particularly desperate situation for the Canadian Fencibles, which had been embodied only one year earlier and had been denied an issue of greatcoats up to that point:  "His Majesty's regulations contain no provision for furnishing the said articles to recruits for new levies".[16]  It was not until late 1810 that the War Office realized the ship carrying the greatcoats had been lost by which time a new shipment could not be sent before winter.

             To remedy the plight of the 10th Royal Veterans and Fencibles, it was decided that their coats would be made by contractors in Canada.  Brigadier General Francis De Rottenburg, who was chosen to supervise the manufacture of the coats, wrote to the Military Secretary on the project: "I have caused three Great Coats of three different sizes to be made up for each Regiment, in exact conformity, as far as regards size, with those furnished to the Army by the public."[17]  The quality of the material used to make these greatcoats is questionable.  Greatcoats made for the Canadian militia during the War of 1812 were noted as inferior in quality and lined with green baize instead of white serge.[18]

            While delays due to nature did sometimes occur, more often than not the lack of greatcoats were caused the tardiness of contracted clothiers.  The clothiers making greatcoats for the 41st Regiment, though maintaining a steady supply of them in 1807 and 1808, failed to forward any in both 1809 and 1810.[19]  With proper cloth from Messrs. Auldho & Co.,[20] the Quartermaster of the 41st set about to fill the shortage by having the regiment's tailors make up two hundred greatcoats over the 1809-10 winter.[21]  However by the end of 1810 the need for greatcoats had grown to five hundred.  To alleviate this problem, the commanding officer of the regiment, Lieutenant Colonel Henry Proctor, proposed to the Military Secretary that two year-old greatcoats in the regiment's possession be patched with cloth taken from the coats three years old.  Able to acquire greatcoat materials "of a pattern and quality similar to those of His Majesty's regulations", Proctor suggested, with winter approaching, that greatcoats be fabricated by local tailors, and the regimental tailors being at the time occupied with altering that year's clothing shipment to fit the men.  This proposal would have increased the price from the previous year's work by one shilling to £1 3s 0d each.[22]  Unfortunately for the men of the 41st Regiment, this proposal was rejected and the regimental tailors were given the task to make the much needed coats.[23]  Desperate to obtain greatcoats for his men, Proctor in December requested that the regiment's women be used as well in making up the coats.[24]  It appears this was permitted.

            Other supply problems befell members of the 41st.  At the end of 1811, with their regiment on the Niagara Peninsula, a detachment of the 41st in Quebec City was forced to appeal to De Rottenburg for new greatcoats.  For each coat, De Rottenburg estimated the following costs:

                                    3 yards of cloth @4/3               £0 12s 9d
                                    1 ½ yards of Flannel                 £0 3s 2d
                                    Trimmings                                £0 2s 4d
                                    Making                                     £0 1s 9d
                                   Total                                         £1 0s 0d[25]

This list indicates an inferior quality of garment than the coats supplied from contractors in England.  Instead of being lined with serge and waterproofed, the 41st detachment's coats were lined with lighter, less-durable flannel (possibly green baize), and were not waterproofed.

            Greatcoat shortages also arose with recruits of the 49th and 100th Regiments, and the 10th Royal Veterans, all of whom were destined for Lower Canada in 1811 but forced to winter in Halifax, Nova Scotia.  Recruits arriving poorly clothed were not unusual.  In the previous year the 100th Regiment's recruits, arriving in North America, were noted as "totally destitute of any one article of necessaries, indeed they may be said to be naked."  Reporting on this fact to the War Office, the officer went further to point out: "It must always be remembered that in this country a greatcoat is not merely an article of comfort, it is indispensable."[26]  Nevertheless additional greatcoats were not sent for the new recruits.  The greatcoats manufactured in Halifax for these men were surprisingly more costly than those made for the Canadian Fencibles in 1810.  Each coat made for the Canadian Fencibles cost the Treasury 14s 6d, while the greatcoats made for the detachments in Halifax were priced at £1 12s 6d each.[27]  The secretary at war, Lord Palmerston, criticized Governor General Sir George Prevost for entering into such an expensive transaction.

            To alleviate the tardiness of greatcoat supplies, Palmerston decided that depots, or stores, of greatcoats would be established in Canada.  He also ordered that all applications for greatcoats from regular regiments in British North America were to be addressed directly to Prevost.[28]  Once the stores in Quebec and Halifax were established, Palmerston's responsibility was simply to ensure a continual stock of  greatcoats made specifically for Canada.

            During the War of 1812, these stores were continually emptied as scores of greatcoats were lost by the troops.  In the capture of York, hundreds of greatcoats fell into U.S. hands since the men of the 8th Regiment, Royal Newfoundland and Glengarry Light Infantry Fencibles were ordered to leave their coats in barracks before falling in to engage the Americans.[29]  After the 1814 campaign, a general order was issued in an attempt to curb the loss of greatcoats in Upper Canada:  

It appearing that great neglect and abuses have existed in the expenditure of greatcoats... to the great detriment of the service, more particularly in a country where these articles are with difficulty replaced... These losses have... arisen principally from leaving those articles in unprotected quarters and from the men throwing them off in the field of action, a practice highly improper and unmilitary.[30]

 Materials and Construction

            Each greatcoat supplied from clothiers in England for the other ranks was made from 3  yards[31] of "dark grey woollen stuff kersey wove, loose made".[32]   A 'loose' weave in the cloth was preferred since "water being easily wrung out of it, renders it when wet immediately fit for use, and from its lightness makes it particularly desirable."[33]  The loose weave, however proved not durable enough in Canada that by the third year of use "the coat was generally in that thread bare and worn out state as to be of very little if of any use to the man who was to wear it."[34]  The dark grey colour was what was termed "salt and pepper" or Oxford grey prior to Oxford becoming almost black in the 1830s. 

Reproduction Sample of Colour  See Wool

Besides a reduction of the expected use for the garment to two years in Canada, a cloth of "a closer texture" was suggested[35] and authorized in 1811 for the new pattern of greatcoat for Canada.[36]  Several difficulties arose the following year in trying to acquire the new cloth.  One clothier, Messrs. Pearse had to have to it specially-made in Yorkshire to meet the order.  Records illustrate several contractors supplying the new pattern wool: "Greatcoats- The kersey provided by Mr Gilpin, also the kersey from Mr Maberly and Messrs. Smith & sons (on account of Mr Gilpin's deficiency)... will be delivered to Messrs. Hebdin & Co."[37]  Because of these three varying sources of cloth, the uniformity of the colour of grey and texture throughout the numerous coats produced may have been affected.  Prior to the sanctioning of the closer texture kersey, regiments stationed in Canada, when forced from supply problems to make their own greatcoats, took the opportunity to purchase cloth of a better quality than the usual kersey.[38]

            The unsuitability in Canada of the pre-1812 loose made kersey was sometimes compounded by the fraudulent actions of contractors.  One contractor, Messrs. Esdaille, attempted in 1808 to pass greatcoats made from an inferior quality of wool by the inspectors of army clothing.  To attempt to hide the use of cheaper materials, Messrs. Esdaille had his tailors lodge scraps of wool inside the facings (inner front panels) of each coat to increase the weight of the garment.  It was hoped the increased weight would deceive the inspectors into thinking the coats were made out of the heavier kersey stipulated in the contract.  Instead the inspectors noticed the broader and thicker facings, opened the seams, and uncovered the fraud.[39]  In addition to this, the contractor had greatcoats rejected "for being more coarse, or made with different cloths in the same coat, or under weight."[40]  Whether this was a common practice by contractors or an isolated incident is uncertain.

            Considering the yardage of wool used in each coat, it is likely it had a single-breasted closure.[41]  In addition to the kersey material, a white serge lining across the shoulders was added to the army greatcoat pattern in 1809.[42]  The lining was significantly altered in the pattern for Canada which called "for a greater depth being given to the lining, by... bringing it something lower down so as to cover the man's loins."[43]  As mentioned earlier, white woollen flannel and green baize sometimes substituted the twill-wove serge as lining material for coats made in Canada.

            The five-pound[44] weighing greatcoat issued to the other ranks had a stand-up collar, and a cape reaching nearly to the elbow;[45] though contemporary illustrations show it much higher.  A board of officers reported in 1811: "that the cape should be fastened at the corners and behind, so as to prevent the men from drawing it over their ears when on sentry, or the wind from blowing it in their eyes in tempestuous weather."[46]  There is no evidence that this recommendation was ever implemented.  In fact into the 1830s the cape was seen being used by "the lazy or chilly sentry to fasten round his ears."[47]  Underneath the cape were two shoulder straps which served to keep the soldier's crossbelts in place.  To hold the cape from flapping about, it appears the straps of the knapsack were worn over the cape.[48]  The length of the greatcoat was noted as being well past the knee to the point of impeding the soldier's marching and it was suggested in 1811 that the length be reduced to one inch below the knee.[49]  In 1809 functional pockets were added.[50]

            Greatcoats for sergeants were ordered in 1803 to be made with the regimental facing colour on the cuffs and collar.[51]  Most likely as a result of difficulties in matching exactly each regiment's facing collar at the contractors, sergeant's coats in November 1811 were directed to be supplied without collar or cuffs, and the sleeves "made to the full length",[52] so that the regiment's facing colour in "army coat cloth" could be added at the Head Quarters of respective regiments.[53]  In 1806, chevrons were permitted to be added to the right sleeve of sergeant's and corporal's greatcoats but at the expense of the corps or individual.[54]  The buttons for sergeant's coats were ordered to be of "sergeant's quality".[55]  It is difficult to ascertain the type of button affixed to private's greatcoat but it is assumed to be a regimental one.[56]  In 1802, the Royal Canadian Volunteers were shipped with a quantity of buttons enough for eight large buttons for the front and two small ones for the shoulder straps.[57]  The pattern established for contractors of the Treasury in 1808 likely reduced the amount of buttons for the single-breasted closure to five.  This is evident in A. Sauerweid's drawing of a private in the 3rd Foot Guards done between 1816 and 1818.[58]  The use of five buttons continued without most of the 19th century.

            To save on cloth, the edges of each coat were most probably rough (not turned under), and the whole coat was stitched with grey thread.[59]  The greatcoat would have been constructed loosely since the soldier's regimental coat and any additional clothing were to be worn underneath.  One contemporary guide for tailors details the construction of civilian greatcoats and mentions that, in order to avoid its deformation by inner clothing, the greatcoat should be cut:

 full and large... the forepart must be somewhat larger in the shoulder than a strait coat, to facilitate its putting on; the sleeve is to be cut three quarters of an inch, both in the back, across the shoulder, and in the width of the body... Cut the shoulder tolerable straight, else the coat will fly off before; for all great coats should hang neat and straight down before, and with width to lap over, which is their intended purpose...[60]


            In 1804 the decision was made, "in consideration of the essential benefit in point of health and comfort", for army greatcoats to be waterproofed "agreeable to Messrs. Duke & Co.'s process."[61]  Patented two years earlier, Messrs. Duke & Co.'s process departed from the traditional use of greasy animal ingredients, and opted for vegetable ingredients.[62]  While Duke's process avoided soiling the men's clothes and accoutrements with grease and did not emit a "nauseous" animal smell like the other processes,[63] complaints were made of "an acid unpleasant smell.. when exposed to warmth, after being damp or wet."[64]  Although the details of the process are unknown, the method of application involved the completed garment being submerged in waterproofing solution.[65]  J.M. Flindall's The Complete Family Assistant suggested one type of vegetable-based waterproofing recipe that may give some idea of what Messrs. Duke & Co's recipe consisted of: "To render greatcoats &c. proof against sun and rain...boil well together two pounds of turpentine, one pound of litharge in powder, and two or three pounds of linseed oil.  When the article is brushed over with this varnish, it must be dried in the sun; after which, neither heat or water will affect it."[66]

            Messrs. Duke & Co. enjoyed a monopoly on waterproofing until November 1811 when an another contractor, Mr. Maberly, submitted a lower bid and won the waterproofing contract for five years from the Commissary.  Allegations of fraudulent behaviour in the contracting process were directed at Maberly by Messrs. Duke & Co., eventually resulting in an inquiry in 1812.  Messrs. Duke & Co. argued that Maberly had submitted greatcoats for examination that had actually been waterproofed by his firm and that Maberly's process was in fact founded on the inferior animal-based process and therefore not to army standards.  Although hundreds of documents from inspections, experiments, and interviews were produced from the inquiry, there was not enough evidence to prove Maberly's process was inferior to Messrs. Duke & Co.'s and the contract with Maberly was permitted to continue.[67]  Under the new contract the government saw a savings of one shilling for each greatcoat waterproofed.  From evidence in the inquiry it is likely Maberly's process used some animal ingredients, but whether it soiled the soldier's clothing and smelt bad is uncertain.[68]

 Sizes and Markings

             British regulars were provided with the best or first quality greatcoats manufactured by a particular contractor, while those of inferior quality went to the militia. To distinguish between the two, first quality greatcoats  were  marked with SIG on various parts inside the coats and a No.1 on the package if in bales.[69]  The second quality were marked with a S2G.  Commissariat store returns following the war noted only No.1 Greatcoats and greatcoats manufactured in Canada in stock.  In 1801, Horse Guards ordered three sizes of greatcoats to be made based on size of the men in the front, centre, and rear ranks of infantry of the time.[70]  However, by the War of 1812, greatcoats were manufactured in four sizes: "One Great Coat in every 31 to be of size No.4, the remaining 30 coats to be in equal proportions of sizes No. 1, 2, & 3."[71]  The fourth size was introduced in 1812 after it was reported that size No. 3, the largest size, was four inches short in the body and two in the sleeve for the men of the King's company of Grenadier in the 1st Foot Guards.[72]  The size was commonly marked on the inside of the bottom of the greatcoat near the initials of the contractor.[73]  As well, a mark was placed on greatcoats destined for Canada, to distinguish them from those intended for General service.[74]  Once marked, the greatcoats were packed in bales of twenty-five,[75] and shipped, with sealed patterns of the three common sizes,[76] to the respective regiments or stations.  Some of the contractors manufacturing and packing greatcoats for Canada included: Messrs Pearse[77]; Baker[78]; Dixon[79]; Gilpin[80]; and Hebdin & Co.  The latter contractor was seemingly the most common supplier of greatcoats for Canada.

            Once the coats arrived at their destination, they were issued to the various regiments by company.  Each coat was then numbered[81] and recorded in order to identify its owner.  In 1820 the 26th Regiment ordered "if possible, every soldier should have his arms, accoutrements and greatcoat numbered alike."[82]  This however does not seem to be the case during the War of 1812.  Records for a company of Canadian Fencibles for 1814 show that while the company's two sergeants had their greatcoats numbered 1 and 2 respectively, the other ranks had no sequence in the numbers assigned to them.[83]  In December 1814, all field equipment including greatcoats were ordered to be marked with the letter of the company, and numbered "so that each man may be able to ascertain his own."[84]

Wear and Tear

            Another point of interest in the Canadian Fencible greatcoat records is the dates of issue for the greatcoats to the company.  In March 1814, it was necessary to provide only half of the company with new greatcoats:  the other soldier's greatcoats were still serviceable.  This is understandable since the company was continually subjected to new recruits who required greatcoats at their time of entry, and to high numbers of greatcoats being lost and which required immediate replacement.  Thus, many of the soldiers in March 1814 had worn their greatcoats for less than the two year period.  Finally, there were also three privates with coats which had outlived the expected period: one had used the same greatcoat for close to four and half years.[85]

             This is surprising since when the soldier was not wearing his coat, he used it as bedding especially in field service.  One soldier serving in the 51st Regiment on the Iberian Peninsula used an old greatcoat in an unusual and inventive way to provide warmth while sleeping. After disrobing,

my legs are thrust into the sleeves... carefully tied at the cuffs to keep out the cold.  The other part of the coat wrapped round my body served for under blanket and sheet.  Next my trousers are drawn on my legs over the sleeves of the coat, my red jacket has the distinguished place of covering my seat of honour and lastly my blanket covers all.  In this manner I have slept as comfortable as a prince.[86]

A similar bedding arrangement was recounted by Sergeant Cooper of the 7th Fusiliers, serving also on the Peninsula, and certainly soldiers bivouacking in Canada would have shown similar resourcefulness.

            To prolong the life-expectancy of greatcoats, some regiments issued orders to limit their use.  For example the Canadian Voltigeurs in November 1812 issued the following order:  

The weather having become cold at this season of the year.  It is permitted to the Voltigeurs to wear their Great Coats & Blue Pantaloons, but the Great Coats are on no Account to be worn except on duty.  The Commanding Officer calls upon every officer and non-commissioned officer to confine every man who shall be found wearing his Great Coat against orders.[87]

             When a greatcoat became unwearable, this did not end its usefulness to the soldier.  In December 1813, the 23rd Regiment in Spain were noted to  use their regiment's worn out greatcoats to mend their red coats, the end appearance of which "would have done Harlequin credit."[88]  In Canada, unserviceable greatcoats were passed out to the men to be cut up and used to wrap the soldiers feet before putting on their winter "beef shoes".[89]

             Supply problems, shortages of regulation cloth, changes in construction to accommodate climate, continual alterations in regulations, and the simple wear and tear all had a profound impact on quality and uniformity of the greatcoat in Canada.  This impact would not have only been noticeable between regiments, or regulars and militia, but would extend to differences between each soldier in the line.  An image comes to mind of soldiers marching along side each other with some wearing kersey coats with serge linings, others in coats with qualities of cloth coats and flannel or green baize linings made in Canada, while still others in the new pattern of coat for Canada, and all showing varying degrees of wear.  This lack of uniformity was accelerated during the war with the arrival of regiments from England, the West Indies, and the Pennisula, bringing with them greatcoats which reflected the conditions of those stations and theatres of war.



             The kind assistance and information provided to me by Keith Raynor on this project has been invaluable and I look forward to grander projects with him.  As well I would like to thank James Kochan for bringing to my attention the Esdaille fraud and a sketch in the Anne S.K. Brown Collection that confirmed the greatcoat as single-breasted as well as his constructive criticisms and encouragement on this article.

[1] Assistant Surgeon John Douglas, Medical Topography of Upper Canada. (London, 1819), pp. 36-38, 82-83.

[2] Library and Archives of Canada (LAC), RG 8 I, vol. 1219, p. 201, Prevost to Bathhurst, L'Acadie, 31 March 1814.

[3] Douglas, Medical Topography... p. 36.

[4] Ibid., pp. 28-29.

[5] Charles Pinguet, "Une Voix de 1813: Deux lettres écrites dans les tentes de Chateauguay", Les Soirées canadiennes, (1864), p. 95.

[6] Public Records Office (PRO), War Office (WO) 3/19 p. 152, Circular Letter, Horse Guards, London, 1798.

[7] PRO, WO 3/33, p. 519, Circular Letter, Horse Guards, London, 1801.

[8] W.Y. Carman, "Infantry Clothing Regulations, 1802", Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research (JSAHR), vol. 19, p. 221.

[9] PRO, WO 4/206, pp. 231-235, Circular relative to the Provision of Great Coats for the Army, War Office, 12 August 1808.

[10] LAC, RG 8 I, vol. 30, pp. 43-45, Circular letter, Carleton House, 28 May 1811.

[11] LAC, RG 8 I, vol. 1216, p. 10, Craig to Calvert, Quebec, 7 September 1809; LAC, RG 8 I, vol. 797, p. 192, Palmerston to Craig, War Office, 28 December 1809.

[12] LAC, MG 15, Treasury (T) 28/8 (selections), p. 17, George Harrison to Secretary at War, London, 18 March 1811; LAC, RG 8 I, vol. 30, pp. 43-45, Circular letter, Carleton House, 28 May 1811.

[13] War Office, A Collection of Orders, Regulations, and Instructions, for the Army; On the Matters of Finance and Points of Discipline Immediately Connected Therewith. vol. 2,(London, 1819), p. 473, "Regulations for the Provision of Clothing, Necessaries, Great Coats, and Appointments, for Corps of Infantry, 15 July 1812".

[14] LAC, RG 8 I, vol. 1170, p. 79, Palmerston to Prevost, War Office, 3 October 1812.

[15] LAC, RG 8 I, vol. 796, p. 41, Palmerston to Craig, War Office, 6 October 1810.

[16] LAC, RG 8 I, vol. 797, p. 192, Palmerston to Craig, War Office, 28 December 1809.

[17] LAC, RG 8 I, vol. 796, p. 51, De Rottenburg to Freer, Quebec, 13 December 1810.

[18] LAC, RG 8 I, vol. 515, p. 119, Robertson to Addison, Storekeeper General's Office, Quebec, 30 November 1816.

[19] Similar discussion in Dennis Carter-Edwards, The 41st (or Welsh) Regiment, 1799-1815. (Parks Canada, 1986), unpublished.

[20] LAC, RG 8 I, vol. 910, p. 39, Proctor to Thornton, Montreal, 5 May 1810.

[21] LAC, RG 8 I, vol. 910, p. 71, Return of Greatcoats Received by the 41st Regiment of Foot from 30th November 1807 to the Date hereof as also of the November now in possession and wanting to complete- Montreal, 26 November 1810.

[22] LAC RG 8 I, vol. 910, pp. 69-70, Proctor to Thornton, Montreal, 26 November 1810.

[23] LAC, RG 8 I, vol. 1216, p. 319, Thornton to Drummond, Quebec, 29 November 1810.

[24] LAC, RG 8 I, vol. 115, pp. 233-234, Proctor to Drummond, Montreal, 3 December 1810.

[25] LAC, RG 8 I, vol. 911, p. 60, Rottenburg to Military Secretary, Quebec, 18 December 1811.

[26] LAC, MG 13, WO 17/1515, Remarks in October return for the Canadas, Quebec, 25 October 1810.

[27] LAC, RG 8 I, vol. 30, p. 67, Palmerston to Prevost, War Office, April 1812.

[28] LAC, RG 8 I, vol. 1170, pp. 79-82, Palmerston to Prevost, War Office, 3 October 1812.

[29] LAC, RG 8 I, vol. 84, pp. 169-172, Court of Inquiry, Kingston, 18 May 1813.

[30] PRO, WO 28/311, pp. 159-162, General Order, Montreal, 10 December 1814.

[31] LAC, MG 13, WO 62/44, pp. 47-48, Storekeeper's Instructions, London, 2 November 1812; In 1802, Lt. Col. McDonell of the 2nd Battalion, Royal Canadian Volunteers remarked how cloth sent for the construction of greatcoats was calculated at three yards for each soldier and how " that average will not do for large men, it will require from 3¼ to 3½ yards per man", LAC, RG 8 I, vol. 794, pp. 41-43, McDonell to Military Secretary Green, Fort George, 4 July 1802.

[32] W. Y Carman, "Infantry Clothing Regulations, 1802", JSAHR, vol. 19, p. 221.  Kersey refers to a well-felted woollen cloth with a twill weave. 

[33] Catherine Lucas, "Gifts of Clothing to the Troops in 1793-95", JSAHR vol. 55, p. 6.

[34] LAC, RG 8 I, vol. 1216, p. 212, Craig to Calvert, Quebec, 5 June 1810.

[35] Recommended in a report by Major General Drummond and Lieutenant Colonel Proctor, Ibid.

[36] LAC, RG 8 I, vol. 30, pp. 44-45, Circular Letter, Carleton House, London, 28 May 1811.


[37] LAC, MG 13, WO 62/44, pp. 47-48, Storekeeper's Instructions, London, 2 November 1812.

[38] LAC, RG 8 I, vol. 1216, p. 319, Thornton to Drummond, Quebec, 29 November 1810.

[39] PRO, WO 7/54, Esdaille Fraud on Great Coat Contracts, 5 April 1810.

[40] PRO, WO 7/54, Esdaille Fraud on Great Coat Contracts, 18-24 April 1810.

[41] A sketch by A. Sauerweid in the Anne S. K. Brown Collection depicts a soldier circa 1816 to 1818 with a single-breasted greatcoat.  Another work by Hamilton Smith "Infantry Officer, in Marching Order," March 1812, illustrating a private with a open greatcoat.  On this coat is a row of buttons along the right edge of the closure indicating it to be single breasted.   Earlier in 1802, W. H. Pyne illustrates in "Baggage waggons at the end of a column of British troops" a soldier also wearing a greatcoat with a single-breasted closure.  In contrast to this, a watercolour in the Royal Library, Windsor Castle, circa 1803 exhibits a soldier of the 6th Regiment in Canada wearing a double-breasted greatcoat with two rows of eight buttons. This coat is presumably a regimental patern and not the one adopted for the army as a whole in 1808 when the Treasury took over production.

[42] PRO, WO 7/54, p. 55, Horse Guards, 18 May 1809.

[43] LAC, RG 8 I, vol. 1216, p. 212, Craig to Calvert, Quebec, 5 June 1810; PRO, WO 7/54, Deeper Linings for Greatcoats in North America, Clothing Board Office, London, 16 April 1811; LAC, MG 15, T 28/8 (selections), p. 17, George Harrison to Secretary at War, London, 18 March 1811.

[44] Scottish United Services Museum, Manuscript 355-66, Inventory... 1816, p. 81.

[45] L.I. Cowper, ed. The King's Own: The Story of a Royal Regiment, 1680-1814, vol. 1. (Oxford, 1939), p. 495. Quoting 1801 regulations from General Orders Book 29.  Pictorial evidence in C. Hamilton Smith's "Soldiers of the 1st Regiment of Foot Guards in Marching Order," May 1812, and number of other illustrations show the cape quite a bit higher.  The watercolour "Soldier of the 6th Regiment in Canada", c.1803, in Royal Collection, Windsor Castle, depicts the greatcoat void of a cape altogether.

[46] PRO, WO 7/56, p. 97, Report of the proceedings of a Board of Officers, appointed by His Royal Highness the Commander in Chief to be assembled, "for the purpose of reporting upon the equipment of the Infantry", London, 29 June 1811.

[47] The United Service Journal and Naval and Military Magazine, (London, 1832), Part III, p. 112.

[48] C. Hamilton Smith, Costumes of the British Army,  "Soldiers of the 1st Regiment of Foot Guards in Marching Order," May 1812; "Infantry Officer in Marching Order," March 1812 (in Anne S.K. Brown Collection).

[49] PRO, WO 7/56, p. 97, Report of the proceedings of a Board of Officers,... London, 29 June 1811.

[50] PRO, WO 7/54, p. 55, Horse Guards to Secretary at War, London, 18 May 1809.

[51] PRO, WO 26/39, p. 182, Clothing Regulations for Cavalry and Infantry, Court of St. James, London, 22 April 1803.

[52] LAC, MG 13, WO 62/44, p. 48, Storekeeper's Instructions, London, 2 November 1812.

[53] PRO, WO 4/213, pp. 229-230, Circular letter, War Office, London, 30 November 1811.

[54] Orders in 1802 directed that the chevrons be "worn on the right arm, at right angles and extended to within half an inch of the seams, half an inch of the cloth appearing between the bars of the chevrons."  However when new clothing regulations were issued in 1803, the wearing of chevrons on the greatcoats were replaced by the regimental facing colour distinction.  Since this only distinguished the sergeants and not the other NCOs, chevrons were reintroduced on the coats in 1806, PRO, WO 3/333, p. 484, Circular Letter, Horse Guards, London, 30 December 1802; WO 123/134, p. 558, Circular Letter, Horse Guards, London, 27 October 1806.

[55] PRO WO 26/39, p. 182, Clothing Regulations for the Cavalry and Infantry, 22 April 1803.

[56] Rifleman Harris remarks in his memoirs of soldiers removing buttons from their greatcoats, hammering them flat and passing them off for English currency during the Peninsular War.  Only regimental buttons, or possibly a standard government button displaying for example a 'GR' could serve this purpose.  In contrast to this, the Royal Canadian Volunteers were supplied in 1802 with only plain buttons. Christopher Hibbert ed., The Recollections of Rifleman Harris. (London, 1970), p. 68; LAC, RG 8 I, vol. 794, pp. 41-43, McDonell to Military Secretary Green, Fort George, 4 July 1802.

[57] LAC, RG 8 I, vol. 794, p. 43, Invoice for Clothing, London, 12 July 1802.

[58] "L.I. Soldier of 3rd Foot Guards", Anne S.K. Brown Collection, Brown University, Rhodes Island, From a drawing by A. Sauerweid.

[59] LAC, RG 8 I, Vol. 794, p. 43, Invoice of Clothing to the Royal Canadian Volunteers, London, 12 July 1802.

[60] James Queen et all., The Taylors' Instructor, or a Comprehensive Analysis, of the Elements of Cutting Garments, of Every Kind. (Philadelphia, 1809), pp. 35-36.

[61] PRO, WO 123/134, p. 371, Deputy Adjutant General to Regimental Agents and Clothiers, Horse Guards, London, 17 September 1804.

[62] PRO, WO 7/56, p. 287, Report of the proceedings of a Board of General Officer... "to report upon the relative advantages of the process for rendering Great Coats Waterproof employed by Mr. Maberly and by Messrs. Duke & Co."... Westminister, 30 April 1813.

[63] Ibid., p. 285.

[64] Ibid., p. 298.

[65] Ibid., p. 290.

[66] J.M. Flindall, The Complete Family Assistant; including Economical Hints on the Use of Provisions, Fuel, &c. (London, 1813), p. 278.  Another method for waterproofing cloth noted in this book directed: "To one ounce of white wax, melted, add one quart of spirits of turpentine, which, when thoroughly mixed and cold, dip the cloth in it, and hang it up to dry.  By this cheap method, muslin, as well as the strongest cloths, will be rendered impenetrable to rain, without any injury being done, even when the cloth is coloured." Ibid.

[67] PRO, WO 7/56, p. 277-305, Report of the proceedings of a Board of General Officer... "to report upon the relative advantages of the process for rendering Great Coats Waterproof employed by Mr. Maberly and by Messrs. Duke & Co."... Westminister, 30 April 1813.

[68] In favour of Messrs. Duke & Co.'s process, the Deputy Inspector of Hospitals at the Cape of Good Hope remarked how the said process effectively deterred moths from destroying wool, a principal problem at that station.  Presumably a process using animal grease would not provide the same deterrent, Ibid., p. 305.

[69] Scottish United Services Museum, Manuscript 355-66, Inventory,... 1816, p. 57.

[70] PRO, WO 3/34, p. 12, Circular Letter, Horse Guards, London, 22 June 1801.

[71] LAC, MG 13, WO 62/44, p. 48, Storekeeper's Instructions, London, 2 November 1812.

[72] PRO, WO 7/35, p. 184, Comptroller's Office, Whitehall, London, 13 August 1812.

[73] Scottish United Services Museum, Manuscript 355-66, Inventory... 1816, p. 58.

[74] LAC, MG 13, WO 62/44, Storekeeper's Instructions, London, 2 November 1812.

[75] Scottish United Services Museum, Manuscript 355-66, Inventory... 1816, p. 90.  Each bale was noted as measuring 27 by 18 inches.

[76] LAC, MG 13, WO 62/44, pp. 5-6, #637, Storekeeper's Instructions, London, 12 October 1812.

[77] Considering Messrs. Pearse's prominent role in manufacturing greatcoats and other army clothing it is presumed this firm supplied many of the regiments in Canada, PRO, WO 7/54, Mathews and Anderson to Commissary in Chief, London, 4 February 1811; Great Britain, House of Commons, An Account of the Extraordinary Expenses of the Army, incurred and Paid by the Right Honourable the Paymaster General of His Majesty's Forces: from the 25th December 1807 to the 24th December 1808. (London, 29 March 1809), p. 18.

[78] LAC, MG 15, T 28/11 (selections), p. 44, Harrison to Storekeeper General, London, 30 September 1813.

[79] Reference to "Dixon's supply" of greatcoats for Canada, LAC, MG 13, WO 62/44, p. 5, Storekeeper's Instructions, London, 12 October 1812.

[80] In 1808 Messrs. Gilpin supplied greatcoats to the 49th Regiment, PRO, WO 4/281, War Office, 8 April 1808, p. 374.

[81] Privates of the 49th Regiment in 1811 were noted paying two pence for the marking of the Greatcoat.  Considering this charge it is conceivable the name of the soldier was as well added.  United States National Archives, RG 68, No. 531, Account Book of the 49th Regiment, Montreal, 1811-12.

[82] LAC, MG 24, A 12, vol. 4, Dalhousie Papers, Standing Orders of the 26th or Cameron Regiment of Foot, Section III, 27.

[83] LAC, MG 24, G 21, Captain Hall's Company Books, "Companies Great Coats & Blankets with their Numbers & Dates of Issue".

[84] PRO, WO 28/311, p. 160, General Order, Montreal, 10 December 1814.

[85] Ibid.

[86] Liddell Hart, ed., The Letters of Private Wheeler, 1809-1828. (London, 1951), p. 74.  The issue of a blanket along with a greatcoat was a common practice since the greatcoat was "not esteemed a sufficient defence against the cold of the night." Robert Jackson, A systematic view of the formation, discipline, and economy of armies. (London, 1804), p. 257.

[87] LAC, MG 24, G 9, Order Book, Canadian Voltigeurs, Captain Duchesney, Regimental Order, Head Quarters, St. Phillippe, 15 November 1812.

[88] R.N. Buckley, ed., The Napoleonic War Journal of Captain Thomas Henry Browne, 1807-1816. (London, 1987), p. 255.

[89] LAC, RG 8 I, vol. 687, pp. 8-9, General Order, Montreal, 11 December 1814.

This article was published in Spring 1997 issue of the Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research  and is reproduced here by permission of the author

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