A Blog dedicated to primary research on uniforms, equipment & practices of the Armies of the American War for Independence: ca. 1768-1788

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Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Cocked Hats, Part 1.


Detail, DeLoutherbourg's Warley Camp: The Mock Attack, ca. 1778
Original in the Collection of HM Queen Elizabeth II
"A Camp Scene" Print by W.H. Bunbury ca. 1780-1790
Original in the Anne S.K. Brown Collection, Brown Univ.
These two examples shed light on the manner in which cocked hats were worn in practice by the British Army of the late 18th century, and more specifically the period of the American Revolution.
The DeLoutherbourg, (and the preparatory drawings done for it) illustrate the style of the cocked hat ca. 1778, tilted very much far forward.

The Familiar Bennet Cuthbertson on the matter:

Chapter VII, Article XXVI

“The cocking of a Soldier’s hat in a becoming manner, being principal ornament to his appearance, should be very much attended to; the short, smart cock is certainly most adapted to a military man, as it gives him a sort of martial air, adds to his height and always fits firm upon his head: four inches and a half are enough for the breadth of the leaves, as anything above that size drowns the face, unless it be remarkably full and broad: utmost exactness must be observed, in reducing the all the hats of a regiment to this dimension, and fixing such a uniformity in the cocking of the whole, that the nicest eye may not be able to perceive a difference.”

Article XXVII

“ In order to prevent the front cock of the hat, from squeezing to a pinch, a piece of whalebone, of about four inches long, should be sewed on the inside of that part: and that there may not be the smallest difference, in the method of wearing the all the hats of a Regiment, a narrow bit of black tape, about half and inch long, must be sewed close to the lining, upon the part of the hat which lies exactly over the nose, when put on in a proper manner; by which it will be impossible for a Soldier, to have an excuse for twisting the front cock more to the right or left, than should be; and it will also enable, even the most experienced officer, by casting his eye to this mark, to be once assured, whether the hats of his company are worn agreeable to the orders of the regiment.”

Article XXVIII

“To prevent the hats from ever falling off at exercise, or to be moved improperly upon their heads, and thereby give the Soldiers a pretence for the least unsteadiness under arms, two narrow pieces of tape, as near the colour of each man’s hair can be, should be sewed upon the lining, and from thence come round to the back of the head, there to be fastened by a very small hook and eye, exactly under the plat of the hair.”

Article XXIX

“Unless the laces of a soldier’s hats are made of mohair (which is first to be preferred, for the richness and glossiness of its look) those of linen will answer best, as they can always be kept clean, by the assistance of pipe-clay scraped in water, and that without the trouble of taking off; woolen lace upon the contrary, soon gathers dirt or turns a yellow hue which nothing can remove, unless they are frequently taken off and stoved with brimstone ; another great advantage attending the linen laces, is that they always can be easily replaced when worn out at a very trifling expense, and by that means the hats may be kept completely laced at all times: a thread-tassel from the right corner of the hat, with a white linen tape band adds greatly to the smartness of it, and can by washing, be constantly kept as clean as the hat-lace, which will not be the case, as if made by woolen materials, as has been accounted for: the button- loops for the same reason be of linen-tape, about a finger’s breadth else it will show to no advantage in the hat.”

In reading Hew Strachan's British Military Uniforms 1768-1796 we find Cuthbertson's recommendations very much in practice, in some instances approaching universal practice in the 1790's:

45th Regt.

Inspection return, 3rd of June 1774

“ Men…White Looping and tassels to men’s hats contrary to order”

47th Regt.

Inspection return, 23rd May 1768

“Men’s hats laced with linen, tied on with black tape sewn to their lining”

48th Regt.

Inspection return, 23rd May 1768

“Men’s hats-laced with linen”

62nd Regt.

1st of August, 1771 Inspection return

“Officer’s coats too short and hats too small”

25th May 1775 Inspection return

“Clothing, coats cut so short I must call them jackets. Hats too small.”

3rd Regiment of Foot, Inspection return of 6th of May, 1791:

“ …Hats well cocked, but too small- the same fault is too be found with the Grenadier and Light Infantry caps, although not to the same excess as in some other regiments. Latter are found inconvenient for want of shade over the eyes-the whole tied on with strings.”

This remark is repeated several times for Regiments of Foot all around 1791.

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