"What is this you have been about to
The New Jersey Brigade at the Battle of Monmouth
John U. Rees
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“That damned blue Regiment …”
Continental Army Clothing during the Monmouth Campaign
A typical Continental soldier wearing a military cocked hat, regimental coat, breeches, and carrying a blanket sling (tumpline) in lieu of a knapsack. Early-war styles included coats with capes and cuffs only (no lapels) and sleeved waistcoats or jackets. Illustration by George C. Woodbridge, from George C. Neumann, Swords and Blades of the American Revolution (Texarkana, TX, 1991).
Clothing supply in the spring and summer of 1778 was haphazard, with some states' troops being much better clad than others. Major-General Charles Lee testified that the units of his advanced division had “no uniforms or distinguishing colours [flags]..." One reason for this was given by New York gentleman volunteer Bernardus Swartout, who noted that when Lee’s troops advanced on the morning of the battle, they “left … baggage of every kind behind, also the soldiers coats.” Some of Lee’s men did retain their coats. One such unit was Colonel Henry Jackson’s mixed detachment, as commented on by one of its officers, "... I found we [Jackson's battalion] were retiring - Then I look'd round & saw Genl. Lee on Horseback and Col. Jackson at a considerable distance... Genl. Lee immediately halloo's where is that damned blue Regiment going..." Another officer recalled that Jackson’s battalion was indicated when the order was given that “This blue regiment must form behind this fence..."
At least ninety of the New Jersey nine-months levies are known to have worn their own clothing and equipment during their term of service in 1778. If civilian coats were accepted for use by the new levies, then at least some of the men from the New Jersey militia serving with Maxwell's Brigade wore clothing similar to that illustrated here. Illustration by Donna Neary, from Marko Zlatich, New England Soldiers of the American Revolution (Santa Barbara, CA, 1993). Reprinted courtesy of Bellerophon Books.
Probably just as many Continental Army units wore wool regimental coats as did linen hunting shirts, although the latter were the preferred warm weather wear. Hunting shirts began to be adopted army-wide as an inexpensive, easily-made uniform in 1776, and in June 1777 General Washington noted that "Hunting Shirts and over alls will... be more comfortable at this Season than Uniform..." The preference for hunting shirts during the warm months was emphasized in the latter half of 1778, Colonel Moses Hazen, 2nd Canadian Regiment, writing in December, “as I wish to Take every Measure and all Possible care in preserving the uniform Cloathing, I would beg to propose a linen Coat, or hunting shirt, and some overalls for the Spring - That the uniform Cloathing may be Pack'd up and Laid by During the hot weather in Summer and for this purpose I would beg your Excellency will please to order a sufficient Quantity of Coarse Linen from [the] Public Store at Boston to be made up by our own Taylors in Camp During the winter.”
Pictured above is the typical Continental Army warm weather wear consisting of linen hunting shirt and linen overalls. Many regiments in Washington’s army wore wool regimental coats during the June 1778 Monmouth campaign. Illustration by Peter F. Copeland; “7th Virginia Regiment, 1777,” Peter F. Copeland and Donald W. Holst, Brother Jonathan print series. Courtesy of the artist.
Hunting shirts seem to have been the New Jersey regiments’ only uniform piece of clothing in 1778. The New Jersey nine-month militia levies serving with Maxwell’s four Continental regiments were issued hunting shirts and breeches. And, in autumn 1778, Brigadier-General William Maxwell noted that his Jersey Brigade had been given "only a few light things in the Spring." "A few light things" likely included hunting shirts, as indicated by the Hazen note (above) and what we know from preparations for Major General John Sullivan's 1779 expedition. Letters and returns referring to Sullivan's soldiers' apparel spoke of "Summer Cloathing" or "Light Cloathing." Other documents note Sullivan’s preferred summer 1779 campaign clothing consisted chiefly of hunting shirts and overalls. All these references point to a connection between "light things," "Summer Cloathing," "Light Cloathing," and hunting shirts.
New Jersey Brigade common soldiers likely wore hunting shirts, with breeches or overalls, in the spring and summer of 1778. Levies drafted from the militia to serve for nine months in the state’s Continental regiments were also issued hunting shirts and breeches, unless they provided their own clothing. Maryland, New Jersey, and New York had substantial numbers of levies with their regiments at the Battle of Monmouth. Illustration by Peter F. Copeland. Courtesy of the artist.
SourceFor information sources and a comprehensive discussion of New Jersey brigade and army clothing in 1778 see John U. Rees, “The Great Neglect for Want of Clothing …”online
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