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A Soldier in the Revolutionary War – Part 1

Posted on: September 1st, 2007 by hauleymusic No Comments

What if you were soldier in the Revolutionary War? The clothes you wore, the food you ate, the places where you stayed, the way you lived would all be very different from the way you live today.

You could have enlisted (joined) in the war when it first began. It started on April 19, 1775 when the first shots were fired at Lexington, Massachusetts. You might have been one of Washington’s soldiers defeated at the Battle of Long Island that began a series of setbacks for the Americans. Maybe you fought at the Battle of White Plains, then retreated across New Jersey finally to gain a victory at the Battle of Trenton on Christmas Day. You would probably remember the Thanksgiving when 2 ounces of rice and a tablespoon of vinegar were served to the troops at Valley Forge because there wasn’t any other food. Perhaps you fought the British at Saratoga in 1777 and cheered the American victory that years later was called the turning point of the war, and you were probably at New Windsor Cantonment where the fighting stopped on April 19, 1783 when the “Cessation of Hostilities” cease-fire order was posted, and you celebrated with three “huzzas.” The Treaty of Paris officially ended the war and gave America independence and land all the way west to the Mississippi River. Congress approved it on September 3, 1783.

What Would You Wear?

The army gave the soldiers clothes and equipment, but not always enough of these items. It was not uncommon to see soldiers near naked, wrapped in blankets and rags. The clothes a soldier was to receive were: A shirt, usually of heavy linen; breeches or overalls, pants of linen or wool; Weskit, (another name for waistcoat or vest); Woolen socks, which would have been hand-knit; Common shoes (staight last) which fit either foot (good for those who didn’t know their left from their right); A three cornered hat called “cocked-hats”, made of black felt. A soldier was also supposed to receive a heavy woolen coat called a REGIMENTAL COAT. They were of different colors, depending on which regiment the soldier belonged to. A soldier had to wear his regimental coat during battles even if it was very hot. This was because there was a lot of smoke on the battlefields from the guns and cannons. The colors of the coats helped identify regiments and armies. In some battles many troops who could not be issued a regimental coat wore linen “HUNTING FROCKS.” These were homespun and worn on the frontier. Hundreds of soldiers wearing hunting frocks, dyed various colors, presented a uniformed appearance. Frock coats were also worn to do fatigue duties to save wear and tear on a man’s regimental coat.

The equipment a soldier received was: a flintlock musket, which fired round lead balls and was not very accurate; a bayonet, which was like a long knife that fit onto the end of a musket; a cartridge box, to carry ammunition; a canteen (often round and made of wood or tin), to carry water; a haversack to carry food and small items (it was made of linen with a three button flap); a knapsack, also made of linen or canvas, painted to be waterproof. Extra clothes, shoes, playing cards, candles and other personal items were carried in it.