The Red Coat

The Red Coat

by Joe Wagner

 The town of Niagara on the Lake, in Canada, just across the Niagara River from Fort Niagara (NOTL for short) was a hotbed of English loyalist sentiments (it was home to Col. John “Beast” Butler and Col. John Graves Simcoe), and finding myself there as part of a First Virginia Regiment event, I visited several museums in the town (including Butler Barracks and Fort George) which highlighted British Revolutionary War experiences. A third museum that might have been missed by many was the Niagara Historical Museum. This is the local town historical center, and in it, I found a piece of very interesting history – with ties to another reenactment held in recent years, that of Oriskany, NY.

I went to the museum because I saw an ad for a War of 1812 military display, which would last only through the summer. Sure enough, they had half-dozen original British uniforms and some weapons from the War. But on the way to the 1812 room, I passed another uniform display that brought me to a stop. It was not 1812, but clearly (to a reenactor anyway) a uniform coat from the Rev War period.

Many members of the Regiment, interested in the clothing and equipment of our period, are always looking for original garments that provide a glimpse into the styles, materials and sewing techniques of the Revolutionary period that we try to emulate. As most of us know, there are not many original garments around to look at or examine. You can imagine my great surprise when I saw this coat in absolutely wonderful condition.


French Military in Canada

French Military in Canada:

An Overview Of French Forces During The French & Indian War

 By Joe Wagner

The content of this article goes somewhat afield from the typical Revolutionary War focus, but it is relevant enough to the reenactor experience in several ways to merit a look.  First of all, the history of the French military in Canada influenced military developments to the south in the English colonies, along with the obvious English models, from the French & Indian (F & I) War leading up to the Revolution.   It was, after all, against those French forces that our senior officers and statesmen, from Washington on down, fought two decades before our Revolution. Also, the military traditions of France, as exhibited in North America during the F & I War, give insights into the next generation of French forces who shared our War of Independence, as well as their influence on our own uniform, weapons, drill, etc.   Lastly, since any biography of George Washington or other Revolutionary leaders includes their early interactions with the French during both the F&I war as well as their collaboration during the Revolution, that knowledge is broadened by this background information.

Not the least interesting aspect of this research are the sources, which include an English  translation of a mid 20th century historical analysis by the Montreal Military Museum (La Societe du Musee Militaire & Maritime de Montreal),   and a 1759 French Army publication, “Etat Militaire de France”, which, among other things, listed all of the regiments then serving in North America, along with their organizational structure, uniform details, names of their officers, operational experiences, and where they were serving.  Four years earlier, in May 1755, was published a third piece of source material – “Exercice de L’Infantrie Francoise”.  This 80 page manual is a gold mine of period information on French drill, equipment, commands, and movements, as well as very detailed verbal explanation, in French and English, of each drill movement.  The detail of description and the quality of the engraved plates is outstanding.