Wednesday, April 24, 2019

The Regimental Lace Conundrum?

NB:  I am still trying to learn how to get format the way I want with this app.  I hope the inexplicable changes in font and spacing do not distract to much from the information I am trying to share!

Much of my current research time has been spent looking into the issue of the uniforms of the 42nd regiment during their 1756-67 deployment to North America.  In this I was attempting to nail down when the regiment switched from a single breasted to a lapeled coat, and the ensuing change in the style with which the regimental lace was sewn to the coats.  This turned out to be a rabbit hole of epic proportions.    What I seem to have found is that regimental lace and falling collars were only worn by the Grenadier company of the 42nd until the Spring of 1761.  At that time the regiment’s coats switched from the classic single breasted coat shown in all the images of the regiment to a lapeled style of coat, and most likely the lace was at that time changed to the Bastion style of lacing. But that style of coat was not worn for very long, as I shall lay out later.    

I have come to this conclusion based off of a review of all the known images of enlisted men of the Regiment going back to the time of their being formed into a regiment from  Independent Companies, as well as a number of written sources.

A review of the images shows 19 (watercolors, engravings and oil paintings) without any lace, 2(watercolor and oil) showing lace, 1 image (42 Clothing book) showing what might be button holes bound with a contrasting color and 6 images that it is impossible to tell if there was or was not lace on the coat. So in some respects, not lacing the coats has been staring us in the face for the last 30+ years that I have been doing Highland reenacting, but it never clicked.  For me it is rather ironic.  The 78th company that I helped found, we wanted to do the 42nd, but the cost of the lace was more than a Brown Bess musket! 

Detail from "Fashionable people thronging St James's Park"  c.1745 Attributed to Joseph Nickolls shows 2 sholdiers of the Highland Regiment, one without lace on his regimental coat.

Farquar Shaw, Highland Regiment Mutineer

The images that do have lace are Morier’s Grenadier study and Sandby’s “Horse Fair on Bruntsfield Links”  The Sandby which was executed roughly contemporary to the Morier shows a figure, I feel is a Recruiting Sergeant.  The figure is wearing a laced coat, but with no falling collar.  The image is dated 1752, during the time the Regiment was stationed in Ireland.  The figure is either wearing what is probably plain white, or silver lace.  (How early the Sgt’s of the 42nd were paying for silver lace out of their own pocket,  is one of the great questions that will hopefully be answered by looking at the Agent’s book in the Lloyd’s of London Archive.) 

Detail from “Horse Fair on Bruntsfield Links, Edinburgh” 1752, Paul Sandby

The below invoice is undated, from COL Murray's papers.  but we know that it is clothing sent in 1757, as that was the only time that Admiral Holburne  was in North America.  

         Coats sent by Fisher & Pearse on Board the Transport  with Admiral Holburne
      197 Centinels Coats
      100 Grenadiers Ditto
        39 Sergeants
          1 Sergt Major
        19 Drummers
          4 Pipers
          1 Drum Major
        40 Corporals Knots
        20 of Red thread, 8 White, 400 needles, 40 thimbles
            NB 4 Pipers caps with red feathers sent with this clothing
            NB 4 Pipers knots ordered to be sent

           A copy of this sent to the LtCol & Quartermaster on the back of the Invoice of Tartan.
John Rylands University, Manchester University, Bagshawe Muniments, I-XI. Correspondence and Papers, V. Lord John Murray (d. 1787) and his Wife Mary, nee Dalton (d. 1765), 5/1/1-460. Correspondence, 1-408. Bound manuscript volume of copies of letters and regimental orders concerning the 42nd or Royal Highland Regiment (1756-7)

With this invoice it shows there was something different about the Grenadier coats that caused them to be accounted for as a separate line item.  When the 2nd Battalion of the 42nd was raised in 1758, there was no separate accounting for Grenadier coats, and the provided Grenadier caps were issued out 4-6 per company.  Why this was done is not known at present.  It should be noted that the 2d battalion was a full 10 company battalion that combined the 3 1757 Additional companies of the 42nd with 7 new raised companies to form a full battalion. 

This from the 2/42 Quartermaster Record Book, Item A333-2 in the Black Watch Regimental Museum.

           Account of the Clothing sent from London to Perth for the use of the 42nd or Royal

               Highland Regiment

                                    698 Private mens Coats

                                      13 Drummers
                                        1 Drum Major
                                      27 Sergeants
                                        1 Sergeant Majors
                                        1 Pipers
                                        1 Piper Major
                                        1 Ditto            Cap
                                        6 yards Dummers Lace
                                      14 Drums with Cases
                                        2 Colors, Staff and Case
                                    100 Private Mens Caps
                                        4 Serjeants Caps
                                        2 Drummers Caps
                                        4 Corporals Caps
                                        3 Officers.   

In addition to the images there are quite a few pieces  of written documentation that support that no lace was being worn by the majority of the members of the regiment.  The most telling is the results of a meeting of the General Officers Clothing board. This is found in WO 7-26.  Thanks to Alex Burns for his help in acquiring these War Office papers.  To set the stage, it is worthwhile to look at entries not just for the 42nd, but also for the 78th Regiment.

                                                         London, 10 Dec 1759

     Mr Ross Agent to Col Frasers Battalion having represented to His Excellency Field Marshal Lord       Viscount Ligonier that there having been no lace last year upon the clothing of the said battalion,          and that there is not time at present for making the quantity requisist to lace the clothes according        to the Directions of the General Officers of the Clothing Board, His Lordship orders me to                  acquaint you that he has consented to that Battalions clothing be made up(For this time only)              without lace, with which I am to desire you will be pleased to acquaint the Clothing Board. 

                                                                       I am
                                              Sir, Your most obedient Humble Servant

                                                               Rob Napirer Adj General
     To Wm Fauquier Esq

So here we see that despite the request to make uniforms for units going to North America without lace not being approved in 1758, that some Regimental Agents were doing just that.  So then the next week, the 42nd's clothing patterns are presented and:



             I am ordered by the Clothing Board held here today, to acquaint you that as they approached  the case of want of time to lace COL Fraser’s Battalion has been misrepresented to his  Excellency Field Marshal Lord Viscount Ligonier; and Lord John Murray’s Patterns, which  were under the same Circumstances, and therefore postponed at the last board, were on this day provided properly laced and lapelled; and Mr Mann the Clothier having engaged to the  board that Col Fraser’s shall be laced and lapelled in time; They desire you will present to his  Lordship that as the reason for not complying with the General Order is hereby removed.   They imagine his Lordship will think it proper that they should see his Majesties Orders   complied with and have ordered that the Patterns of a clothing properly laced and lapelled to  be exhibited at another Board to be held on Monday next. I am with the Greatest respect,


                                       Your most Obedient Humble Servant

                                                                Wm Fauquier

                      To LT General Napier

At the time of  this inspection the clothing for Campaign season 1760 would have already been shipped to North America so the earliest that the change to a coat with lapels and laced for the enlisted men could have happened was for the Campaign season of 61, and we see in the surviving Stewart Orderly book the following entry: 

                                                     Montreal 27 th  April 1761. Reg tl  Orders.
The tailors to be employed in altering the mens waistcoats according to the pattern of last year  but to make them longer in the body and the button­holes broader in order to correspond the  better with the lace on the new clothing. Such men who have spare waistcoats are to have theirs  altered first, beginning with the oldest company, afterwards as the season grows warmer the men  who have one waistcoat may more conveniently spare them, as they will be altered in one day.  Such men who have no sufficient waistcoats of any kind, must wait till the arrival of the clothing  in order to have their old coates converted into waistcoats.

My reading of this is that the entire regiment now had bastion laced coats and waistcoats, as seen in 2 images of officers, one being the Campbell of Melfort image below, the other being an officer of the 42nd that is shown in the Dominic Serres painting titled "The British Attack on the Citadel of Martinique, January 1762. That image can be found here:  

 The coats of both of these officers certainly have lapels and bastion loop lacing, and Campbell of Melfort’s white waistcoat has bastion lace loops on it as well. 

Captain John Campbell of Melfort, circa 1762Black Watch Museum, Balhousie Castle (Photograph Courtesy of Ian McCulloch)

It should be noted that the Officers of the regiment had adopted lapels and collars as much as a year earlier than this.  

                        Gen. Orders given at Fort Edward 31 st January 1760.
       The officers of both battalions (it is agreed) are to be uniform in their regimental frocks,  which are to be made with a lapel, a collar and a slash cuff, the buttons to be the same as those sent from England for their new lac d Regimentalls.

With all of this, it would seem that we could now make a good assumption of when the Regiment switched to laced and lapeled coats.  But nothing is ever easy when it comes to uniforms.  On Christmas Day 1762 the 42nd Departed New York on its way to Martinique, and then eventually Havana.  An Army acclimatized to a Northern North American winter arriving in the Caribbean would certainly require a readjustment.  General Monckton, the Expedition commander ordered that "The Commanding Officers of the Corps will order the linings to be ript out of the mens coats, the lapels taken off and the skirts cut shorter.  The General recommends to them, providing their men with something that is thin, to make sleeves for their waistcoats as the troops may be ordered to land in them." (as quoted in "Sons of the Mountains", Vol I p 271)  So the 42nd were ordered to cut their new style uniforms into something resembling what the unit had just gotten in trouble for 2 short years ago. 

A final piece in nailing down the lack of lace is from the Journal of John Grant, recently transcribed and edited by Earl Chapman &  Ian McCulloch.  In the journal Grant relates the following regarding the uniform worn by both the officers and men during the regiments Caribbean service.  " I was ordered with another officer to make a report to Brigadier General Grant.  We were equipped in jackets without lace made to resemble [the] soldiers’, with a haversack with provisions on one side and a canteen of liquor on the other.  Our few change of shirts &c. wrapped in our plaid which was wound round our chest." (A Dangerous Service, p 168)

While the 42nd was in the Caribbean, shipping their uniforms for the 63 Campaign season was hitting a snag, as the members of the Clothing Board were delegating and passing the buck on approving as evidenced by this letter.

                                                     Comptrollers Officer, 24 Aug 1762
     Major General Tallbot (Who was desired by the Board to view LT General Murray’s Clothing)           being out of town, I should take it as a favor if you would take that trouble on, you in his room,           which is a thing very customary .  I am with the greatest respect
                                                                    You Most Obedient humble servant
                                                                    Wm Fauquier

     To Maj General Webb

Either due to the slow pace of the Clothing Board bureaucracy, or the unit moving so fast that their uniforms for the year never caught up with them, the 42nd never received their clothing issue for 1763.  Redeploying from Havana to Philadelphia, marching west, fighting the Battle of Bushy Run and garrisoning Fort Pitt, all on the cut down uniforms that they left New York with in December of 1762.  It was not until late in 1764 that the men started to receive back pay and uniforms.  A letter from Captain William Grant to Henry Bouquet on 24 July 1764 that states that the members of the 42nd garrisoning Fort Pitt were near mutiny because they had not been paid in a very long time, plus there was a rumor their rations were going to be cut, and be more expensive and the final straw was that they had not having received uniforms in 2 years.  Bouquet papers Vol VI, p 598.   This makes for a rather threadbare look, not the post war "Spit and Polish" that many would be expecting.  

This post might be considered a 2d Draft of something that I have been working on for going on 2 years now.  It is subject to revision as I continually gain access to new information.   As it stands, should 42nd reenactors consider if they are going make  Grenadier caps, or take a seam ripper to their coats, or just ignore this totally? 

If anyone has actual primary source information on this subject they are willing to share, I would love to see it, but actual documentation, not a modern art image from an Osprey book.  


  1. Thank you so much for this research. When I formed a company of the 42nd (1756-58 version) after much research I went with the implications from Stewart's Orderly Book that the 42nd had two uniforms; one laced for parade and one unlaced for field duty. I surmised that this meant that a man coming into the unit would only have an unlaced uniform his first year. His second issue would be laced so he's have two years of service on his original unlaced field uniform. I wonder if they transferred the lace to subsequent uniform issues? I wonder what was done if a soldier's field uniform was in very bad shape? One question leads to ten others. I also wonder about the details of the pipers' uniform. Was the coat of of officer's quality? Was the lace something besides the standard two red traces on white lace? Was the piper's cap a traditional musician's mitre cap? If so was the embroidering gold or silver or white? Was the piper's shoulder knot white like a Corporal's or was it gold or silver? As I said, one question leads to ten more! Thanks again for your research.

  2. Good Day Kevin,

    Without a doubt the Officers had multiple uniform coats, but except in rare circumstances, would the men. In this period last years coat became this years waistcoat, so only if a unit had a relatively easy year would there ever be much extra left over clothing. As to the Pipers clothing, it was obviously different in some way from the enlisted mens. I hope that if/when I get access to the regimental agents book that is in London I will be able to answer that question. Same with the caps. I have personally went with the assumption that the caps were not that much different than the Grenadiers, same with the uniforms, as they needed a knot to highlight that they were a piper not a normal soldier/NCO. I just made an aproximation of a pipers knot for a member of my unit, using mixed red/white/blue yarn. This was based on COL Murray's love of those colors, as evidenced by a description of the pioneer caps.

  3. Good day,

    I am interested in obtaining source documents used in preparing this article, if possible. Specifically, correspondence involving Col. Fraser's uniforms, and also correspondence regarding Fisher & Pearce (sending coats). I would like to use it to update my Clothing for the Highland Regiments, 1757, blog post below.