A Scarlet Coat




Sample Pages

A Scarlet Coat - René Chartrand. 228 pages, 400 illustrations, hardcover

A companion volume to Rene's recent "A Most Warlike Appearance". Includes 4 full colour pages. Chapters include;

    General Officers and Staff 
    British and Canadian Cavalry 
    Upper Canada
    Lower Canada
    Volunteer and Sedentary Militia Cavalry
    British and Canadian Artillery
    Engineer and Staff Corps 
    Foreign Corps and West India Regiments 
    Fencible and Voltigeurs Regiments
    Indian Department
    Lower Canada Militia
    Upper Canada Sedentary Militia
    Atlantic Provinces 
    Winter Dress 
    Arms in British North America
    Colours and Flags 
    Medical Services
    Civil Departments 
    The Naval Forces
    The Soldier’s Wife 
    Infantry Shako Plates

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See the US companion volume here

(These have been corrected in the second printing)

Page 66. 21st Foot - The illustration captions should read Royal North British Fusiliers (rather than Welsh – with apologies to all Scots!). The text on page 68 does say Royal North British Fusiliers. A couple of readers mentioned that the title was Royal Scots Fusiliers. According to this regiment’s entry in WO 380/3, its application to wear Highland trews and other features of Highland dress was denied in May 1867, and its application to change the title to Royal Scots Fusiliers as well as the existence of its corps of pipers at the expense of officers were not allowed in June 1874. The Scots were stubborn and, on 20 March 1877, Her Majesty approved the title of Royal Scots Fusiliers. Back to circa 1814-1815, a further description from the lace books noted by Milnes: “Epaulettes – blue strap, edged with two lines of gold lace, gold embroidered thisle on strap, gold embroidered thistle at points of turnbacks.” (S.M. Milnes Notes, New York Public Library) 

Page 79 - A section describing lace was inadvertantly printed without the appropriate detail. The sentence can be identified by xxx . The text should read as "...inch wide white lace with black and white central stripe and, at each side, a yellow and black diagonal stripe edged with a red stripe on each side."

Pages 125 and 139 - Please note that the caption for the image on page 125 (the sword-bearing officer) refers to the image on page 139 (African-American soldier) and vice-versa.

Page 205 – the upper left caption is correct until the words “an anonymous German....” The image is, obviously, a rendering by Patrice Courcelle in a private collection.



Although “A Scarlet Coat” has been published since November 2011, interesting items continue to come to our attention. We add them at leisure.

41st Regiment of Foot. Portrait of Col. Alexander Campbell of Possil, 1805, by Sir Henry Raeburn. An interesting detail is that there is no white piping edging to the scarlet facings. The lace, silver with a black line, is square ended. Also, his hair is not powdered. Wikimedia.

Trois-Rivières Militia, Lower Canada, officer’s belt-plate, c. 1803-1815. Gilt oval belt-plate, GR at centre, “three rivers militia” in the garter around surmounted by the Crown. Kindly shared by Don Troiani.

1st Foot (Royal Scots)

Letters from an officer of the Royal Scots revealed many details on the regimental dress and equipment during the later part of the Napoleonic wars.

All four battalion each had a band at the expense of the Duke of Kent.

The full dress of the officers was scarlet with blue facings, richly embroidered with gold. The undress was likewise very handsome, but without lace.

The officers wore a staff pattern epaulette with embroidered strap, but the subalterns wore fringes as in all other line regiments.

The boots came up to the patella of the knee and were with tassels. The hat was worn straight accross and the feathers were in the form of a sugar loaf.

(Sumner Notes, Anne S.K. Brown Military Collection, Brown University Library, Rrovidence, USA)

1st Foot (Royal Scots), 4th Battalion

16 October 1810 Inspection of 4th Battalion, Scotland. Each man pays 1/11 for a canteen and its strap and 1/6 for a blue collar and cuffs to a white waistcoat. These expenses are not in the official schedules of deductions permitted by His Majesty. The men in possession of a pair of tartan trousers which cost 7/6. (This was probably grey tartan material rather than Scottish plaid as plaid trousers were called trews.)

Mounted officers had brass sword scabbards and white bearskin furniture to their horses by special permission of the Duke of York.

(W0 27/98)

1st Foot (Royal Scots), 2nd Battalion

11 January 1815, Inspection Ellickboor, India

The Housings of the mounted officers are made of goat-skin, agreably to a special authority of HRH the Commander in Chief, instead of cloth of the colour of the regimental facings.

Standards and colour are completely worn out.

(WO 27/133)

3rd Foot (The Buffs)

Denominated the Buffs from being the first whose accoutrements such as sword belts, etc., were made of leather prepared from the buffalo, after a manner of chamois. The waistcoats, breeches and facings of the coats were afterwards directed to be made of a corresponding colour.

The uniform of the officers is silver lace, buff waistcoat and breeches, breast plate plain silver ground with a griffin embossed and the motto: Veteri Frondescit Honore. The privates have buff facings, white lace with yellow, black and red stripes.

(Royal Military Chronicle, April 1811)

3rd Foot (The Buffs)

“...the clothing for the regiments ordered from the south of France for service in North America should be sent out to Canada.”

Instruction from HRH the Duke of York, Craigs Court, London, 38 July 1814, NAC, RG8, C118, p. 122

3rd Foot (The Buffs)

Lace changed to gold in later 1815 or 1816.

(Sumner Notes, Anne S.K. Brown Military Collection, Brown University Library, Rrovidence, USA)

4th Foot

Plain blue facings, silver buttons and epaulette, white waistcoat and breeches, on the epaulette, buttons and breastplate are the crown and garter, round the latter THE KING’S OWN INFANTRY, in the centre, the lion of England and under the number IV in small Roman figures.

(Royal Military Chronicle, April 1811)

4th Foot

Gold lace for 4th Foot.

(Royal Military Chronicle, June 1813)

4th Foot, 2nd Battalion

July 1813 Inspection of 2nd Battalion, Colchester.

Officers wear lace on the skirt of the coatee, contrary to regulations.

(W0 27/121)

4th Foot

Officer’s coatee in c. 1813 as per Hawke’s book: scarlet, 10 gold lace holes regular; four on cuffs and pocket flaps regular; triangle on back, collar laced round, no hole or button; white cassimere turnbacks, laced; hooks and eyes back holes on facings; blue facings.

(Sumner Notes, Anne S.K. Brown Military Collection, Brown University Library, Rrovidence, USA)

4th Foot

Officer’s coatee for Captain Wilbraham, 11 June 1814, as per Hawke’s book: scarlet, blue cloth facings, white cassimere turnbacks, laced;10 holes on breast regular; four on cuffs and pocket flaps regular; two on back, four on lapel side, one in collar with breast button; laced all way down lapel to hook and eye back; gold lace and buttons.

(Sumner Notes, Anne S.K. Brown Military Collection, Brown University Library, Rrovidence, USA)

4th Foot

Lace 5/8 inch crooked bias

12 Aug. 1815 Grenadiers - wings all scarlet, 2 inch crooked bias straps, round top, corder - silver embroidered grenades... laced round with 3/4 lace.

Turnback 2 gold garter badges on blue & a pair of small gold grenades on blue.


(Herbert’s lace books, noted by the Rev, Percy Sumner c. 1925. Notes in a private collection. Location of original at the National Army Museum, London.)

4th Foot

Brigade order to 4th, 52nd and 79th posted at Versailles not to mount guard in white trousers.

(Sumner Notes, Anne S.K. Brown Military Collection, Brown University Library, Rrovidence, USA)

41st Foot

On the portrait of Col. Alexander Campbell of Possil, 1805, by Sir Henry Raeburn, there is a bit of a “glitch” because there is no officer by that name in the 41st according to the 1810 and 1814 Army Lists and no colonel Campbell at any time. However, no other regiment with scarlet facings a black line in its silver lace is out there, so it does seem to be an officer of the 41st. And looks just right for Canada too. At least for the 1st Battalion. As given in detail in the book, the 2nd Battalion’s officers had gold lace without the black line.

Canadian Voltigeurs

André Gousse kindly shares that, on 26 October 1858, Adélard Boucher mentioned that the Canadian Voltigeurs’ uniform was: “de couleur sombre, gris de fer foncé, avec des parements noirs” (of a sombre colour, dark steel grey, with black cuffs [or facing colour as, in French, parement could mean the facing colour, not just the cuffs) in a speech given on the 45th anniversary of the battle of Chateauguay (“Une page de notre histoire : Discours prononcé par M. Adelard Boucher, à Montréal, le 26 octobre, 1858”. Le Foyer Canadien, 1864, pp. 349-374). It is a long time after the battle and the existence of the Voltigeurs, disbanded in 1815, but this is the only document that mentions the hue of grey, as remembered or related half a century later. Assuming that it is fairly accurate, we would be in the opinion that this refers to the later uniforms that were made in England and worn by the corps in 1814-1815. The colour “gris de fer” was generally defined as grey-blue, and this was consistent with the cloth made in England. The grey cloth for the 1812-1813 uniforms appears to have been procured in Canada and seem to have been of a plain and lighter full grey.

Royal Marines 

The drummer’s lace is variously described as having an eight pointed star (which I did) or even a jokingly as a “turtle” from its shape. As with drummer’s lace in the infantry, that subject is a difficult and shifty one, and this is why we tried to illustrate most of the known samples. No actual sample for the Royal Marines, but here is what Cyril Fields, the last historian who did a truly major work on the Royal Marines’ history, and a very good man on military material culture for which he had a real interest, who was was stumped with the lace: “Then the Drummers’ “Looping Lace” is different than that of other Regiments. The Guards have the Fleur-de-lis on theirs, the Line have red Crowns, while the Marines have a blue strar-shaped ornament on the Drummer's lace which is popularly supposed to represent the White Rose of York because of their descent from the Duke of York's Maritime Regiment. Personally I do not believe this. Possibly the device on it may represent the Brunswick Star, though certain ribald persons have professed to see it as a representation of a “Turtle” as emblematical of the amphibious nature of the corps. Cyril Field, Britain's Sea-Soldiers (Liverpool, 1924), II: 305. For my part, I think the star ornament was in use until at least the beginning of of the 19th century although I cannot show you, at least just now, a slip of contemporary lace nor a document to sustain it. However, I do feel it could have varied in time or in circumstances as this is also the case with line regiments. My preference for the star and for chevrons on the sleeves and so on it because of paintings - notably of Trafalgar - for instance Bernard Drummond’s (at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, UK) - but of other battles to as well as pre-1860 prints. These consistently show a sort of blue blot, or else a sort of diamond, on white lace.