A Hypothesis Regarding British Knapsack Evolution part 2

While we may never learn the answers to the aforesaid questions, here are several things we do know or think we know. First, we look at a crucial clue in this discussion, but one that is accompanied with some uncertainty and a caveat or two. The first known image of a British double-pouch knapsack (see below) was found in a 71st Regiment manuscript book titled “Standing Regimental Orders in America”; the first half of the volume contains standing orders for 1775 (before the regiment arrived in North America), the second half entries for 1778, beginning 3 June and ending with a 24 August order. The context of the knapsack image is difficult to ascertain but, in my opinion, was likely done in 1778. A caveat – while we can assume it portrays a piece of British equipment, the possibility of the image showing a captured item remains in the realm of possibility. That possibility seems to be lessened by the absence of a descriptor noting such. Added to that, there are indications the British went into the war using single-pouch knapsacks, the 71st order book drawing, likely dating to 1778, being the earliest evidence for the double-pouch variety.

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 Next, a known item with a supposition attached to it. In February 1776 a contractor sent a proposal to convince the state of Maryland to procure for their troops his “new Invented Napsack and haversack.” In the end numbers of his knapsack were made and issued to several Maryland units, and probably some Pennsylvania and New Jersey troops. Though impossible to prove, an intriguing possibility is that the new British knapsacks were inspired by the American “Napsack and haversack,” a not unreasonable contention given the similarity in design and that the 71st knapsack drawing also shows one pouch designated to carry food.

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“Rough draft of the new Invented Napsack and haversack in one,” included with J. Young’s February 9 1776 letter to Maryland Congressman Samuel Chase. (For more see “The ‘new Invented Napsack and haversack,’ 1776.” %E2%80%9D-1776 )

From 1776, we move four years ahead, to Benjamin Warner’s service with Col. John Lamb’s 2d Continental Artillery Regiment. Given that his other tours, from 1775 to 1777, were with state or militia units, and given what we know of America knapsacks during those years, it is most likely his extant knapsack dates from his 1780 stint. Warner’s pack may have been copied from captured British equipment. The practice did occur, perhaps the best known instance being the Continental Army twenty-nine round “New Model” cartridge pouch, copied from British pouches taken with Burgoyne’s troops and first made in Massachusetts in the winter of 1777-78.



(See following page for images of the Warner knapsack.)

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(Above) Benjamin Warner’s Revolutionary War knapsack. This artifact has evidence a second pocket on the inside of the outer flap. (Courtesy of Fort Ticonderoga Museum) (Below) Reproduction of Warner knapsack.

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While Benjamin Warner’s existing knapsack is evidence that the Continental Army used doublepouch knapsacks with two shoulder straps by at least 1780, the first documentary mentions date to 1782.

Quartermaster General Timothy Pickering to Ralph Pomeroy, D.Q.M., 23 April 1782:

“I observe in your return the mention of upwards of three thousand yards of oznaburghs Tho’ this kind of linen is not the best for knapsacks yet they have very commonly been made of it. Of that in your possession I wish you to select immediately the best, & to have one thousand knapsacks made up. They should be made double, & one side painted with the cheapest paints. I will furnish you with Mr. Morris’s notes to enable you to pay for this work which cannot cost much. Be pleased to have the knapsacks made with dispatch & forwarded without delay to Colo. Hughes.”

Numbered Record Books, National Archives, 1780-July 9, 1787, vol. 26.

Timothy Pickering to Peter Anspach, 23 April 1782:

“Desire Mr. [Mery?] to examine the bolts of oznaburghs which came from Virginia, and pick out those fittest for knapsacks, & get as many made as he can: If he would cut out one of a proper shape, he could get some careful woman to cut out the residue, & employ other women to make them up. Let them be made double, & one side painted. Perhaps all the oznaburghs will answer as well as those knapsacks usually made. There are some here which were left or rather contracted for by Col. Mitchel, that are wretched indeed: I think any of our oznaburghs better by far.”

Miscellaneous Numbered Records (The Manuscript File) in the War Department Collection of Revolutionary War Records 1775–1790’s, National Archives Microfilm Publication M859, (Washington, D.C., 1971), reel 87, item no. 25353.

Also in 1782, Pierre L’Enfant, captain Corps of Engineers, painted a panorama of West Point. To one side are two groups of Continental troops, including several soldiers wearing rolled blankets atop their knapsacks, the first images showing that being done.

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Detail of part of a group of Continental soldiers from Pierre Charles L’Enfant (1754-1825) painting of West Point and dependencies. View is from the east side of the Hudson River, at the top is the lower part of Constitution Island. This was done after August 1782, as service chevrons, worn on the saluting soldier’s left sleeve, were first authorized on the 7th of that month. Several soldiers in group are wearing knapsacks, and what appears to be a rolled blanket can be seen on top of three of the packs. (Second half of the soldier group is included in Appendix A of this monograph. Library of Congress,

Another painting shows British troops, after their surrender at Saratoga in October 1777, with rolled blankets attached to their knapsacks. Unfortunately, the painter, James Peale, was not an eyewitness, and executed the image in 1799 or 1800.

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British troops of Lt. Gen. John Burgoyne’s army as it moved off to captivity in October 1777. Painted over twenty years after the event, there are inaccuracies in some details, but the image of British soldiers on the march, fully loaded (minus firelocks) is one of the few we have. Detail from James Peale’s, “General Gates at Saratoga” (circa 1799-1800)
Featuring the 17th at the Real Time Battlefield Tour of the Princeton Battlefield, 2017.
Image provided by Wilson Freeman at Drifting Focus Photography.

Rounding out this discussion, we close with images of the earliest known surviving British double-pouch knapsack, dated to 1794 and attributed to the 97th Inverness Regiment.

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biopic-johnJOHN REES
John has been involved in American War for Independence living history for 33 years, and began writing on various aspects of the armies in that conflict in 1986. In addition to publishing articles in journals such as Military Collector & Historian and Brigade Dispatch, he was a regular columnist for the quarterly newsletter Food History News for 15 years writing on soldiers’ food, wrote four entries for the Oxford Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink, and thirteen entries for the revised Thomson Gale edition of Boatner’s Encyclopedia of the American Revolution.

Many of his works may be accessed online at .

Read Part 1 of A Hypothesis Regarding British Knapsack Evolution Here !

Bands of Music in the British Army 1762-1790 Part 2

In the last post, we discussed what a band of music was and who made up their ranks. This time, we’ll tackle what a band of music played and the types of duties they performed.

            In part one, we learned about William Simpson, a member of the band of the 29th Regiment that deserted. Despite his absence, the band provided concerts for the public while stationed in New York and Philadelphia. In an ad in the New York Gazette, Fife Major John McLean advertised a concert for his own benefit that would not only feature the band but the drums and fifes of the regiment performing as well. [8]

            The ad for his concert in Philadelphia provides more detail on what a concert from a band may have looked like.

The Concert will consist of two Acts, commencing and ending with favourite Overtures, performed by a full band of Music, with trumpets, kettledrums, and every instrument that can be introduced with propriety. The performance will be interspersed with the most pleasing and select pieces, composed by approved authors. A solo will be played on German Flute by John McLean; and the whole will conclude with an Overture composed (for the occasion) by Philip Roth, Master of the Band of Music belonging to his Majesty’s Royal Regiment of North British Fusiliers. . . .after the Concert there should be a Ball; and, on this account, the music begins early. As soon as the second Act is finished, the usual arrangement will be made for dancing. [9]

Figure 4: A VIEW of CHEAPSIDE as it appeared on LORD MAYOR’S DAY laft, Novr 17. 1761, Sold by I Smith at Hogarth’s Hd Cheapside

In April of 1775, the Band of the 64th Regiment held a concert in Boston. A large undertaking, it combined solos, symphonic, and vocal pieces. The set list consisted of the following:

ACT 1st.

Overture   Stamitz 1st.
Concert   German Flute,
Song   ‘My Dear Mistress,’ &c
Harpsic. Concerto by Mr. Selby
Simphony   Artaxerexes,

ACT 2d.

Overture   Stamitz 4th.
Hunting Song.
Solo, German Flute.
Song, Oh! My Delia, &c.
Solo Violin.

   To conclude with a grand Military Simphony accompanied by Kettle Drums, &c. compos’d by Mr. Morgan.[10]

            What is interesting to note is the absence of military music except for the final piece. Though military in nature, bands did not play only military songs. Instead, they drew from the music around them. Pieces by Stamitz, a notable German composer, and the symphony from Thomas Arne’s 1729 opera Artaxerexes show that bands of music played popular music as well as songs of martial origin.

            In addition to public concerts, bands also performed at military functions like funerals and ceremonies. On July 2nd, 1781, the Battalion of Loyal Volunteers of the city of New York paraded on Broadway at five in the morning. When they arrived at the house of their Lieutenant Colonel, they presented their arms, the band of music played God Save the King, and the regiment received their colours.[11]

Figure 5: Detail, Francis Xavier Habermann. “L’Entré triumphale de troupes royales a Nouvelle Yorck.” Paris: J. Chereau, [177?]. Hand-colored engraving. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

John Rowe, a citizen in Boston, wrote on March 22nd, 1773 that he attended a funeral for his friend Captain Hay of the sloop HMS Tamar. Besides the officers and Marines, the Band of the 64th Regiment was present. Rowe remarked that “The Corps was preceded with Solemn Musick to the Chapel.” On December 17th, 1774, Rowe attended a similar service for Captain Gabriel Maturin, secretary for General Gage, where the band of the 4th Regiment played.[12]

            We’ve established the basis of bands of music, what they played, and where they played. In the next and final instalment of this series, we’ll be looking at what the musicians wore.

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Figure 6: Alderman-Kirkman, Funeral for the Lord Mayor of London, 1780


[8] The New-York Gazette; and the Weekly Mercury, January 14, 1771, Page 3
[9] The Pennsylvania Packet, 25 November 1771, Page 1
[10] Boston Gazette, 11 April 1774. Courtesy of Don Hagist
[11] New-York Gazette; and The Weekly Mercury, July 9, 1781
[12] John Rowe, Anne Rowe Cunningham, and Edward Lillie Pierce, Letters and Diary of John Rowe: Boston Merchant, 1759-1762, 1764-1779, Boston, MA: W.B. Clarke Co., 1903, Pages 240-241, 288, Accessed September 3, 2017.

Read Part 1 Here

Joshua is an undergraduate student at Rhode Island College majoring in Secondary Education and History. He’s been researching fifers, drummers, and bands of music during the eighteenth century for the past 5 years.

A Hypothesis Regarding British Knapsack Evolution

“Square knapsacks are most convenient …”

    This post began with the vague idea of discussing the 17th Regiment’s recreated knapsack. To my mind it is the only one that comes close to representing the design of the originals likely carried by mid-war (and possibly late-war) British soldiers. But that set me to ruminating on how the double-pouch knapsack (such as the Benjamin Warner pack at Fort Ticonderoga and the one pictured below in the 71st Regiment’s 1778 order book) came to be. The following narrative, based on both primary and, admittedly, circumstantial evidence, attempts to trace that transformation, and (spoiler alert) leads the author to think it very likely the double-pouch pack was a wartime innovation.


Drawing of knapsack from British 71st Regiment 1778 order book. This is likely evidence that double-bag knapsacks, undoubtedly of linen, were being used by British troops at least by 1778. Note that food was to be carried in one bag, and a minimum of necessaries (“1 pair of shoes,” “1 set Brushes,” “1 shirt, “1 Pr. stockings”) in the other. Continental Army twoshoulder-strap double-bag packs were probably copied from British knapsacks. The Warner knapsack (probably issued in 1779) had two storage pouches; orders for American army knapsacks in 1782 stipulated, “Let them be made double, & one side painted.” Standing Orders of the 71st Regiment, 1778, Lt. Col. Archibald Campbell, National Register of Archives for Scotland (NRAS 28 papers), Isle of Canna, Scotland, U.K.
(Knapsack drawing courtesy of Alexander John Good.)51

Recreated Knapsacks, 17th Regiment

    There are occasions (actually, many occasions) when my understanding runs on a very slow burn. In this vein, researching and writing about knapsacks used before, during and after the American War (1775-1783), eventually led me to the conclusion that British knapsack design took a right turn early in that conflict. Is my conclusion conclusive? No, it isn’t, as there are missing pieces in the records, but the possibility (or probability) is intriguing.

*      *      *      *      *      *

In his 1768 treatise System for the Compleat Interior Management and Oeconomy of a Battalion of Infantry Bennett Cuthbertson wrote,

Square knapsacks are most convenient, for packing up the Soldier’s necessaries, and should be made with a division, to hold the shoes, black-ball and brushes, separate from the linen: a certain size must be determined on for the whole, and it will have a pleasing effect upon a March, if care has been taken, to get them of all white goat-skins, with leather-slings well whitened, to hang over each shoulder; which method makes the carriage of the Knapsack much easier, than across the breast, and by no means so heating.9

    Cuthbertson reveals here several notable clues. First, of course, is his statement touting the superiority of “square” knapsacks with two shoulder slings. The 1751 Morier figures and the circa 1765 painting “An Officer Giving Alms to a Sick Soldier” by Edward Penny (1714-1791) show soldiers wearing single-shoulder-strap skin packs, so Cuthbertson’s square knapsack was a relatively recent innovation. Mr. C. also states square packs “should be made with a division, to hold the shoes, black-ball and brushes, separate from the linen” and “a certain size must be determined on for the whole …” ”[M]ade with a division.” That, to me, indicates Cuthbertson is speaking of a single pouch knapsack, like the David Uhl and Elisha Grose packs, while his remark about determining size can only mean no standard design had yet been settled on. And his reference to “all white goat-skins” refers to a knapsack likely made entirely of leather, again like the Grose knapsack. Both pre-war and in the war’s early years leather seems to have been the preferred material for many, perhaps most, knapsacks.

(For references to leather packs see sections titled “Leather and Hair Packs, and Ezra Tilden’s Narrative” and “The Rufus Lincoln and Elisha

Gross Hair Knapsacks” in “’Cost of a Knapsack complete …’: `This Napsack I carryd through the war of the Revolution,” Knapsacks Used by the Soldiers during the War for American Independence’”

%E2%80%9CCos ; see also, Al Saguto, “The Seventeenth Century Snapsack” (January 1989) )

Detail from David Morier, “Grenadiers, 46th, 47th and 48th Regiments of Foot, 1751”

Based on the writing of Massachusetts militia colonel Timothy Pickering (below), sometime prior to 1774, packs like the one Cuthbertson described seem to have been adopted by at least some British regiments:

A knapsack may be contrived that a man may load and fire, in case of necessity, without throwing down his pack. Let the knapsack lay lengthways upon the back: from each side at the top let a strap come over the shoulders, go under the arms, and be fastened about half way down the knapsack. Secure these shoulder straps in their places by two other straps which are to go across and buckle before the middle of the breast. The mouth of the knapsack is at the top, and is covered by a flap made like the flap of saddlebags.- The outside of the knapsack should be fuller than the other which lies next to your back; and of course must be sewed in gathers at the bottom. Many of the knapsacks used in the army are, I believe, in this fashion, though made of some kind of skins.20

    Pickering, too, refers to packs made of leather, infers that they had only a single pouch, and adds that the closing flap resembles those on saddle bags of the time. Period examples have closing flaps similar to those on the Uhl (linen) and Grose (bearskin) knapsacks.

Reproduction of David Uhl linen knapsack.
18th century saddlebags. Timothy Pickering wrote in his 1774 treatise, “The mouth of the knapsack is at the top, and is covered by a flap made like the flap of saddlebags …”
(Courtesy of Don Troiani, )
Elisha Gross (Grose) bearskin knapsack. (Private collection.)
The current owner notes “the knapsack … [has an] all-leather sack, with H strap construction, the outer rear flap being of bearskin, about 20% of the hair remaining … The straps engaged with the simple open frame, non-roller style buckles often recovered from campsites.” 

So, just when were double-pouch knapsacks (like Benjamin Warner’s 1780 pack) first introduced to British troops in America? A drawing from a 1778 71st Regiment order book found and shared by Alexander John Good may provide the answer. That image shows a very simple double-pouch knapsack, with food placed in one pouch and “1 pair of shoes,” 1 set Brushes,” “1 shirt,” and “1 pr stockings” in the other. (It is interesting that this apportionment mirrors that of the “new Invented Napsack and haversack” used by some Whig units in 1776, 1778, and possibly 1777, but more on that later).

See the timeline of British Knapsacks at the bottom of this article.

Private soldier, 25th Regiment of Foot, Minorca, ca. 1771, wearing a blanket roll under his knapsack. His knapsacks looks to be covered with hair, probably goatskin The blanket itself is a maud, a Scottish shepherd’s plaid. (Artist unknown, National Army Museum, London, UK.) Gregory J.W. Urwin, Redcoat Images, No. 26 Also pictured in W. A. Thorburn, Uniforms of the Scottish Infantry, 1740-1800 (Edinburgh: H.M. Stationery Office, 1973), 8. 
A Musketeer of the Hessian Regiment Von Bose
(Painting by Don Troiani, )

British regiments already in America at the beginning of the war had knapsacks, but we have no idea of their design. At this time, given what we know of pre-war packs from period images and the comments of Cuthbertson and Pickering, I can only surmise that early-war (1775-1777) British knapsacks were leather (goatskin?), possibly linen, “square” models, with a single pouch (possibly with a divider to separate a spare pair of shoes from the other necessaries), and two shoulder straps. They also could not easily accommodate a blanket, an item deemed necessary for service in North America. British, French, and German troops campaigning in Europe did not carry blankets on the march, those coverings being carried in the same wagons as the regimental tentage. The packs (tournisters) German troops carried while serving in the American War still could not carry a blanket, and we are still unsure how, or even if, German troops carried blankets on the march.


Supply documents for the British Brigade of Guards, 1776 to 1778, including numbers of knapsacks issued and the use of blanket slings on campaign, and generate some interesting questions.

[Numbers of knapsacks needed and requested]

List of Waggons, Tents, Camp necessaries &ca for the Detachment from the Three Regiments of Foot Guards, consisting with their Officers of 1097 men destined to Serve in North America.

February 5th 1776 …

1062  Haversacks

1062  Knapsacks

(Loudoun p.213)  (see also WO4/96 p.45 7 Feb. 1776 Barrington to Loudoun)

[Knapsack pattern]

Memo  Brig. Gen. Edward Mathew to John Campbell, 4th Earl of Loudoun  16 Feb. 1776 “Memorandum concerning the [Guards] Detachment Fryday Feb 16 1776” “Light Infantry Company. Colo. Mathews applies for the proper Clothing.

proposes: To cut the 2nd Clothing of this Year into Jackets. —

Caps, Colo. M to produce a pattern —

Arms, The Ordnance will deliver them with the others. a fresh Application.

Accoutrements, upon the plan of the light Infantry. Colo. M–

Bill Hook and Bayonet in the same case. Colo M.– ”

“Gaiters and Leggins Knapsack — Genl. Tayler has a pattern. Nightcaps — Colo. M to shew one Canteens — to see a Wooden one.”

(Loudoun-Hunt. LO 6510)

[Altering knapsacks]

Memo  Mathew to Loudoun   28 Feb. 1776

“Estimate of the Extra expence of the Necessary Equipment of the Detachment from the Brigd. of Foot Guards Intended for Foreign Service”

Alteration of the Mens Knapsacks                .6 [pence]

To Receive from the Goverment in Lieu of Knapsacks                2.6

Allowance from Govermt. to each Man for a Knapsack                2.6

(Loudoun-Hunt.  LO 6514)

[Fitting knapsacks]

Regimental Order, London    7 March 1776

The 1st Regt. will draught the 15 men “by Lot out of such Men as are in every respect fit for Service.”

2nd and 3rd Battalion to draught Sat the 9th       1st Battalion on Sun the 10th

A return to be sent in of the name, age and service of the men.

17th Regiment of Infantry at the Battle of Yorktown — Endview Plantation 2016

Commanding Officers of companies “will Inspect minutely into the Men’s Necessaries who are Draughted, that they may be Compleated according to the List to be seen at the Orderly Room, The Knapsacks to be fitted to each Man, according to a late Regulation, and to be seen that they are perfectly whole and strongly sewed.”

    “The Extraordinary necessaries furnish’d are not to be deliver’d to the Men till they are in their first Cantonments.”

(First Guards)

[List of soldiers’ necessaries, including knapsacks]

Brigade Orders, London   13 March 1776

“The Necessarys of the Detachment are to be Compleated to the following Articles —  Three Shirts
Three Pair worsted Stockings
Two pair of Socks        7/  1/4 pr. Pair
Two pair of Shoes
Three pair of Heels and Soles     1/2 d pr. pair
Two Black Stocks
Two Pair of Half Gaiters          1s/ pr. pair
One Cheque Shirt       3/9 d
A Knapsack   (2/6 d Allowed by Government)
Picker, Worm & Turnscrew
A Night Cap”

    A little over a month later, on 26 April 1776, the three Guards Battalions set sail for North America.

 With all the trouble taken to procure knapsacks for the Guards Brigade, those packs seem to have either been left aboard the transports when the Guards went ashore at Long Island, New York or sent back on board after landing. Several 1776 documents mention knapsacks or the lack thereof during the New York campaign.

“[Guards] Brigade Orders August 19th [1776.]

When the Brigade disembarks two Gils of Rum to be delivered for each mans Canteen which must be filled with Water, Each Man to disembark with a Blanket & Haversack in which he is to carry one Shirt one pair of Socks and Three Days Provisions a careful Man to be left on board each Ship to take care of the Knapsacks. The Articles of War to be read to the Men by an Officer of each Ship.”

(Thomas Glyn, “The Journal of Ensign Thomas Glyn, 1st Regiment of Foot Guards on the

American Service with the Brigade of Guards 1776-1777,” 7. Transcription courtesy of Linnea M. Bass.)

General (Army) Orders  20 August 1776

“When the Troops land they are to carry nothing with them but their Arms, Ammunition, Blankets, & three Days provisions.  The Commandg. Officers of Compys. will take particular care that the Canteens are properly fill’d with Rum & Water & it is most earnestly reecommended to the Men to be as saving as possible of their Grog.”    (1)  (2)

Brigade Orders  23 August 1776 [the day after their landing on Long Island]

“the Brigade will Assemble with their Arms Accoutrements Blankets & Knapsacks to Morrow Morning at 5 oClock upon the same ground. . .”   (2)  (1)

Brigade Orders  24 August 1776

“the Commanding offrs of Battns may send their Knapsacks on board of Ships again if they find any ill Conveniency of them.”    (2) (1)

It seems that many Crown soldiers used only slung blankets during the 1776 campaign, perhaps due to the “ill Conveniency” of their knapsacks, whatever that may mean. Here are two more 1776 references to carrying only blankets and blankets on slings:

Orders, 4th Battalion Grenadiers (42nd and 71st Regiments), off Staten Island, 2 August 1776: “When the Men disembark they are to take nothing with them, but 3Shirts 2 prs of hose & their Leggings which are to be put up neatly in their packs, leaving their knapsacks & all their other necessaries on board ship which are carefully to be laid up by the Commanding Officers of Companys in the safest manner they can contrive.”

Capt. William Leslie, 17th Regiment of Foot, 2 September 1776, “”Bedford Long Island Sept.

2nd 1776…

The Day after their Retreat we had orders to march to the ground we are now encamped upon, near the Village of Bedford: It is now a fortnight we have lain upon the ground wrapt in our Blankets, and thank God who supports us when we stand most in need, I have never enjoyed better health in my Life. My whole stock consists of two shirts 2 pr of shoes, 2 Handkerchiefs half of which I use, the other half I carry in my Blanket, like a Pedlar’s Pack.”61

    Preparing for the 1777 campaign the British Guards were slated for another knapsack issue:

Secretary at War William Barrington, 2nd Viscount Barrington to Loudoun   7 Sept 1776

His Majesty Orders that for the 1777 Campaign the Detachment is to receive the following Camp

Necessaries …

1062     Haversacks

1062     Knapsacks

10        Powder Bags

(WO4/98 p. 144)

Note:  Correspondence on pages 150, 157, 171 indicates that only 150 knapsacks per regiment in America were supplied for the 1777 campaign. [That would make 450 total for three battalions.]

And in March 1777 the following order was issued:

[Guards] Brigade Orders  11 March 1777

“The Waistbelts to Carry the Bayonet & to be wore across the Shoulder.  The Captains are desired to provide Webbing for Carrying the Mens Blankets according to a pattern to be Seen at the Cantonment of Lt. Colo. Sr. J. Wrottesleys Company.  The Serjeants to Observe how they are Sewed.”

(1)  From an original manuscript entitled “Howe Orderly Book 1776-1778” which is actually a

Brigade of Guards Orderly Book from 1st Battalion beginning 12 March 1776, the day the

Brigade for American Service was formed.  Manuscript Dept., William L. Clements Library, Univ. of Michigan, Ann Arbor.   (Microfilm available for loan.)

    So, were British knapsacks in use up to and including the year 1777 both single-pouch and incapable of accommodating a blanket? Were blanket slings used to carry blankets with knapsacks as well as without? Or were the knapsacks used by Crown forces at the time merely considered cumbersome, and blanket slings thought to be more proper for campaigning soldiers. Added to those questions, we are not at all certain how British soldiers carried their blankets even after double-pouch knapsacks came into use.

To Be Continued…

British Knapsack Timeline, 1758-1794

1758-1765 (and earlier), Single-pouch purse-like leather knapsack carried by British troops, as pictured in paintings by David Morier (1705-1770) and Edward Penny, R.A. (1714-1791). These knapsacks could not accommodate a blanket.

1768, Cuthbertson recommends “square” knapsacks with two shoulder straps.

1771, Painting of a private soldier of the 25th Regiment of Foot shows him wearing a hair pack with two shoulder straps. His knapsack seems to be a single-pouch model made of hide covered with hair, and, given the maud slung over his shoulder, could not accommodate a blanket.

1774, Timothy Pickering describes a single-pouch, double-shoulder-strap leather knapsack being used in the British Army.

1776, An American contractor touts his double-pouch, single-shoulder-strap linen “new Invented

Napsack and haversack” to Maryland officials. One pouch was meant for food, the other for soldiers’ necessaries. Some Maryland units are known to have been issued the knapsack, and there is some indication it was used by Pennsylvania troops as well.

1776-1777, British regiments are issued knapsacks, but many Crown units use blanket slings instead of packs in these two campaigns. (Possibly because the knapsacks then being used could not accommodate a blanket, which were deemed necessary for American service.)

1778, The first known image of a double-pouch British knapsack appears in a 71st Regiment order book. One pouch is shown as holding food, the other, soldiers’ necessaries.

1778, On 28 July “1096 Knap & Haversacks” (from the context likely the same as the “new Invented Napsack and haversack”) are sent from Reading, Pennsylvania to supply Continental troops.

1780, Benjamin Warner was likely issued his double-pouch double-shoulder-strap linen knapsack while serving with a Continental artillery regiment. `

1782, First known documentary references to double-pouch knapsacks.

1782, L’Enfant painting of West Point showing soldiers with rolled blankets attached to the top of their knapsacks.

1794, The earliest known surviving British double-pouch, double-shoulder-strap linen knapsack, made for the 97th Inverness Regiment, raised in 1794 and disbanded the same year.


  1. H. Butterfield, ed., Letters of Benjamin Rush, vol. I (Princeton, N.J., 1951), 154-155.
  2. 84th Regiment order book, Malcolm Fraser Papers, MG 23, K1,Vol 21, Library and Archives Canada.
  3. “Orderly Book: British Regiment Footguards, New York and New Jersey,” a 1st Battalion

Order Book covering August 1776 to January 1777, Early American Orderly Books, 1748-1817, Collections of the New-York Historical Society (Microfilm Edition – Woodbridge, N.J.: Research Publications, Inc.: 1977), reel 3, document 37.

  1. Sheldon S. Cohen, “Captain William Leslie’s ‘Paths of Glory,’” New Jersey History, 108 (1990), 63.
  2. “Howe Orderly Book 1776-1778” (actually a Brigade of Guards Orderly Book from 1st

Battalion beginning 12 March 1776, the day the Brigade for American Service was formed), Manuscript Department, William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

(Courtesy of Linnea Bass.)

  1. British Orderly Book [40th Regiment of Foot] April 20, 1777 to August 28, 1777, George Washington Papers, Presidential Papers Microfilm (Washington: Library of Congress, 1961), series 6 (Military Papers, 1755-1798), vol. 1, reel 117. See also, John U. Rees, ed., “`Necessarys

… to be Properley Packd: & Slung in their Blanketts’: Selected Transcriptions 40th Regiment of

Foot Order Book,”

  1. “Captured British Orderly Book [49th Regiment], 25 June 1777 to 10 September 1777, . George Washington Papers (microfilm), series 6, vol. 1, reel 117.
  2. “Orderly Book: First Battalion of Guards, British Army, New York” (covers all but a few days of 1779), Early American Orderly Books, N-YHS (microfilm), reel 6, document 77.
  3. R. Newsome, ed., “A British Orderly Book, 1780-1781”, North Carolina Historical Review, vol. IX (January-October 1932), no. 2, 178-179; no. 3, 286, 287.
  4. Order book, 43rd Regiment of Foot (British), 23 May 1781 to 25 August 1781, British Museum, London, Mss. 42,449 (transcription by Gilbert V. Riddle).

biopic-john.pngJOHN REES
John has been involved in American War for Independence living history for 33 years, and began writing on various aspects of the armies in that conflict in 1986. In addition to publishing articles in journals such as Military Collector & Historian and Brigade Dispatch, he was a regular columnist for the quarterly newsletter Food History News for 15 years writing on soldiers’ food, wrote four entries for the Oxford Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink, and thirteen entries for the revised Thomson Gale edition of Boatner’s Encyclopedia of the American Revolution.

Many of his works may be accessed online at .




Fitted With the Greatest Exactness: A new Recruit’s Uniform

I’ve been reenacting for a decade, and for the past few years have portrayed an 18th century American writing master, clerk, or bookbinder, roles close to my modern job as a book conservation technician. But I’d never portrayed a soldier, and with my 20s winding down I decided that now was the time to join an army unit – plus, one man who enlisted in the 17th in the 1770s gave his occupation as a bookbinder. 

Life as a Tradesman – Drifting Focus Photography


For my first event I visited one of the unit’s tailors to make a fatigue cap and gaitered trousers, and was able to borrow everything else. I was grateful for the loaner clothes and accouterments but I’m a small man by modern standards and they were too large. After being used to wearing civilian clothes tailored to my body I noticed the difference. My loaner clothes didn’t sit right and the excess fabric made it harder to move, my gear slid around when I moved quickly, my hat was in danger of flying off when I ran. There was also a psychological element to wearing an ill-fitting uniform: I felt like I was playing dress-up instead of wearing practical clothes that made me look like I belonged. Cuthbertson mentions the importance of fit in making a soldier look smart in his 1776 “System for the Complete Interior Management and Oeconomy of a Battalion of Infantry”:

“As the state in which the Cloathing is usually sent to a Regiment, requires many alterations, to make it perfect, and as nothing contributes more to the good appearance of Soldiers, than having the several appointments which compose their Dress, fitted with the greatest exactness, it is necessary that no pains be spared, to accomplish so advantageous a design”… [1]

Between my first and second event I visited the unit’s tailors to make my own clothes. They drafted a pattern for me and then showed me step by step how to make a coat, waistcoat, and hat. I also received a set of my own accouterments, which were sized for my height. 


I noticed the difference immediately at my second event: my clothes allowed a full range of easy motion, my gear stayed in place as I ran, knelt, and threw myself to the ground without needing to be readjusted, and I felt more like a soldier. Part of that was fit, and part of it was the uniform being less forgiving than my tradesman’s clothing. The snug waistcoat with layers of interfacing and wool, coat with layers of broadcloth, interfacing, and lapels stiff with lace, a new neck-stock of stiff buckram, and tightly-laced gaitered trousers changed my posture, forcing my shoulders back, my belly in, and my neck up. The 1764 Manual Exercise describes the “Position of a Soldier under Arms” in much the same fashion – no slouching over my workbench in an apron like I’m used to:

“…the Belly drawn in a little, but without constraint; the Breast a little projected ; Shoulders square to the Front, and kept back…” [2]

The end result: a newly-minted recruit of the recreated 17th. Clothes don’t make the man and I have a lot of learning to do, but they certainly helped me get into the right mindset.

SandyHollow (1)


[1] Cuthbertson, Bennett. Cuthbertson’s System for the Complete Interior Management and Oeconomy of a Battalion of Infantry. Bristol: Rouths and Nelson for A. Gray, Taunton, 1776. Page 67. Accessed through Google Books, 8 October 2017.

[2] The manual exercise, as ordered by His Majesty, in the year 1764. Philadelphia: Humphreys, Bell, and Aitken. 1776. Page 3. Accessed through, 8 October 2017.


In addition to being a new recruit to the 17th, Ben Bartgis is a book conservator technician at a very large institution and teaches on the material culture of literacy in the long 18th century.



Bands of Music in the British Army 1762-1790

“The band of Musick very fine. The whole perfectly well cloathed and appointed”

On the 9th of March, 1768, Alexander Mackrabie wrote to his sister to describe his time in Philadelphia. Unfortunately for him, he writes, “at this place and at this season there is so little of anything amusing.” In order to pass the time, Mr. Mackrabie described a recent practice in the city that was “extremely in vogue” called “Serenading.”

We—with four or five young officers of the regiment in barracks—drink as hard as we can to keep out the cold, and about midnight sally forth, attended by the Band which consists of ten musicians, horns, clarionets, hautboys, and bassoons, march through the streets and play under the window of any lady you choose to distinguish, which they esteem a high Compliment. . . . I have been out twice and only once got a violent cold by it.[1]

Figure 1: Detail Showing the Band of the 1st Foot Guards, Artist Unknown, 1753

Bands of Music, also known simply as bands, were another musical entity that existed in the British Army. It is at this point that a distinction must be made between drums and fifes and bands of music. Drummers and fifers were enlisted to play the drum and fife for various duties in camp, signals in battle, and other martial ceremonies. In a regiment of foot, only the grenadier company was allowed two fifers. The other companies were only officially allowed one drummer per company, with the light company typically swapping its drummer for a horn player.[2]

            Instrumentation of a band varied by regiment but generally followed the German tradition of Harmoniemusik, or wind music. Typically scored for at least 6 instruments, compositions included parts for clarinets, hautboys (known today as oboes), horns, and bassoons.[3]

            A roll for the musicians of the 23rd Regiment exists from 1786. The leader, or Band Master was Jacob LeCroix. Under him were 2 clarinets, 2 hautboys, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, and a timpani player. All of the men under LeCroix served in America, with the newest member of the band having served 5 years by 1786.[4]

When the band of the Royal Artillery was formed in 1762, Lieutenant-Colonel Phillips came up with Articles of Agreement. They laid out rules that most other regiments would unofficially use for their own bands.

  1. The band to consist of eight men. who must also be capable to play upon the violoncello, bass, violin and flute, as other common instruments.
  2. The regiment’s musick must consist of two trumpets, two French horns, two bassoons, and four hautbois or clarinets ; these instruments to be provided by the regiment, but kept in repair by the head musician.
  3. The musicians will be looked upon as actual soldiers, and cannot leave the regiment without a formal discharge. The same must also behave them, according to the articles of war.
  4. The aforesaid musicians will be clothed by the regiment.
  5. [In the handwriting of Colonel Phillips.] Provided the musicians are not found to be good performers at their arrival they will be discharged, and at their own expense. This is meant to make the person who engages the musicians careful in his choice.”[5]

Figure 2: The Band, c. 1780, Attributed to Thomas Rowlandson

As seen in the Royal Artillery Articles of Agreement, bands were typically made up of private soldiers. These men would receive extra pay from the officers of a regiment to supplement their wages as well as buying instruments. The soldiers were not drummers and fifers; instead, they were known as musicians. Despite being soldiers, these men were talented professional musicians, often able to play multiple instruments. Members of the band did not play or typically fight in battle but instead fulfilled other duties, military and non-military.[6]

It was not uncommon for drummers or fifers to also be members of the band. William Simpson of the 29th Regiment deserted from New York in December of 1770. In his description, his officer wrote that Simpson

“plays well on the Flute and Fife, and plays a little on the Violin and French Horn. Had on when he went away, a short yellow Coat, fac’d Red,. . . the Coat lac’d with Drummers’ Lace.”

William Simpson was most likely a fifer in the 29th but because he could play multiple instruments, it is possible he was in the band. [7]

Figure 3: British Foot Guards Parading at St James Place, c. 1792, Artist Unkown

Now that we know what a band was and who their musicians were, the next post will cover the duties and repertoires of these “genteel corps of music.”


[1] Philip France, Beata Francis, Eliza Keary, C. F. Keary, and Junius, The Francis Letters, New York: E.P. Dutton and Co., 1901, Pages 89-92, Accessed September 3, 2017,

[2] John Williamson, The Elements of Military Arrangement; Comprehending the Tacktick, Exercise, Manoevers, and Discipline of the British Infantry, with an Appendix, containing the substance of the principal standing Orders and Regulations for the Army, London: John Wiliamson, 1781, Page 7. Courtesy of Andrew Kirk


[4] Sherri Rapp, British Regimental Bands of Musick: The Material Culture of Regimental Bands of Music According to Pictorial Documentation, Extant Clothing, and Written Descriptions 1750-1800, Accessed September 4, 2017,

[5] Ibid.

[6] Williamson, The Elements, London: John Wiliamson, 1781, Page 7

[7] The New-York Gazette or the Weekly Post-Boy, September 17, 1770, Page 4


Joshua is an undergraduate student at Rhode Island College majoring in Secondary Education and History. He’s been researching fifers, drummers, and bands of music during the eighteenth century for the past 5 years.



The Speaker’s House, Trappe PA

This elegant townhome, which reminds you far more of the elegant 18th century townhomes of Philadelphia rather than a home in the rural countryside 25 miles west of that city, was nearly lost to history thanks to modern development. If it had not been for the tireless efforts of concerned citizens, a CVS would stand on this sight today. When you drive up Ridge Pike, following the path that the Continental Army took multiple times into and away from Philly, you see this huge stone house facing down the small shopping center across the street. The years show on this building. The remains of stucco partially obscure the stonework below the roofline, the ghostly outline of an addition to the house that once connected on the eastern wall is all that remains of the general store erected by Frederick Muhlenberg, Lutheran Minister, First Speaker of the House of Representatives, and one of the early judges in Montgomery County PA, son of the famous Henry Muhlenberg: Patriarch of the Lutheran Church in America, and brother to Peter Muhlenberg: the famous Fighting Parson of Virginia during the American Revolution.


Yet, even with the scaffolding wrapped around the house, you can’t help but be amazed by its simple beauty. 4 corner fireplaces in the main section of the house, 2 on each floor. A brand new roof, replacing the Victorian-era modification, restores the houses 18th century roofline; complete with cedar shingles and crown molding copied from the surviving originals found on the property. Behind the main section of the house are the two additions, the latest dates to the early 19th century, within has been found the outline of the original kitchen hearth and bread oven. This is the next restoration project planned. Directly behind the last addition stands the house’s recreated Pennsylvania German Kitchen Garden. Within the white fence, the style of which was copied from local period examples, are 4 central raised beds and others running around the perimeter.


Here, volunteers grow, maintain, and then sell heirloom vegetables, herbs, spices, and flowers that would have been familiar to the people who once called this house home. All of the work, from the masons and carpenters capering on the roof, to the more agriculturally minded watering and pruning plants, everyone working at The Speaker’s House is passionate about bringing the stories that took place in this house and around it alive.

20161010_162414Originally built in 1763 for John Schrack, son of Trappe’s founder, John was the keeper of the original Trappe Tavern, for which the area gets its name. That original tavern stood directly across the street from the house, roughly where a bank is now. After John’s death in 1772 it changed hands multiple times. During the revolution, one of the owners, Johannes Reed, was required to billet soldiers coming from Fort Ticonderoga in New York in his house. Reverend Henry Muhlenberg, who lives just up the road, noted this in his journal. In 1781, Frederick Muhlenberg bought the house and the 50 acres it sat on. This is when he added the 30 ft x 20 ft store, and a further addition on the west side of the house. In 1791, Frederick sold the house sister and his brother in-law Mary and Francis Swaine, who sold the house in 1803 to Charles Albrecht, a musical instrument maker from Philadelphia. Both Frederick and Peter owned Charles Albrecht made pianos in their homes. The house continued to change hands off and on, becoming property of Ursinus College from 1924-1944 and then returning to private ownership again.

By the 1990s the house was converted for apartment living and in desperate need of renovation. In 1999 CVS thought about buying the property and demolishing this house. Thankfully, this was not to be, and by 2004 the house was purchased by the non-profit that manages it today.


Though there’s still a lot of work left to be done to bring this house back into its former glory, the group of people who take care of it are more than up to the task. Along with the house itself, it is hoped that the Smoke House, Privy, General Store, and Barn can all be rebuilt in the future on the foundations that remain from the original structures. Whenever you make it out to The Speaker’s House, plan on stopping by again in the future. There’ll be something new to see every time!


Kyle is a long time reenactor, a Combat Medic in the PA National Guard, and currently an employee of the National Park Service. His wife and cat think he’s pretty alright.


The Speaker’s House is in Trappe Pennsylvania and they are hosting a living history event on September 30th, 2017. It has been under renovation since 2004. Come out and support our local history!

If you would like to write a short history of your local public historical home please send emails to