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Clothing & Supplies
New Jersey Volunteers Uniforms & Accouterments, 1776-1783

When the New Jersey Volunteers were originally raised in 1776, there were no uniforms to give them, nor proper equipment to accouter them. They fought and served in their first campaign in the clothing they brought from home, looking much like the Rebels they were fighting against.

This changed in April of 1777 when the first shipment of clothing for Provincials arrived in New York City. The initial uniform was a full length green regimental coat with white facings, white wool breeches, waistcoat and stockings, brown wool leggings, a white linen shirt with black horsehair or velvet neck stock, and a black cocked hat trimmed with white tape and a black military cockade. Shoes and extra soles were provided to the men, quite necessary for the long campaigns. This uniform was supplemented by white linen trousers worn in lieu of breeches and leggings from May to November and wool watch coats donated by the citizens of New York City for the winter.

This uniform lasted until May of 1778, when the green coats were put in storage for fatigue work and new red coats were issued, making them look very much like British soldiers. This was short lived, however, as green coats were issued again the following year, this time with white lace around the buttons to make them somewhat fancier.

By 1780, however, there was a return to red coats, with blue facings and white lace, the uniform they would maintain for the rest of the war. The first three battalions were distinguished by their buttons-- the second having their buttons in pairs and the third in threes for distinction.

Depending on one's rank, one's uniform was either different or of better quality. Officers generally purchased their own uniforms made up to a regimental pattern, with silver lace and epaulettes, a silver laced hat with silver loop and a feather, a red silk sash, silver gorget and silver mounted sword and beltplate.

Sergeants were distinguished by a red worsted sash with a center stripe of the facing color (white with the green coats and blue with the red), a silver laced hat, white braid around the buttons and a brass mounted hanger.

Corporals had only a white cord knot or white silk epaulette on the right shoulder for their rank.

Musicians had the most distinguished uniforms of all. The drummers and fifers of the different battalions during the green years wore reversed colors; that is to say, a white regimental coat with green facings, green waistcoat and breeches. Their head gear was a black bearskin cap with a metal plate on the front. The coat contained narrow and wide lace on the facings, sleeves and "wings" on the shoulders. During the time they wore red coats, they followed the warrants that governed that facing color; that is to say, they appeared as the other soldiers in red faced blue and white waistcoat and breeches, but with all the other frills mentioned above.

The light infantry companies of the battalions wore leather caps in lieu of hats and shorter coats as per the British Light Infantry. The musicians of the light companies also carried a horn to give their signals to the troops.

The troops were armed with two standard British smoothbore weapons-- the longland and shortland pattern muskets, the latter being the newer model. Original examples show the battalion name marked on the barrel. Some longland patterns were cut down to the specifications of shortland muskets, there being a difference of four inches in the barrel.

Officers usually carried no muskets, but when they did it was a light fusil or carbine, of private make and purchase. All muskets came equipped with a triangular steel bayonet which was carried on a white leather shoulder belt, to which was attached a belt plate of tin washed copper marked "New Jersey Volunteers" over a GR cypher.

The cartridges for the musket were carried in a cartridge box suspended from a white leather strap with a brass GR cypher attached. These cartridge boxes or pouches, as they were termed, were generally light and held about 36 or 40 rounds of ammunition.

The light infantry companies were provided with radically different equipment of black belting and a much smaller cartridge box, which was carried alongside a shot bag and powder horn. At least one of these original horns survives today.

The "camp equipage" that made up a soldier's marching kit included a linen haversack to carry three days' food, a tin canteen for water and a goatskin or canvas knapsack for spare clothing and personal possessions. Each "mess" of five soldiers was also issued with a canvas tent, belt axe or hatchet, cooking kettles, blankets, tinware, utensils, etc. Special soldiers called pioneers were also issued with aprons, axes, and saws, while wearing a distinctive bearskin cap.

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