18th Century Living History

Posts Tagged ‘history’

“For the Soldiers to hut” – The British Soldier Shelter during winter in the Seven Years War.

In Research on February 13, 2012 at 2:41 pm

Although it was general military practice for regiments to enter ‘winter quarters’ during the colder months of a year, generally between October and March. Sometimes regiments would be required to remain in the field during these periods. As such the men would be forced to continue to use tents. Although the standard British Army tent of the period no doubt did the job of keeping some of the elements off the private men we know from the works of Captain Bennett Cuthbertson that if a regiment was to remain in the field it would often be given the order “For the soldiers to hut”.

Cuthbertson was a Captain in the 5th Regiment of Foot and his military treatise was perhaps written to replace the some what dated manual written by Humphrey Bland. Bland’s treatise which had been originally published in 1727 but was still certainly in use having been through several editions. Certainly officer in the Continental Army during the Revolution were encouraged to ‘study Bland and other treatise’. Although it is worth worth noting that Cuthbertson treatise was published in 1768 and therefore after the end of the Seven Years War, the 5th had indeed fought throughout the war and were indeed at the ‘Raid of Cherbourg’ in 1758, Warburg in 1760, Kirch Denkern in 1761 and Battle of Wilhelmsthal in 1762. For the most part we do not know how for certain how much of Cuthbertsons work relates to current practice in the 5th or indeed if it was practiced across the army. Certainly his recommendations frequently appear in Order Books verbatim, the number of editions and the above fact would imply his recommendations were widely read and available.  

Improvised shelters have a long history in European armies as shown in this 15th/16th century example.

It can be argued with some confidence that Cuthbertons section on hutting is reliable; certainly there is historical provenance of hut building in European armies from the 15th/16th century as shown in the image above. Similarly Cuthbertson states “The hurdled Huts were in general use in the allied Army in Germany last war”. This coupled with the 5th war service would suggest he indeed was speaking from previous experience.

So what exactly are huts? Cuthbertson gives us a clear description of what exactly Huts are and how they are to be constructed.

“in most case, the most expeditious and ready method, is, to provide square hurdles, large enough to cover a Tent, when resting slope ways against the upper edge of each other; they must be a foot on every side longer than the Tent, to leave sufficient Room for stricking: a piece of wicker-work is next to be fitted to the front, by way of a door, to move at pleasure: these hurdles and wickers being properly made and fixed, a thick coat of thatch (ether straw, sedge or rushes) is to be laid on them, we secured and bound”.

Hurdles like those used today for fencing have been used for centuries and it stands to reason that this is what Cuthbertson may have been talking about.

The description provided by Cuthbertsons paints a vivid picture of ‘huts’ and in apparently “nothing can be warmer than one of these habitations”. We can assume that the hurdles that he refers to bear some resemblance to hurdles used over the centuries as simple fencing and pictured above. Certainly soldiers who had come from a labouring background, as so many did in the mid 18th century before the industrial revolution had taken full grip of the country, would have some experience of constructing these. With regards to thatching, again we can assume that the soldiers would have some experience of this and example of thatching of shelter by W.H Pyne and although not military in nature provides us a good basis for what this may have looked like.

A possible example of a basic thatched structure.

Hutting could be adapted to other circumstances and Cuthbertson also describes how the system could be used to create an enclosed Kitchen area, where the soldiers could “enjoy themselves with great comfort and satisfaction, until they chuse, or it is proper, to retire to their huts.

“young trees should be collected, about the size and length of hop-poles, and placed in a circular form round the out-side of the Kitchens, sloping upwards to a point, exactly in the same position, the poles are fixed, after the hop gathering is finished, leaving a sufficient opening on one side, for the men to enter, and weaving small boughs or rushes through the poles”

The image below from a German Manual called “What it is necessary for each officer to know during a campaign.” This lean-to side design is shown being used to shelter a small fire.

Using both Cuthbertsons vivid descriptions and images like those above for inspiration it should be possible with some degree of accuracy to recreate a style of Hut as used by the British Army during winter months inGermanyduring the Seven Years War.

Selected References:

 Cuthbertson, B. (1968) Cuthbertson’s System, For the Complete Interior Management and Oeconomy of a Battalion of Infantry. Boulter Grierson.

 Unknown. (1738) Was ist jedem Officier waehrend eines Feldzugs zu wissen noethig (trans., “What it is necessary for each officer to know during a campaign”) Mit zehen Kupferplatten (trans. “with ten copper plates”), Carlsruhe.

 Najecki, R. (2011) Reproduction Home Page, [Online], Available: http://najecki.com/repro/reproindex.html [13th February 2012].

 Rees, J. (2004) “Soldiers are ingenious animals.” American Civil War Campaign Shelters” [Online], Available: http://www.libertyrifles.org/research/campaignshelters.html [13th February 2012]

 Pyne, W.H. (1806) Microcosm or, A Delineation of the Arts, Agriculture, and Manufactures of Great Britain in a Series of above a Thousand Groups of Small Figures for the Embellishment of Landscape. London


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In General News on October 10, 2011 at 8:57 am

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Quebec 1759 Photo Gallery

In Events on September 27, 2011 at 12:43 pm

A new photo gallery from our event at Westerham a couple of weekends ago. Westerham is home to Quebec House, a National Trust property and the child hood home of General James Wolfe.

Check out our gallery from Westerham

You can view the gallery by clicking here. Happy viewing!

We’ll soon have the town, down about their ears!

In Events on September 16, 2011 at 2:14 pm

It is nearly a week since we took part at the event at Quebec House and Westerham last weekend. Last weekend of course being the closest to the anniversary of Wolfe and his men triumphant victory over the French at Quebec.

The weekend saw the first outing of our soldiers a-frame tent which was shared by 4 men, it proved quite cosy! However we could have done with the 5th man just to make it extra comfortable.

I am happy to say that the overwhelming  number of British regulars amply supported by rangers saw off two French attempts to take our encampment by suprise. Although we did wonder why on earth our leaders hadn’t saw fit to occupy the high ground or post sufficient sentries…..

Our French opponents, who stopped 'making love with their faces' long enough to launch two attacks on our encampment.

A particular highlight other than our fantastic singing was the complimentary comments we recieved about our standard and attention to drill made some of the other groups re-evaluate what they were doing.

Private Walsh S. demonstrates to the awkward section the correct method for charging bayonets breast high.

A excellent event to end the campaign season, we are now going in to Winter Quarters with a potential drill session planned for the end of the year. If you are interested in taking the Kings shilling and joining Lambtons during the winter please contact me at walsh_adam@hotmail.com .

Take the Kings Shilling and join us in 2012!

To Clean the Brass of your Arms

In Research on September 6, 2011 at 2:50 pm

Last week we looked at the idea of cleasiness in the British army in the mid-18th century. Having concluded a soldier did indeed attempt to clean his accoutrements and uniform on home service and large periods of inactivity. We will take a look at how a soldier cleaned himself and his uniform and accoutrements.

A useful books called the “Private soldier’s and militia man’s friend” by Henry Trenchard provides us with much information about this was achieved. A soldier would clean his brasses and buttons using a mixture of “whiting or rottenstone, mixed with spirits” (1786:20) this would in turn be rubbed with leather until clean.

Private Walsh clean his musket using a mixture of oil, brick dust and an emery cloth.

The stock of his musket was also to be waxed and any “the scratches, dents, holes, &c. should be filled with beeswax” (1786:20). The cost of the whiten ammounted to 2 1/2 d per year for the private soldier according to our un-named soldier of the 68th (175).

As side his musket barrel, brasses and buttons. A soldier also had is other accoutrements in the form of belts holding his sword and cartridge box. These were coloured ochre, these was attained by mixing water, pipeclay and ochre to form a mixture which was firstly brushed and then sponged onto the belts. This occurred around once very month, the colour was maintained by rubbing with a ‘ochre ball’ a mixture of ochre pigment, water and pipeclay dried into a ball (Trenchard:1786:27).

To maintain his firelock he carried worms, keys, pickers and brushes the combination of which cost another 3d from his meagre wages (unknown:175).

Finally he would polish his cartridge box and shoes, this he achieved using black balls, a mixture of wax and lamp black formed into a ball (Trenchard:1786:27). Again shoes and cartridge boxes could be rubbed with balls or melted down and rubbed onto his black accoutrements. The cost of black ball alone amounted 2s 6d a year for the private soldier.

Finally his jacket and hat would be brushed. A soldier carried around 3 brushes, one for his clothing and two for his shoes. The shoe brushes cost another 6d from his wages in way of nessecaries (Unknown:175).

We have seen the business of looking clean and soldier like was an expensive, next week we will have a look at the 18th century monetary system and cost of living.

A Soldier Like Manner

In Research on August 25, 2011 at 11:37 am

Having taken a looked at how and what a soldier ate. This week we are going to take a quick look at the maintenance or cleaning of equipment. The 18th century soldier is often potrayed as untidy in appearance with his arms and accoutrements dirty. This may have been true at times of long active campaigning, however on home service and during time of inactivity a quick look at primary sources reveals a different picture.

Using Humphrey Bland’s ‘Treatise of Military Discipline’ as a starting point it becomes clear that the 18th century Soldier was indeed expected to be visually clean. From the moment a soldier wakes in the morning, Bland promotes the cleansiness of the soldier by washing “and dress in a soldier-like way, by having their shoes black’d, their stockings and cravats rolled, their hats cock’d, and their hair tuck’d under them, and their cloaths brush’d and put on to their best advantage” (189). In fact Bland suggests that until the seargants have ensured these things are done they men are not permitted to leave their quarters. Of course the insistence of cleansiness didn’t end there and the first thing the subaltern should attend to when a company of soldiers is formed “after which he is to view their Arms, Ammunition, Cloaths and Accoutrements, and to see they are clean, and dress’d in a Soldier-like Manner” (2).

Argubably there could be a vast difference between manuals and the realities of a soldier life. However Wolfe’s “Instruction to young Officers” which includes his general order while serving as a Major in the 20th foot on garrison duty in Scotland also suggest on home service he expected his troops to be clean. For example on August 15th, 1749 he gave orders “the men are not to mount guard in their accoutrements till further orders, each man is to keep his buff clean and the brasses bright, that at all reviews, exercises or otherwise, they may appear well under arms” (14).

Of course on campaign we can assume that cleansiness of equipment became less of a priority to the soldiers. Which probably explains the following order by Wolfe on August 10th, 1759 during the siege of Quebec “when soldiers are not employed in work, they are to dress and clean themselves, so as to appear under arms and upon all occasions in the most soldier-like manner” (96).

It is clear from the sources that there was much emphasis placed on looking ‘soldier like’ and ‘cleaning’ accoutrements. However we should not mistake 18th century ‘clean’ for the modern shiny image of a British Soldier. Next week will look at how the 18th century soldier attained his ‘clean’ appearance.

The Soldiers Pot Always Boils with Fury

In Research on August 8, 2011 at 10:11 am

Having looked at what a mess was last week, this week we will look at what exactly soldiers were eating, how they cooked it and how they ate it.

The basic ration in the British Army at the time of the Seven Years War was one pound of beef and one pound of bread per day. If beef or bread were unavailable they would be repalced with salt pork and hardtack. Interestingly enough these rations were similar to those issued to Cromwell’s army at the Siege of Drogheda, each recieving bread, beef and pease. Other foods stuffs were issued when available and as we have seen soldiers were expected to suplement these rations with produce bought by the mess.

"A soldier pot always boils with a fury" soldier preparing a meal with new recruits in Yorkshire, 1760.

It stands the reason that solders bought whatever was seasonally and cheaply available at local markets or from sutlers attached to the various regiments. For example our much quoted soldier of the 68th prepared a broth of “which was a shoulder of mutton the vegetables were some long coleworts” (unknown:11).

Having gathered his provisions a soldier would then go about cooking them as best he could. Each regiment would construct kitchen, these would be 4 to 5 foot circles of earthern in construction with fire places dug into the side. Each company would have a kitchen and each mess would require it’s cooking place (Bland:245).

Each mess was issued a tin kettle in which to prepare their rations and the mess would select it’s cook from within it’s ranks. The method of cooking invariably was to create a broth or stew, Robert Jackson wrote “that the soldiers pot always boils with fury” in 1804 when describing the method of cooking employed by most soldiers (234). Again a soldiers journal paints a vivid picture of this in 1758.

A Mess in Scotland preparing its meal.

“Now I began to commence to cook; in the first place I lighted my fire, then filled my kettle with water, put in my meat, which was a shoulder of mutton the vegetables were some long coleworts and I had instruction to make a broth. But I managed indifferently it was the first attempt I had made in the art of cookery (unknown:10-11).”

Having prepared this broth to the best of his abilities, Jonas, as he was known to his comrade is ordered to bring the stew to his mess mates. His recounts how the meal is divided between the mess, “after the meat was divided and called, every one took up his lot, and proceeded to eat the broth in the best manner we could, with our canteen top as spoons” (unknown:12).

Private Walsh demonstrates eating his broth upon his canteen top.

The Men of Each Company to be Divided into Messes

In Research on August 5, 2011 at 11:14 am

In the run-up to the event at Westerham in Kent, this week we will look at the mess system in the British Army. From a living history perspective our numbers are usually around those required to form a mess and therefore the mess is the ideal place to start in any recreation of the 18th century.

So what was the mess? The mess was the basic formation of the British Army throughout the Seven Years War and beyond. When joining the regiment a soldier would be assigned to a mess with whom he would share his military life. Regulations called for the creation of messes, the size of which varied between roughly 4-8 men. For example one period treatise describing that “Each squad be form’d into a mess” (unknown:16). Bland further describes that “each mess consisting of 4 to 6 men” (189). Cuthbertson writing in the 1770’s again suggested that that “Five, Six or Eight men, being the general number of men in a mess” (25). It is also worth noting that this number corresponds with the number of men sharing a tent as described by Lochee (18) and in a soldiers journal where the private mess consisted of 6 men with whom he also shared a tent (unknown:4,10).

It would appear the British Army numbered their messes. A good example of this comes from the Journal of John Knox, who fought during the Quebec Campaign. “with many other pleasantries, which concluded by inviting the peasant and his dog to dine with them, telling the man where their barracks was, and the number of their mess” (241). Another later example of messing numbers being used as well as illustrating how a mess shared a tent is shown below.

The right hand side of this image from the 25th Foot in Minorca in 1771 show the numbering of the tents showing the regimental, mess and company numbers.

So why would a mess be formed? Well apart from being in regulations, the mess had one primary advantage. Each man provided a quota of his wages which would be used to buy rations for the whole mess. The idea being that they would not be able to “spend their pay on liquor” (Bland: 189). A soldiers journal gives us a vivid image of this “the morning after I was joined to the company, I had to put a quota of moneys into the mess, that some of us might go to market to buy provisions” (unknown:10). Cuthbertsons going as far as proposing that NCO’s assemble the men and march them to the market (25).

The army being so concerned of the disadvantages of not partaking of the mess, the inspection of messes was to be carried out daily by sergeants or corporals (Unknown:116, Bland:189) or by the officers (Kane:73).

Next week, we will take a look at what the basic rations, what the mess bought and how they cooked it.

Lambtons Web Video

In General News on July 7, 2011 at 10:49 am

We made this video a while back, it’s a series of photographs taken at our event at Ryedale Folk Museum turned into a quick video for the web and marked the first real event Lambtons 68th Foot as an active living history group.

The 68th Foot in North America?

In Seven Years War on July 7, 2011 at 10:28 am

John Lambtons 68th foot will be guesting with NFOE at a living history event at Quebec House at the begining of September. In preperation I’ve been doing some research on the British Soldier in North America and more generally about the 68th foot in North America.

Guadeloupe in 1759, several of the places on the map are mentioned in the Soldiers Journal

Firstly it goes without saying the 68th foot as a regiment per se never served in North America. We do know however men drafted from the regiment did serve in what was then deemed North America. Men of the 68th were drafted to regiments serving in Guadeluope, as mentioned in this extract from ‘A Soldiers Journal’, “when we recieved order to march back Southampton, when we arrived we found the other half of the regiment had been drafted to fill up regiments garrsioned in the island of Guadeloupe”. The soldier of the 68th’s journal continues and he himself is eventually drafted and sails for the Indies.

The soldier was drafted into one of the regiments garrisioning the Islands and would eventually go on to serve in Lord Rollo’s succesful expedition to occupy Dominica and this probably explains why the regiment is sometimes wrongly said to have taken part in the taking of capture. In fact some of draftees may have even taken part in the capture of Havana 1762.

The Siege of Havana, from the National Maritime Museum Collection.

Although drafted ‘a soldiers journal’ makes it relatively clear that the men drafted were done so quite quickly and that there is no mention of a change of regimental uniform occurring. It is therefore probable men in the uniform of the 68th did fight in the North America Theatre at least in 1761 and perhaps up to 1762 depending on the availability of new uniforms.