Clothing

Supply records for the regiment in 1776 and 1777 are fragmentary at best. Certain records of Captain Philip D Bevier’s 4th Company have survived. A record of clothing received indicates receipt of 28 “full suits” in March and April of 1777. Each suit consisted of one hat, one coat, two frocks, two shirts, two overalls, one breeches, two stockings and two shoes. A total of 35 coats were received in March and April 1777. Undated clothing return “beginning” February 1777 shows the entire company fully clothed except for coats. Only 19 out of 48 men had coats. Perhaps these 19 coats were issued prior the March and April shipments. Alan Amoine of the West Point Library and an author of several articles on equipping New York troops during the revolution believes the term “full suites” includes a regimental coat. Steve Gilbert, a well-known researcher of New York clothing, arms and accoutrements concurs with Mr. Amoine. Mr. Amoine believes the coats would have been a dark brown faced with blue. He believes the coats would have been supplied out of Albany or Fishkill. The other four New York regiments were all supplied coats of varying description out of Albany in early 1777.

A memorandum dated Fort Montgomery August 6, 1777 of cash and clothing left by Jacob Davis, deceased, included 1 coat, 1 waistcoat, 1 pair leather breeches, 1 shirt, 2 frocks, 1 pr stockings, 1 pr shoes, and 1 Castor hat.

There are three 5th New York deserter descriptions from March and July 1777 as described by Lefferts in his classic work. One wore “Continent Cloaths”, one wore a brown coat faced blue and the other wore a blue coat with white laced buttonholes. The deserter with the brown coat faced blue was James Persons, a private in Captain Philip Bevier’s 4th company. He deserted in July and may well have received one of the 35 coats shipped to the 4th company in March/April 1777. Persons does not have a coat on the February 1777 clothing return. Mr. Amoine believes the brown coat faced blue is the most logical choice for a regimental. He chose dark brown because brown was easier and cheaper to dye than blue. The dark brown would have differentiated the 5th from other New York regiments that had light brown and chocolate brown coats. Mr. Amoine also contends that the regiment was issued captured British coats dyed brown and that the resulting color would have been a very dark brown. Trailside Museums of Bear Mountain State Park located on the former site of Fort Clinton houses an exhibit on the battle for the Highland Forts. The exhibit includes a rendition of a 5th New York soldier wearing a brown coat with blue facing. Jack Meade who was director of Trailside Museums in the 1960’s painted the image. We are trying to locate his research for this exhibit. Another image of a 5th New Yorker appears in Mollo and McGregor’s Uniforms of the American Revolution published in 1974. The soldier is wearing a dark brown coat with blue facing.

Many buttons were found during archeological digs at Fort Montgomery and Fort Clinton some of which are on display at Trailside Museum. The buttons have a raised NY cipher and are waistcoat size (17mm). Don Troiani in his Buttons of The American Revolution shows the waistcoat buttons and a coat sized button (23mm) all with the joined NY cipher. Mr. Troiani indicates that all the buttons were discovered in the Hudson Highlands.

NY Reg button

We have two skimpy leads on materials for the clothing. Transcripts from a British Court Martial of Loyalist Officer Capt. Joshua Barnes refer to a chest of rebel cloathing found in the barracks of Fort Montgomery containing 60 pair of buckskin breeches. The other lead is a March 1778 order from Brigadier General George Clinton to John Henry, a commissary of clothing in New York, to furnish Col. Lewis Dubois’s regiment in Fishkill with two pieces of “oznibrig” to make pockets and linings, etc. Unfortunately John Henry’s account books burned in a fire at Albany in 1911. I have found numerous references to clothing in the Journals and Correspondence of the New York Provincial Congress. Several of these references even mention Colonel Dubois’s regiment but nothing conclusive about types or styles. Steve Gilbert has offered to search his extensive database on clothing and equipment issues during 1777 for anything relating to the 5th New York.

We intend to present the unit in a brown regimental coat with blue facings. More research is needed to determine the extent of facing (collars, cuffs and/or lapels). The coat will be a short length, certainly no longer than mid-thigh and be cut from appropriate weight and texture wool. Lining material might be linen. The coats and waistcoats could have pewter buttons with the raised pattern. The fatigue uniform would be a pullover smock/frock and overalls of dyed or undyed linen. Breeches could be linen or leather. The hats would be simple black cocked hats, uniformly cocked and trimmed. Shirts would be plain linen or checked.

We will refine our impression as more information comes in.

There’s more but that’s all for now.

Richard McGuinness