The initial uniform of the 1st Delaware Regiment was that of a short blue regimental coat faced with red facings and turnbacks. The coat length was slightly shorter than a normal regimental coat in 1776. After 1776, it appears that the coats were slightly longer with still red facings and turnbacks.
The Delaware Regiment had pewter and gilt buttons (gilt for officers) with DR enciphered on them. If you would like to make a comparison of these buttons with those of the British you will notice that the British have GR enciphered. This stands for George Rex – or Latin for King George – who was reigning the British empire then. Many indicate that the Delaware’s were formed, organized, and modeled based on a British elite regiment. This makes sense as Colonel Haslet was a French and Indian War veteran and the regiment’s adjutant was a gentleman named Thomas Holland who was a career military veteran and served with the 23rd Regiment or aka the Royal Welch Fusiliers. Also, when you compare the two units you will see some striking similarities. With the enciphered DR you get the distinct impression that the Delaware’s were indicating that there loyalty was no longer with the King…but with Delaware! This is confirmed on June 15th 1776 when the assembly of the 3 Lower Counties on the Delaware separated from not just Pennsylvania but England too!
A hunting frock was a fairly common piece of clothing of the period. The Delaware Regiment had either white or natural colored linen hunting frocks. These were worn when a regimental was not available. These were also used even when a soldier did have a regimental but more as a second uniform – think of this as the battle dress uniform of the period in the colonies. Very practical and cheap compared to a regimental.
These are one-of-a-kind leather caps. Used primarily in 1776 and then it appears that the regiment went to cocked hats with a light infantry company in 1779 still showing 7 rank and file with caps in a return. One doesn’t know for sure, but speculation would be that much like many wars before and after the revolution, uniforms become less elaborate and more neccessity driven as the war moved on. Also, Colonel Haslet was killed in early 1777 and it appears that he had ordered 688 hats and blankets for the regiment but it is unclear if these were ever delivered to the newly forming regiment which David Hall then took over in the spring of 1777 replacing the then deceased Haslet. Some folks have tried to dismiss the existence of these caps yet there is no evidence of the unit wearing cocked hats in 1776 either. These same folks have indicated that the leather cap’s insignia did not match the DB button (which was to indicate Delaware Battalion) but was later to be proven wrong when DR buttons were found in New York and South Carolina with the DR enciphered – looking much like a DB but that account was from an eyewitness back in the day and was either a typo by the printer in the newspaper where this is recorded or the eyewitness mistook the enciphered DR as a D and a B. When you look at the button you will see that this can be easily mistaken. So the DR buttons actually lend credibility to the insignia described – the black leather caps had a high peak and painted in gilt or gold was “Liberty and Independence” and “Delaware Regiment” with the crest of it having a full rigged ship and within the center scroll a sheaf of wheat. So, in matching the buttons, which are fairly intricate, the leather caps had Delaware Regiment. The next thing some of these detractors point out is the slogan Liberty and Independence. These folks try and indicate that in early 1776 this would not have been used as we were trying to still not go to war with England. This is complete nonsense. Any scholar can point to numerous references of pre-1776 (and the Declaration of Independence in July) of the slogan being used. Heck – Liberty poles were prevalent all over the colonies and even in 1773 there was a notice to the Delaware Pilots that references liberty!
Next, these same detractors point to the items used on this cap. The first being the full rigged ship. The detractors point to that representing Philadelphia. We would like to say, well, when the unit was being formed, the 3 Lower Counties on the Delaware still did belong and were well tied to Pennsylvania. In fact, Henry Fisher of Lewes, and his son, were located in Lewes, Delaware at the mouth of the Delaware Bay and were responsible for the lighthouse at Lewes (a very important role in 18th century naval navigation) and ensuring the Delaware River and bay shipping lane was marked properly. They also guided merchants up to – you guessed it – the largest city in the colonies – Philadelphia. So – that seems makes sense. Next they will point to the sheaf of wheat. These detractors indicate that this represents the county of Sussex which was the least inclined for liberty. Partially true but also 2 things to note here. John Haslet, the Colonel selected to organize and lead this regiment, was from Milford, Delaware. This town borders the Sussex and Kent counties, with Milford being in Sussex county. Maybe this is to honor the Colonel or maybe it also is in line with Pennsylvania? One should notice that Pennsylvania’s seal has not 1 but 3 sheafs of wheat…as well as a full rigged ship. Others though, like us, would indicate that a sheaf of wheat is on the paper money of Delaware (which was also printed in Philadelphia) in 1776.
Lastly – this is all painted on black leather in gilt or gold. This also makes sense as the buttons worn were made of metal with the enlisted buttons being pewter (or silver in color) and the officer’s buttons being gold or brass in color. The gilt is logical as the cocked hats worn later on by the enlisted were with yellow binding. As indicated by Lieutenant Colonel Pope of the regiment notes later in the war that this is the only way now that the regiment is distinguishable from the other American units. By his statement it implies that there were other parts of the uniform that distinguished them from other units – possibly indirectly referring to the use before of the leather helmets. During the revolution, primarily the artillery, not infantry, wore cocked hats with yellow binding. Interesting? Yup – you bet! The more one uncovers and pieces together information on the regiment – the one can see how the leather cap described makes sense…at a minimum for 1 or 2 companies – if not the whole regiment in 1776. There is even more information to support this – but you will have to ask us about that!
Military Cocked Hat
As indicated above the enlisted wore a military cocked hat with yellow or gilt trim from 1777 to 1783. Company grade officers also wore the black leather cap in 1776 and appear to have transitioned to the cocked hat in 1777 with black tape (vs the gold or yellow). They also no longer carried fusils at this point too.
A white linen or wool waist coat was worn throughout the war.
A white shirt was a very common piece of clothing for the period. Officers shirts were typically of better quality and possibly fancier. An enlisted soldier would have 2 shirts typically.
There are 3 types of breeches that appear to have been worn by the regiment. All 3 though are fall front style breeches. The difference in the 3 is the material/color. The first one – is the cotton white breeches. The other 2 types, white linen breeches or buckskin breeches were also noted as being worn too. We wear a nutmeg or white colored breeches. Nutmeg to represent the buckskin color. The white cotton appear to be worn in 1776, then the buckskins, and then as a result a mixture of these 2 along with overalls (see below). Later in the war – 1779 – overalls appear to become the staple versus breeches for the enlisted. We also tend to favor the nutmeg color for another reason too – much easier to wear than white in and around camp.
Overalls are an alternative to the breeches. They are white linen or wool. Later in the war while in North Carolina some overalls were also made of blue and white striped bed ticking and given to the Delawares. The overwhelming majority appear to be linen or wool white overalls.
Stockings were made of wool, cotton, or silk. The wool are much more warmer in the fall and winter campaigns. Prefer white or grey only for wearing while in uniform.
Garters were worn to hold up your stockings since they did not have elastic back then. Imagine that.
Gaiters or Spatterdashes
These are not full length up the leg. Instead they go up to about the bottom of your calf. Black linen with pewter buttons. These were worn with breeches to protect the bottom of the leg. Gaiters are indicated clearly in Captain Robert Kirkwood’s journal as well as a polish called black ball (see below) for shoes.
Shoes and Boots
Shoes are black with a brass buckle. Shoes were worn by enlisted soldiers and boots were worn by the field officers of the regiment typically (Colonel, Lieutenant Colonel, Major) as well as company officers at times too.
Now that we have covered the uniform from head to toe – check out the accouterments page to see how the 1st Delaware Regiment was equipped!