Thursday, April 14, 2011

Revolutionary Runaways (The Pennsylvania Packet, 6-24-1779)

Advertisements for military runaways appeared throughout the Revolution as soldiers absconded from their service. This ad, for six men who had been recovering at the General Hospital in Philadelphia, reveals details about the clothing of American soldiers at the height of the Revolution. At least four of the men wore overalls, the trousers with gaitered bottoms that were issued to both British and American troops. Some of these men wore recognizable uniform coats; Lawrence Gibbons of the Sixth Virginia Regiment and David Hughes both had black coats "faced" with red. These coats, probably actually dark brown, had red "facings" (cuffs, collars, and lapels), a common color scheme for American uniforms of this period. James McGuff wore a similar brown coat, but his was faced with green. Other recuperating soldiers wore civilian attire; James Samrille had a brown "sleeveless jacket" (waistcoat), John Cardiff wore a blue "sailors jacket," and Richard Thompson owned buckskin breeches and a "short brown coat, [and a] jacket of the same."

Besides their clothing, this advertisement illuminates other aspects of these Revolutionary soldiers. They were not especially young (four were over thirty), one possible reason why they ended up in the General Hospital. Only Samrille had a wound, in his left hand; others bore the scars of past injuries and diseases. Cardiff was missing three fingers, Gibbons had been wracked by smallpox, and McGuff was part of the Invalid Corps, a unit that performed minor duties in lieu of more rigorous active service.

The advertisement also suggests the divide between America and England. Richard Thomson may have been serving in a Maryland regiment, but he was no American. He was "an Englishman."

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