Thursday, May 28, 2020

"Tricorne Hat": How Accurate is this Term?

A Gaggle of Hats
Dear Reader,

There is no more iconic symbol and image of the eighteenth century than the three-cornered, or Tricorne, hat. Americans imagine their founding fathers wearing such hats, it is the hat of Frederick and Catherine the Great, George II and III; it is the hat worn in the art of William Hogarth and David Morier. Today, the image of people wearing tricorne hats is utilized by historic sites, media companies, and football teams.

Detail of a portrait of Frederick II of Hesse-Cassel, (DHM)
This post is not an effort to get into the various historic styles and designs of the so-called Tricorne hat. Skilled artisans such as M. Brenckle, Geo. Franks, and Andy Kirk have brought the reproduction of the cocked hat to an art form, and are highly familiar with the intricacies of shaping and cocking these hats. Once again, Matt Keagle's work is perhaps the best place to turn for the military material culture of the eighteenth century. These historians, artisans, and makers have provided many resources for those seeking to better understand this particular type of eighteenth-century hat. Rather, this post is an effort to understand how a term which was not used in the eighteenth century, "tricorne hat" has overwhelmingly dominated our language, obscuring the original English-language term for this hat: "cocked hat."  Should we continue to use this term, if it  was not employed by contemporaries? I'll first offer some reasons why the term could be replaced with more accurate language, and then provide a brief rejoinder in defense of the tricone.

George II by artist David Morier

1) The term "tricone hat" was not used in the eighteenth century. 

The earliest English language usage of the term tricorne hat (and I am open to correction if you can date it earlier) appears to be in the mid-nineteenth century, with many examples from the 1860s and 1870s. In French and German, the term appears as early as the 1830s.[1] So, if people living in the eighteenth century did not call these hats, "tricorne hats" what did they call them?

P. J. de Loutherbourg simply used the term "hat" to describe this headgear

The eighteenth-century three-cornered hat, the "cocked hat", was ubiquitous across Europe. Perhaps not surprisingly, many contemporaries simply called this design a "hat", as it was the most common form of male headwear across much of the eighteenth century. Where more specialized terms existed, they usually described specific hat designs.

Englishmen occasionally used the term, "three-cornered" when describing their hats in contrast to the hats of other cultures, but did not use the term tricorne.[2] Perhaps surprisingly to us, they used the term "three-cornered cap" more frequently than hat. By the end of the eighteenth century, the term, "three cornered hat" became more common, as contemporaries tried to distinguish this garment from other emerging sorts of headwear.[3]

British Military-Style Cocked Hat, 1750s (M. Brenkle)
In English, the term "cocked hat" was used to refer to three pointed hats. This term referred to their method of design: there were multiple ways of "cocking" a hat to produce a variety of different styles. Again, the most common term employed was simply "hat", but "cocked hat" was used when further explanation was required.[4] A dictionary of 1758 gives this entry for "Slouched: As a slouched hat. A Hat not cocked up."[5]

2) The modern term "tricorne hat" brings together a group of hats which contemporaries often viewed as distinct.   

Reproduced Hat of the 8th Regiment of Foot (M. Brenkle)
This hat appears to be tending towards the Ramilies/l'androsmane style
There was a great variety in the types of cocked hats worn in the eighteenth century, and these hats possessed different names across the continent. By the 1780s, for example, the various languages of Europe developed terms for styles of cocked hats. The Austrian military leader Ludwig Andreas von Khevenhüller was associated with a particular style, late in the century the French spoke of a "chapeau à l'androsmane," and the British talked of the Monmouth cock and Ramilies cock.[6] The English referred to the style of hat worn by the French ambassador as, "Nivernois" style, after the name of the ambassador.[7]  A poem from 1756 indicated that "a fierce cock'd hat, and modish ramilie" was the necessary headgear of a young soldier.[8]  Late in the century, a French style-tract commented: "The Englishmen may be represented with the Androsmane style of cock, with a massive black-ribbon cockade worn on the left side."[9]
A variety of hats are on display in the Voelkertaefel, from left:
French, Italian, German, English, and Swedish 
All this points to a wide variety of styles, which evolved across the European continent during the eighteenth century. Lumping these hats together as "tricorne" hats may be a useful shorthand in some cases, but often obscures the rich complexity present across the decades and locales of eighteenth century Europe.

3) The term "tricorne" is used as shorthand for hats between 1700 and 1800, making the eighteenth-century appear static and monolithic to the general public.  

Much of the specialized language for cocked hats before 1780 was designed to differentiate various unique styles and cocks. Only at the end of the eighteenth century did the critics of tricorne hats begin to represent them as monolithic and similar. As it was a symbol of wealth and good standing, the popular mood began to turn against the three-cornered hat in the 1790s. An anonymous author wrote the following in The New-York Weekly Magazine:

Among the many things invented by man for his use, none perhaps is more ridiculous than the three-cornered hat at present used by some persons. That it affords but an inconsiderable shelter to the head, is a truth scarcely to be denied; and that the face of him who wears it remains exposed to the piercing rays of the sun, is equally true. If our ancestors deemed it a conveniency to wear the hats in question, experience teaches us at the present day, their great inutility: And shall we then willing smile on those customs which (tho' formerly practiced) proves at present highly injurious? No; Let us cosult our own feelings, and not the habits of former times.-- Common sense points out their inconsistency, and reason mocks the stupidity of him who madly submits to be ruled by custom, that tyrant of the human mind, to whose government three-fourths of this creation foolishly subscribe their assent. Again, the weight which is comprised in a hat of that size, is a sufficient argument for their abolition. Wherein then can the utility of such an unwieldy machine consist? Is not the round hat more becoming? And does it not finally prove to the head by far the  best covering? The contrary cannot be urged unless through prejudice or selfishness. That it looks respectable and sacred, may be urged in favour of it; to this I reply, that if to be impudent constitutes either of those characters, the three cornered hat has the great good fortune to be superior to the other. It may be further advanced in its favour, that by letting down its brings it will answer the purpose of an umbrella in a hot summer day: ture that for size it may, but where is the person that would not rather make use of the real than the fictitious machine? Why was the pains taken for the invention of an umbrella, if the hat could be made to answer the same views? Was it not because the hat attracting the rays of the sun, was found to be injurious to the eyes, and therefore recourse was had to a machine which proved not only shelter from the sun, but to the eyes far more beneficial. To conclude, nothing but a false pride, and a desire to be conspicuous, could ever induce a person thus inconsistently to use that which will finally prove his folly. -- TRYUNCULUS, New-York, July 7, 1796.[10] 
Just as the revolutionaries toppled the monarchies of Europe, the great push to end social deference finally destroyed the three-cornered hat.

recreated American cocked hats
Proponents of the term tricorne might offer some reasons for the terms continued usage. First of all, it is certainly an iconic term, which immediately connects to a wide audience. This is perhaps the best argument for continued usage of the term. Second, the term tricorne hat is a vivid linguistic descriptor: the meaning is instantly clear. The term "cocked hat" could bring a variety of images into one's mind, tricone, or three-cornered hat brings the meaning clearly into view. This isn't a fire-proof reason for employing the term, after all, it would be more linguistically descriptive to call 20th-century military tanks, "roller-shooters". Regardless, I am confident that the term "tricorne" will be used to refer to these hats for a long time to come.

The cocked hat is an iconic symbol of a fascinating historical era. Regardless of what you choose to call this hat, I hope this post has providing some thoughts on the precision of language when it comes to historical objects, and how terms which are completely ubiquitous today may not reflect the terminology contemporaries used to describe these objects.

If you enjoyed this post, or any of our other posts, please consider liking us on facebook, or following us on twitterConsider checking out our exclusive content on Patreon. Finally, we are dedicated to keeping Kabinettskriege ad-free. In order to assist with this, please consider supporting us via the donate button in the upper right-hand corner of the page. As always:

Thanks for Reading, 

Alex Burns

[1] Anon, Archives historiques et littéraires du Nord de la France (Vol III, 1833) 45. Anon, Das Ausland: Eine Wochenschrift für Kunde, (Vol 6, 1833), 965.
[2]See, Mortimer Harley, The Harleian Miscellany, (1745) 555; Robert Ainsworth, Thesairis Linguae Latinae Compendiarius, (1752), 113; John Henry Grose, A Voyage to the East Indies, (1757), 274; 
[3]See Tobias Smolett, The Critical Review, (1796), 406; Voltaire, The History of Candide, Translated from the French (1796), 42; Anon, "On the Three-Cornered Hat" The New-York Weekly Magazine, (Vol II, Wednesday, July 20th, 1796), 19.  
[4] See, Anon, The Gentleman's Magazine, (Vol XXIII, 1753), 187; Anon, The Batchelor: Or Speculations of Jeoffry Wagstaffe, Esq, (1769). 129.
[5] Anon, A Pocket Dictionary; Or Complete English Expositor, (1758), 361.
[6] See, Anon, The British Magazine, (1746) 309. Anon, The Gentleman's Magazine, (Vol XXVI, 1756) 490, Anon, Magasin des modes noevelles, (1787) 5; Anon, "The Spectator" Harrison's British Classicks, (Vol IV, Thursday, July 26th 1786) 251.
[7]William Hickey, Memoirs, (Vol I) 140.
[8]Anon, "The Spectator" Harrison's British Classicks, (Vol IV, Thursday, July 26th 1786) 251.
[9]Anon, Magasin des modes noevelles, (1787) 5;
[10]Anon, "On the Three-Cornered Hat" The New-York Weekly Magazine, (Vol II, Wednesday, July 20th, 1796), 19.  

Monday, May 25, 2020

SYW Wargame Campaign Report: Week 6

Jaeger and Grenzer skirmish in the Bohemian foothils

Dear Reader,

Today, I am reporting on the sixth week of the Seven Years War Campaign which I have been umpiring over the last two months. You can find links to previous weeks at the bottom of the post. Beginning in the middle of March, the campaign is ongoing and still in progress. The period of time for today's post is roughly April 22nd-28th. Below is a map for those dates. As stated before, the campaign switched to a new map to allow for in the inclusion of a few more players.  I have first included the new map, followed by an update from the old map.

The new campaign map for week 6 
In this week, Prussian forces drove the Swedes back in the direction of Stralsund in the far north. In Saxony, Reichsarmee forces were on the retreat, informed that the King of Prussia had arrived in the area. On the Oder/Russian sector, Zieten pulled off an impressive maneuver, covering hundreds of miles in a short period of time with the cavalry of his army and General Huelsen's army, riding from the Oder to Saxony and back without his absence being reported to the enemy. General Tchernychev returned to Russian positions around Schwibus, and launched another raid on the enemy.  In Silesia, Austrian forces confronted the small army of the Duke of Bevern, pursuing him from a position around Schweidnitz, and running unexpectedly into Frederick and Bevern's combined force around Landshut.  Sieges proceeded at Glatz and Schweidnitz.  In a rare bit of good fortune, no major tabletop battles were fought in this week, and the umpire breathed a large sigh of relief. 

The Old Campaign Map for Week

In the north, no major battles were fought, and the Swedish commander pulled his forces back from Anklam, and holed up inside Stralsund with his army and supporting naval squadron. Generals Mantueffel and Dohna constructed a fortified camp outside of Stralsund, attempted to blockade the position from the landward side. General Dohna also sent out several raiding forces, in an effort to collect funds for the ongoing war effort.

In the Russian theater of war, General Buturlin waited fairly patiently for the arrival of reinforcements under the command of both Generals Saltykov and Rumyantsev, who had been redeployed from areas where they were going to cooperate with the Austrian Army. General Tchernychev returned from his first raiding expedition, and departed on his second raid. General Zieten, growing nervous that the quiet Russians in his front boded poorly for other theaters, rode from the Oder river near Gruenberg to Muska in Saxony in under a week, to date the fastest redeployment of troops during this campaign. Zieten met with Frederick briefly in Saxony, and turned his forces back towards the Russian position.

In Saxony, the arrival of the King sent the Austrians into a hasty retreated.  Prince August Ferdinand (Henri's successor) marched south, reuniting his army with the forces under FM Keith in Dresden. Prince A.F. than turned over his command to Keith, the senior officer. During the same period, General d' Kavallerie Serbelloni took his force to the southwest, crossing the Elbe at Meissen, and linking up with forces under the command of General Hadik near Chemnitz.

In Silesia, the Austrians pursued a siege at Glatz, really blockading the city, while dispatching most of their force north towards Schweidnitz. Aggressively maneuvering from the area of Glatz, the armies of Daun and Loudon approached the entrenched camp of the Duke of Bevern. The umpire lovingly spent 4 hours finding period maps of this location for a potential conflict, only to have the ungrateful Duke of Bevern withdraw immediately before the vastly superior enemy forces.

A report to the Duke of Bevern on his defensive position near Schweidnitz
(from a 1736 map)
Bevern, ever canny, moved his forces to the northwest, and then sharply cut to the south, bringing his army into a position near Hirschberg. The Austrians initially let him go, and pursued a siege at Schweidnitz.

An Austrian progress report from the Siege of Schweidnitz
 Frederick's force, moving a great rate of speed from Saxony, met Bevern near Hirschberg. Together,  they immediately moved in the direction of Schweidnitz, via Landshut. Since the Prussian Royal Army had left Breslau over two weeks earlier, the Austrians had been unaware of its position. Worrying that Bevern might be threatening their communications, the hot-tempered Ernst Gideon von Loudon took his force from Schweidnitz, ignoring a directive from General Neipperg, and moved to Landshut.

The Austrian forces under Loudon near Landshut

On the evening of April 28th, both the Prussian forces and the Austrians became aware of the enemy to their front. The combined armies of Frederick and Bevern numbered 70,000 men, while the forces under Loudon were much smaller, in the neighborhood of 30,000 men. Realizing the danger that his forces were in, Loudon immediately ordered his troops into defensive positions, and awaited the Prussian onslaught.

Everything hung in the balance. The arrival of the King's Army had temporarily restored their situation in Saxony, new field commanders had driven the Swedes back to Stralsund in the north, and in Silesia, all things pointed to a massive victory over Loudon. Tune in next week, as the Prussians began their most daring operational maneuver of the war to date. 

Background and Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

Week 5

If you enjoyed this post, or any of our other posts, please consider liking us on facebook, or following us on twitterConsider checking out our exclusive content on Patreon. Finally, we are dedicated to keeping Kabinettskriege ad-free. In order to assist with this, please consider supporting us via the donate button in the upper right-hand corner of the page. As always:

Thanks for Reading, 

Alex Burns

Monday, May 18, 2020

SYW Wargame Campaign Report: Week 5

Prinz Henri leads his men against Reichsarmee troops in the village of Rittschen

Dear Reader,

Today, I am reporting on the fifth week of the Seven Years War Campaign which I have been umpiring over the last two months. You can find links to previous weeks at the bottom of the post. Beginning in the middle of March, the campaign is ongoing and still in progress. The period of time for today's post is roughly April 15th-21st. Below is a map for those dates. As stated before, the campaign switched to a new map in this week, to allow for in the inclusion of a few more players.  I have first included the new map, followed by an update from the old map.

Here is the new map:
The new map, with generalize locations and movements
Here is the old map:

This was an interesting week, with many developments. In the far north, (the Pomeranian theater of war) the Swedes launched an offensive from Stralsund. Prussian Generals Dohna and Manteuffel were dispatched to take control of forces in this area, but would not arrive until the following week. 
In the northwest of the old map, the Austrians scored their first clear victory over the Prussians at Rittschen (although the Austrians would also like to remind you that they view the Battle of Swiet, in week 4, as a victory). 

The Russians launched a raiding force under Generral Tchernychev, who managed to bridge the Oder and avoid detection with his 5,000 men. Frederick turned from a march south from the Oder/Russian theater of war to the west, hoping to rescue the situation in Saxony. In the south,  one of the more brilliant marches of the campaign occurred. The Duke of Bevern, realizing that he was nearly trapped by Austrian forces, abandoned the city of Königgrätz, having collected a substantial contribution. As in previous weeks, we will start in the north and work our way south. 

Week 5: The Pomeranian Sector
In the Pomeranian theater, the Swedes under General Gustaf Hamilton launched an offensive, driving the ill-led Prussian Army back from the gates of Stralsund to Stettin. Having driven back the Prussian army, Hamilton began a siege of the city of Anklam, opening a parallel and a few batteries. 

The progress of the siege of Anklam
The Prussian commanders arriving in the region would soon attempt to rectify this state of affairs. Moving to the south, the Saxon/Silesian theater of war, on the new map: 

The Saxon/Silesian Theater of War (New Map)
And on the old map: 

Week 5: The Saxon/Silesian Sector (Old Map)
The main event of Week 5 in the Saxon/Lower Silesian sector was the Battle of Rittschen. After a few days of waiting, Prinz Henri, the brother of Prussian King Frederick the Great, launched an attack on the enemy. Prinz Henri, (a rather famous wargame designer), felt that his tactical acumen would be sufficient to overcome the slightly larger Reichsarmee force commanded by Gen d' Kav, Serbelloni. Serbelloni, historically, a lover a sweet drinks, Italian poetry, and beautiful women, calmly sipped his hot chocolate and awaited the Prussian advance. 

If last week's confrontation at Predmeritz was my favorite period of operational maneuvering in the campaign to date, the fight at Rittschen would have to be my favorite battle. Both players were experienced wargamers, and led their troops with appropriate confidence and panache.

The Prussian Columns cross a branch of the Spree, approaching the Austrian position
Henri got his army into position to attack by 8am, leading one column of marching troops himself. The Reichs-Executions Armee, expecting an attack directly from the north, were caught off balance, and quickly redeployed their men into the hedged fields facing Henri's chosen angle of attack. 

The Prussian Army deploys as the Reichsarmee scrambles into defensive positions
Henri, confident of victory, ordered a general advance across the entire line. The battlefield was crowded, and the Prussian cavalry did not have room to fully deploy according to Henri's initial disposition. 

The Prussian attack begins
In his disposition, Henri had called for the guns to arrive last, and so the battle began with an advance of the Prussian first line of infantry. On the Prussian left, their cavalry engaged the Reichsarmee horse, and drove them a considerable distance. The infantry advance was difficult initially, with a poor morale throw causing a Prussian musketeer battalion to falter. 

Prinz Henri attempts to rally his men, and directs his Grenadiers to charge
Henri directed his sole Grenadier battalion to attack the enemy flank and rear. 

The Prussian grenadiers clear the defensive works
This charge was devastating, causing two of the circle regiments of the Reichsarmnee to flee in disorder. The Prussian cavalry followed up this advance, fighting with their opposite numbers again, and driving them a considerable distance. At this point in the battle, Serbelloni was rather nervous, as his initial defensive positions had been pried out of his grasp. 

At this point, though, expecting better results, Prinz Henri ordered his second line infantry to assault the village. Placing himself in direct command of these troops, he led his men forward. 

A Prussian veteran of the encounter described the scene:
"Leading by example, the prince placed himself at the head of the first battalion of Frei Infanterie to hand, and led them in an assault on the village. Fired by his example, the men begin general attack on all fronts. Our men stormed forward, approaching a battery of 12pders on the village street. The phrases “Blutgasse” and “Hochkirch” flashed into my mind with no apparent cause. The Prince stretched himself into his stirrups, looking every inch of his 5’3” frame. Henri shouted, at the top of his slightly high-pitched voice, 'Kerls, wollt ihr ewig leben?!!'”
As the Prince and his men approached the enemy battery, the 12pders fired. 

The fatal moment at Rittschen
Henri and approximately 200 of his men were immediately down, hit by canister. The Prussian forces reeled from this news, sparking retreats across the battlefield. 

The Prussians break from the field at Rittschen
With the loss of their leader, the Prussian forces abandoned the fight, leaving Serbelloni the master of the field. Prinz Henri, informed of the seriousness of his wounds, replied that it was quite alright, he had some grading to do and could use a break. 

Somewhat stunned by this news, Serbelloni wrote this hasty note, scrawled on the back of some unfortunte Swabian, to Vienna: 

Your army defeated Prinz Heinrich von Preusse this 15th of April 1758.  It was a hard fought afternoon.  The Prussians lost 5500 men including 2000 prisoners taken.  Our forces were battered by 2500.  Thanks be to God and the stout hearts of Your Majesties valiant troops. 
We hear the King of Prussia is moving this way.  Rumor has it He and 70,000 could be in Gorlitz on the 20th.  I hope this means FM von Daun is hounding him out of Siliesia. 

Your Majesty's most humble servant, 
J.B. Graf Serbelloni, 


Turning back to the campaign at large, the King of Prussia was indeed on his way to Saxony, hastily marching in great strides. The Russians had a quiet week on the whole, and Generals Zieten and Tchernychev attempted to outdo one another in feats of horsemanship in la petite guerre. Tchernychev eventually eluded his pursuers, building a bridge at Beuthen, and crossing the Oder. 

Week 5: The Upper Silesian/Bohemian Sector
In the south, the Austrians, having completed their victorious siege of Neisse, moved their main army towards Königgrätz. The Army under Loudon resumed its operations, approaching Königgrätz from the west. Rather than become trapped by these forces, the Duke of Bevern marched at a furious pace directly to the north, abandoning the city and heading for Trautenau. He escaped a Maxenish fate by a day. 

The campaign seemed to be turning against the Prussians. With the army of the King moving between theaters, the Prussians had been defeated in Saxony, placed on the back foot in Pomerania, and driven out of Bohemia. All in all, the Swedes and Austrians had a successful week (and who can forget the valiant Russian sacrifices which made this all possible). Tune in next week, as the Austrians begin ambitious sieges at both Glatz and Schweidnitz, the Swedish General Hamilton faces new opponents in the north, and Frederick arrives in Saxony. 

Background and Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

If you enjoyed this post, or any of our other posts, please consider liking us on facebook, or following us on twitterConsider checking out our exclusive content on Patreon. Finally, we are dedicated to keeping Kabinettskriege ad-free. In order to assist with this, please consider supporting us via the donate button in the upper right-hand corner of the page. As always:

Thanks for Reading, 

Alex Burns

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Deep Dive on Uniform Research: The Pelisse Trim of the "Death's Head" Hussars

Accurate Vorstellung der sämtlich Koeniglichen Preusischen Armee
(Society of the Cincinnati Library, Washington, DC)

Dear Reader,

Today, I want to examine a topic near and dear to many of our hearts: researching the details of uniforms from the eighteenth century. Although this post follows one uniform detail and my search for answers regarding it, my hope is that it will provide enthusiasts and amateur historians of material culture with a step-by-step processes for evaluating and answering their own questions regarding uniforms and material culture from the eighteenth century.

Obviously, this is not a comprehensive guide on how to research material culture, nor is it is a comprehensive guide to eighteenth-century uniforms. For further advice on these matters, I highly recommend contacting archaeologists and specialists from your particular field of interest. For all eighteenth-century uniformology questions, Dr. Matthew Keagle at Fort Ticonderoga is an excellent place to begin. When his dissertation, 'An Uniform is Granted by all to be Absolutely Necessary’: A Cultural History of Military Dress in the Revolutionary Atlantic, is widely available, it will be a necessary starting point for understanding military dress. If you are new to this process, my first piece of advice is find someone who (regardless of their profession or credentials) has spent serious time doing primary research in your field of interest. If you need advice on who to contact for your specific question, feel free to reach out to me. I have many friends digging deep into the world of eighteenth-century uniforms.

Step 1: Formulate a Question. 

Several months ago, I became interested in the uniforms of one of the most iconic mid-eighteenth-century military units: The Reusch Hussars, or Hussar Regiment 5 of the Prussian Army. Colloquially, this regiment has received the "Death's Head" or Totenkopf, nickname as a result of the skull and crossbones which featured prominently on their mirlitons. As I looked more into this regiment's uniform, it became apparent that there was some disagreement regarding the color of the trim on the outer coat (or Pelisse) worn by the hussars. Some believed that the trim was black, the same color as the body of the Pelisse, others believed that it was white, contrasting sharply with the body of the coat. I had arrived at my question: During the reign of Frederick II,what color was the trim on the Pelisse of this hussar regiment?

Various examples of secondary sources 
Step 2:  Examine Multiple Secondary Sources to see if your question has been answered. 

For those not versed in the lingo of historians, a secondary source is distilled historical knowledge easily accessed by the public: a website, book, journal article, or dictionary could all be examples of secondary sources. When beginning research, it is extremely helpful to survey secondary sources, to see what others have written regarding your question. You may, in select cases, find that there is sufficient evidence in a secondary source to answer your question, ending the process. This step alone may satisfy your curiosity. As it often happens, however, secondary sources do not always agree. Casting about for more information regarding the trim of Hussar Regiment 5, I examined the secondary sources that I possessed around the house (Hans Bleckwenn, Dorn/Engelmann, and Hohrath) as well as looking for resources online, (such as Kronoskaf). In my case, the secondary sources disagreed. Hans Bleckwenn, the father of modern old Prussian army uniformology, indicated that the Pelisse of the hussars possessed a black trim. Likewise, Günter Dorn and Joachim Engelmann's book portrayed these hussars with a black trim. Kronoskaf, a Seven Years War themed wikipedia, indicated that the trim was black, but that certain visual primary sources indicated that was white. Finally, Daniel Hohrath indicated that the Pelisse was black, trimmed with white sheepskin, but provided no source for this assertion, except the period images already described by Kronoskaf.

Having looked at four secondary sources, I had not yet reached a definitive conclusion regarding my question. The source that I trusted the most as a result of its recent publication and depth of research (Hohrath), indicated one thing, while most of the older secondary sources asserted a different answer to the question. In the face of such disagreement, I concluded that my question had not been answered to my satisfaction. I did not simply choose to agree with the sources that I preferred, instead, I decided that it was time to proceed with my own evaluation of primary sources.

Plan von der Koeniglichen Preussischen Armee worinnen ein Officer und Gemeiner von Jeden Regiment zu Sehen
(Society of the Cincinnati Library, Washington, DC)

Step 3: View Multiple Primary Sources and evaluate their authority to answer your question.

Being unaware of any surviving examples of Pelisse from Hussar Regiment 5, I proceeded to the next most likely source: images of Hussar Regiment 5 drawn during the reign of Frederick II.  I found nine depictions of the Pelisse of Hussar Regiment 5. I have had the good fortunate to examine two of these groups of images in person at the Society of the Cincinnati Library, the rest were made available by the generosity of the institutions currently holding them. Of these depictions, 6 depicted the Hussars with white trim, 2 depicted them with black trim, and 1 depicted them with grey trim.

Using MS excel as a place to chart my progress, I evaluated the sources with reference to when and where they were created, their provenance in 2020, their accuracy in answering other questions, and their usage by secondary sources. By weight of numbers, white trim seemed to be the likely answer. One of the images which showed black trim, the Wellner Manuscript, had been discredited by previous usage when compared other agreeing sources. In some cases, my research would have ended here, but I still possessed lingering doubts, and so I proceeded to step 4.

Step 4: Do not rush to conclusions, assertions, or dissemination of your research. 

In the internet age, this is perhaps the most important and difficult step. Sharing research with interested friends is always a happy experience, but it is important to distance yourself from your project sufficiently to understand if you have reached a balanced conclusion. The careers of historians are often ruined by judgement calls made in error. Christopher Duffy's Ph.D mentor, Hugh-Trevor Roper, was (unfairly, perhaps) discredited as a historian when he authenticated the supposedly legitimate diaries of Adolf Hitler, and these diaries were later proven to be a careful forgery. It is better to sit on a project that you are unsure about, than rush to a conclusion which might be inaccurate. While sitting on such a project, it is possible to continue light research into it, leading us to step 5.

Step 5: Always keep your eyes open for new information, whether it agrees with your conclusion or not. 

Photograph of the Pelisse of a Prussian Hussar Regiment, Swedish Marine Museum
Over 2 months after first thinking about this question and evaluating the available primary sources, I was laying in bed, reading about the Battle of the Lagoon of Stettin in 1759. I was on the website of the Swedish Marine Museum, search for objects using Swedish langauge search terms.  As I did, an object jumped out at me. It was the Pelisse of a Prussian Hussar, likely dating from the Swedish naval descent on Brandenburg in 1759. Despite the lateness of the hour, I was immediately awake. This is the type of connection that historians live for. I immediately returned to Step 3, and began to evaluate the relevance of this object for answering my research question.

The Pelisse in its display case at the Swedish Marine Museum
The Hussar Pelisse had clearly been through a lot in the intervening two hundred years. It is possible that the coat had been modified, reconstructed by conservationists, and altered by its Swedish captors. Lace loops, ordinarily present in large numbers on the Pelisse, had been stripped off, likely by Swedish enlisted men looking to make a profit. The white sheepskin trim was matted, in some spots by what looked like blood, in other cases it was missing entirely. However, on the right cuff of the Pelisse, there was what appeared to be relatively intact white sheepskin wool trim.

Prussian Mirliton in the Swedish Marine Museum

There were no guarantees that this was a Pelisse from Hussar Regiment 5, at least initially. Hussar Regiment 8/9 also wore black Pelisse with white trim, although that regiment wore green braid loops on the breast of their Pelisse, and this coat, though most had been stripped, still possessed four white braid loops. Supporting evidence for the coat belonging to the Death's Head Hussars included the fact that the Swedish Marine Museum also possessed a Black Death's Head mirliton, with the same provenance of the Pelisse. The combination of the white braid loops, and Hussar Regiment 5 mirliton, lead me to believe that tentatively, we should attribute this Pelisse to Hussar Regiment 5. Now, for step 6: what does it all mean? 

Step 6: Formulate an answer to your question. 

Based upon the existing evidence, both from visual sources and from existing material objects, it now seemed more likely to me that during the reign of Frederick II, Prussian Hussar Regiment 5 possessed white fur trim on their Pelisse. The combination of quality and quantity in terms of visual primary sources, combined a likely surviving example of the object under study leads me to assert that the Pelisse of the Reusch Hussars possessed white trim during at least a portion of the reign of Frederick II, and likely did so during the Seven Years War. 

Uniformes Prussien et Saxonne
Step 7: Share the answer to your question. 

In public history, answering your questions is only useful if  you share your findings with others. This step is easy, I have just done it above.

I hope this has been a helpful guide, which will enable you to answer your own questions regarding uniforms in the eighteenth century. Research into material culture is extremely rewarding, as a result of the wide array of primary sources that can be utilized in the course of answering questions.

If you enjoyed this post, or any of our other posts, please consider liking us on facebook, or following us on twitterConsider checking out our exclusive content on Patreon. Finally, we are dedicated to keeping Kabinettskriege ad-free. In order to assist with this, please consider supporting us via the donate button in the upper right-hand corner of the page. As always:

Thanks for Reading, 

Alex Burns

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

SYW Wargame Campaign Report: Week 4

The climax of the Battle of Predmeritz

Dear Reader,

Today, I am reporting on the fourth week of the Seven Years War Campaign which I have been umpiring over the last two months. You can find links to previous weeks at the bottom of the post. Beginning in the middle of March, the campaign is ongoing and still in progress. The period of time for today's post is roughly April 8th-14th. Below is a map for those dates.

Week 4 Map (April 8th-April 14th) 
Here is a brief summary for this week. Prinz Henri of Prussia and Gen d' Cav Serbelloni maneuvered close to one another in the northwest, in Saxony. In the north, Frederick moved south towards Breslau, reaching the town after a week of movement. Both the Russians and General Ziethen's army (left by Frederick in the north) eyed one another warily with little movement. In the south, Lacy and his raiding party returned to Neisse. In an active siege, the defenders of Fort Preussen at Neisse detonated two globes de compression, there was an ill-conceived attempt by the Neisse garrison leading to high casualties and prisoners, and finally, an Austrian assault which took the city, leading the garrison commander at Ft. Preussen to consider surrender. Finally, Prussian forces under the Duke of Bevern clashed with a small Austrian army commanded by Loudon at Königgrätz.

Close-up of the Northern Theater
In the North, Prinz Henri moved his army down towards Bautzen via Cottbus. Gen d'Cav Serbelloni moved across the Goerlitz, and then proceeded north to Rittschen on the road to Cottbus, fortifying the crossing of the branch of the Spree directly in front of him. Henri and Serbelloni squared off, preparing to fight for control of Saxony.

In the Russian theater, Zieten, the Hussar King, moved his forces back across the Oder, keeping an eye on the Russians at Meseritz, while the Royal Army under Frederick II moved south towards Breslau, reaching Breslau on the 14th of April.

In the southern area of operations, the siege of Neisse was brought to a conclusion. The week opened with the defenders countermining, and detonating two large explosive charges beneath the Austrian approaches. These globes de compression did not kill many enemy soldiers, as a result of the quick actions of FM Neipperg, a man of great experience in the wars, who realized the enemy intention before it was too late.
Tresckow leads the men forward from the Glacis at Fort Preussen

The valiant Prussian commander, Tresckow, next sought to delay the enemy by a sortie, which was conducted on April 10th. This sortie managed to spike a few guns, but cost the Prussians 1,200 casualties, all in all a disastrous result for the garrison. The Austrians assaulted the city on the night of April 13th. Although the wet ditch was not dried, they had spent two weeks cutting sufficient fascines for the creation of a causeway. The defenders of the city were reduced to 800 men, Tresckow having withdrawn most of the men to Fort Preussen. These men were massacred by the Grenzer leading the attack, who then ransacked the city with considerable destruction of property and a small loss of life. The already propogandic press in Berlin could not have hoped for a better outcome. Daun called for Tresckow to surrender Fort Preussen, which he did on April 14th. His men were allowed to march out freely, but had to surrender their arms and cannons.
Briefing received by Bevern, April 8th, at Königgrätz. 

In Bohemia, a different sort of campaign was unfolding. The Duke of Bevern, having occupied  Königgrätz with his light forces for some time, had reached that city with his entire army (approximately 26,000) in the preceding week. Ernst Gideon von Loudon, approaching from Prague with a slightly smaller army of 19,000 men, took up positions on high ground east of the Elbe. In a first for this campaign, both Loudon and Bevern carefully maneuvered in the immediate area of the enemy before committing to battle. This maneuvering lasted for two days, and was one of the most enjoyable portions of the campaign for the umpire to date.

Battle of Predmeritz: Königgrätz is at the bottom of the picture,
Predmeritz is in the center left. 

In the early hours of April 10th, a small body of Austrian forces crossed the river north of the city, were met by Prussian forces, and chased back across the river. This brought on the Battle of Predmeritz an der Elbe, (called Battle of Swiet by the Austrians). The Prussians opened the battle by moving across the river, attacking the village of Predmeritz which was held by enemy infantry. A cavalry battle broiled north of the village, with the Prussians inflicting losses on Austrians cuirassiers who stubbornly refused to quit the field. Loudon had deftly planned to use villages as strongpoints, forcing the enemy to suffer attrition before. attacking his main line.

The view from the east, 11am.  Predmeritz is under heavy attack
by Prussian grenadiers
Eventually, the Cuirassiers were forced to retire beyond Swiet, and the Prussians focused considerable attention on Predmeritz, taking it by noon after an hour and a half of fighting. The Prussians continued their advance, but were wary about moving directly from Königgrätz, as the enemy had cavalry and artillery covering the crossing of the Elbe in that quarter.

2pm: The attack on Swiet begins. Both Bevern and Loudon can be seen in this photo
 At approximately 2pm, the Prussians continued their attack, storming the village of Swiet, which changed hands three times in the course of heavy village fighting. The Duke of Bevern was wary of committing to a full attack with only his forces to the north of Königgrätz, as his men had already taken heavy losses assaulting Predmeritz. Loudon, too, was concerned about redeploying his men to concentrate solely on the battle for Swiet, as the enemy still possessed a corps of 6,000 men in Königgrätz.

Crisis of the Battle: 3pm
The crisis point of the battle arrived when Bevern, unwilling to continue the attack without his 6,000 man reserve from Königgrätz, ordered them to march across the river. This drew a charge from Loudon's remaining cuirassiers, and a countercharge from Bevern's waiting cuirassiers. Both of these charges would draw opportunity fire from batteries in the area. Bevern's horsemen were turned back by the flanking fire from the Austrian hilltop guns, but the fire from the Prussian battery also halted Loudon's 2 remaining squadrons, and the Prussian infantry were able to get across the Elbe in an uncontested movement.

The table at the Austrian decision to withdraw
At this point, Loudon, realizing that Bevern would have the advantage in a continued contest, decided to withdraw his forces. The Austrians had already inflicted 6,000 casualties on the Prussians, suffering over 3,000 of their own, and Loudon believed, correctly, that he had represented the honor of the Queen of Hungary quite well. Loudon's forces withdrew to Chlumetz, to lick their wounds, while the Duke of Bevern immediately sent raiding parties south to reconnoiter the border of Moravia. Both sides would remain in their positions for roughly the next week.

The campaign stood at a vital crossroads. With the addition of more players, the umpire made the decision to change to a larger map, encompassing a greater theater of war (the new map is below). The King of Prussia, having reached Breslau, had to make a critical decision of where to employ his army next. The Austrians, have taken Neisse, were free to choose their next target in the ongoing liberation of Silesia. In Saxony, Prinz Henri and Serbelloni faced off in what was sure to be a bloody encounter. Though victorious, Bevern's Prussian force was increasingly isolated in Bohemia.

Background and Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

If you enjoyed this post, or any of our other posts, please consider liking us on facebook, or following us on twitterConsider checking out our exclusive content on Patreon. Finally, we are dedicated to keeping Kabinettskriege ad-free. In order to assist with this, please consider supporting us via the donate button in the upper right-hand corner of the page. As always:

Thanks for Reading, 

Alex Burns