Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Barry's little Scanian War project part 2 - WHAT TO WEAR?

Soren Christiansen's magnificent Swedish Lifeguard
Barry Hilton - Inspired as I was by Soren Christiansen and Michael Leck's use of Warfare Miniatures in the construction of their forces for the Battle of Lund I decided to use similar codes.

There is much conjecture over dress and equipment of the period 1670 - 1700 across all European armies. Typically the debate rages around;

GNW Swede in a karpus hat
Head gear
When did troops start to fashion their hats into the three cornered shape known for posterity as a Tricorne? Evidence seems to exist that this style was known as early as the 1680s although it was not universally adopted. It is also clear that well into the 18th century soldiers and civilians continued to wear their hat brims wide or turned up on one or two sides. When did black hats begin to predominate and was that fashion convention universally adopted? The adornment of a tape or lace trim on the hat must have begun sometime but when? How robust was this and how easily did it fray and tarnish?

Danish infantryman in black hat
In Scandinavia both the Danes and Swedes wore warm peasant style caps known by various names but commonly called a karpus in Swedish. Who wore these is the question. Officers? the other ranks? Were they mixed amongst units or ranks or were there dress conventions? All fascinating stuff!

Coats & waistcoats
Coat style, length and cut all present challenges. Pocket size shape and orientation too. Vertical? Horizontal? Scalloped? Saw toothed? Straight edged? What about buttons on cuffs or not? Vents in the coat back buttoned or not?

Sleeve length creates yet more problems. When did the turned up cuff move from just below the elbow to round the wrist? Waistcoats are often thought to be the cut down remnants of previous year's worn out coats.Was this always the case or did people have specific garments tailored? What about the colour... was it that of the new coat's lining or not? The Swedes of Karl XII turned back the skirts of their coats but when did this fashion begin and was it always followed? Did other armies do it as early as the Swedes?

WLOA80-87 codes as Danish infantry Weyer's Regiment 
The adoption of blue as a standard uniform colour by the Swedes often seems to be coincidental with the Great Northern War 1700-1721 yet a painting by Cederholm of the army at prayer at Fraustadt 1706 shows the cavalrymen in turned back buff coats. Similarly perplexing are illustrations such as Vucksic & Grabasic's Swedish cavalryman during the Lund period (1676) with turned back and piped buff coat.

The Danish Footguards - Grand Alliance period
With the introduction of flintlock musket technology the big question is when did people change from matchlock? What were the mixes of matchlock to flintlock? When did armies abandon the Thirty Years War style '12 apostle' bandoliers and adopt bullet bags on the right hip or little cartridge boxes on the front of the waistbelt? Who got bayonets and from what year?

Aalborgske Regiment - bullet bag equipment
Similar conjecture exists around various aspects of cavalry dress and equipment. When did the riding boots become universally black? Who wore armour? When did the Swedes move away from the buff coat? What colour were pistol holsters and when did the cloth covers appear. Was this a universal trend or not? Did dragoons carry pistols? What shape were saddle cloth ends rounded or square? When did coloured saddle cloths with trim in a contrasting colour begin to appear?

Swede 1678 Vuksic & Grbasic - True or false?
If you are confused, don't worry! This is the standard mental condition for fans of the period and is not restricted to the Scanian War but extends well into the 18th century. It provides us with enormous scope for interpretation and ideal fodder for some lively debate.

Join me for the next part of the series where I will be turning mountains of unpainted lead into mountains of painted lead.


  1. Great article Barry - I think the Vuksic & Grbasic plate is very close to what they'd actually have looked like. Two things adding to the plate's credibility; first the hat is garnished with a little bundle of yellow hay. That was the Swedish field sign at Lund. Secondly the elk hide buff coat (Kyller in Swedish). These might be a Swedish cavalry inheritance from the days of great feats under Gustavus Adolphus, but either way the thick and durable quality of the Elk hide, which the Swedes have a natural access too, gave them a distinct advantage in combat, as the coat would protect against cavalry melee cuts, and absorb splinters and fragments from gun fire deflected on the breast plate. The Danes were so impressed by the effectiveness and quality of the Swedish buff coats (no Elks in Denmark), that they relished any chance to plunder a dead or dying swede of his precious coat. So both side wore these, but for many of the Danes it was "borrowed" equipment. I'll return soon with pictures from Copenhagen, where the Royal Danish Army Museum have one of these priced coats, captured from an unfortunate Swede at Lund, on display.

    1. Interesting comment on the Danes valuing Swedish buff coats. T. Snorrason wrote essentially the same thing regarding Danish buff coats during the WSS. Do you have a source or sources that support this?

  2. From what I have read for us Swedes in the Scanian War:

    Headgear: It could be either kapurs or an slouch-hat that could be black or sometimes brown. All variants could occur in the same regiment, but headgear was usually uniform within companies. As far as I know was the kapurs only a part of the uniform for privates and NCO-s.

    Coats & waistcoats: I have not found any information at all about cut or shape and (barely enough) information about colours of the coats and waistcoats.

    Equipment: As far as I know was match-locks and wheel locks used long after the Scanian War, at least in to the 1680s in thecase of the fuse-lock. The twelve apostles is never mentioned in my sources for the Swedes, but my guess is that newly raised reserve units and peasant militias could be equipped with the twelve apostles as they might have been armed with outdated equipment from the arsenals. The bayonet showed up in Sweden in the Great Northern War and first among grenadiers.

    Cavalry: I guess the cavalry-boots became black for everyone in the 1680s. The usage of armour and buffcoats varied among Swedish cavalry in the Scanian War. While the goal seem to have been all units in armour and buffcoat, reality was something different. Elites like Livgardet till Häst seems to have had the full equipment, regular cavalry, like Småland's seems to have had buffcoats and in addition armour foras many troopers, as possible. The reinforcement cavalry units like Adelsfanans dubblering i Svealand had an cobbeled together look to them as they often were wearing ordinary uniform coats because of the severe shortage of buffcoats and armour in these units. Same was true with weapons, the more high-ranking the regiment.

    Don't know about the colour of pistol holsters, altough I think I remember a comment where a cavalry regiment has blue pistol holsters...

    And I'm even less sure on the part of dragoon pistols. I think I remember something about a unit of dragoons having pistols. Bohus Dragonregemente I think it was...

  3. Very interesting blogpost Barry and good comments by Sören and Anonymous

    Looking forward to read more.

    Best regards Michael

  4. The rest of the series flows out from this start. I will present ways of quickly painting and fielding units, ways of dressing the bases for different seasons and feature some of the units. There are already 8 blog posts in the series ready to appear and others will be constructed to compliment.

  5. Glad you liked my post Dalauppror. I return the favour by complimenting you and your friends for really interesting and inspiering blogs based on Swedish history.

    There seems to have been quite a few units with wierd uniforms. Un-uniformed militia and new recuits, units wearing several different uniforms. (Amalgamed units and/or several different versions of the uniform.) Uniforms of undyed cloth exept on the cufs, which tended to be in the ordinary colour...

  6. Anonymous, it would be good to know who you are! Is this Tacitus?


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