Prussian Line Infantry Uniform

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Hierarchical Path: Seven Years' War (Main Page) >> Armies >> French Army >> Prussian Line Infantry Uniform

Introduction

Starting in June 2024, we will revise all the uniform plates and flags of the Prussian line infantry – musketeer as well as fusilier regiments. As our anonymous illustrator was revising these plates, it happened that Ibrahim90, who is maintaining our page Colour Chart, was conducting research on the dyeing industry in the 18th century. The books which he consulted, presented colour swatches of the most commonly used colours. Based on these books, Ibrahim has proposed a tentative colour scheme for the various infantry regiments of the Prussian Army. Some of his suggestions widely depart from the traditional iconography for Prussian troops of the Seven Years’ War. For example, the "white" waistcoats and breeches of the infantry are not pure white in Ibrahim's proposal.

Even though our revised plates in each individual article will use the “traditional” colour palette, we wanted to present Ibrahim’s interpretation in a dedicated section of the present article.

Two Interpretations of the Uniform Plates

The following plates compare the musketeer and fusilier uniforms that our illustrator has created using the traditional colour palette (left) and the same uniform based on Ibrahim’s research (right). Several colours are almost identical but other are quite different.

Please note that we cannot prove that Ibrahim’s interpretation is totally exact, it is more an attempt to figure out the look of the uniforms based on information about the dyeing techniques of the 18th century combined with colour swatches of the period which have probably changed in the last 250 years… Furthermore, several other factors would have influenced the final result for a batch of uniforms: density of the material, quality of the cloth, the mordant used, the pigment agent, immersion time and temperature, manufacturer and several other factors. That is not even considering the fact that these colours usually faded rather rapidly as soon as the uniforms were worn on a daily basis.

Our first example is the uniform of the Infanterie Regiment Nr. 1 Winterfeldt.

Uniform of the Infanterie Regiment Nr. 1 Winterfeldt
traditional colour palette (left) vs Ibrahim’s interpretation (right)
Copyright: Kronoskaf

Our second example is the uniform of the Infanterie Regiment Nr. 40 Kreytzen.

Uniform of the Infanterie Regiment Nr. 40 Kreytzen
traditional colour palette (left) vs Ibrahim’s interpretation (right)
Copyright: Kronoskaf

Headwear

Hat

overall design

Prussian soldiers at this time wore cocked hats, similar to those in fashion during the 1750s and 1760s; this was not yet the bicorne or bicorn-like hats of later times, nor was it like the "Ramillies" style hats popular in British and French service. These were invariably made of black felt, though prior to 1786, this was to be made of camel hair. It is unclear if the Prussians could consistently produce hats in this material during the War. A button--where the cockade went--would be attached to the left front side of the brim. Surviving hats are unlined, save for a pigskin sweatband.

The crown of the hat had a cordon tassel, at each end of which was a tassel specific to the regiment of the wearer. A pompon was mounted vertically above the button; the surviving examples from 1786 suggest that the pompon was specifically stuck to the crown of the hat.

In keeping with common practice, the hat was worn with the front corner directly above the left eye.

Cockade

The Cockade--when worn--was generally black. The material and size depended on the time and rank of the soldier. Silk and wool were both possible.

Grenadier mitre

Grenadier mitres during this time had front plates that were c. 20 cm tall (in practice, it varied slightly). These plates were generally made of brass, which in certain regiments could be tinned or silvered. The brass plates were stamped with designs that are typically specific to the regiment. Some regiments also had painted or enamel decorations added to the plate (e.g., IR-12).

The bag of the mitre was made of milled wool estamine (similar to the lining of some officer coat uniforms), as was the crest, which was a folded-over band of estamine that formed a band with peaks and troughs, that varied by regiment. This crest can be the same color as the bag itself, or a contrasting color. The bag was reinforced on the inside not only by the mitre plate, but also by struts of whalebone, whose locations can be seen on the outside by the location of the three braids that were sown along the length of the bag. The same braid was sewn along the top of the crest. The bag was peaked with a pompon, which gave the mitre an overall height of ~23.5 cm. There were exceptions: IR-3 and IR-10 used lace braid, and IR-12 used metal clasps.

The inner lining itself was generally of linen. A reinforcing braid of wool (not the same as the decorative braid), was sown onto either side of the crown, along its lower edge. This kept the cap on the soldier's head.

Fusilier mitre

Fusilier mitres also used 20 cm brass plates, stamped with the same dyes as the grenadier plate. However, the cap behind the plate was not held up by whalebone struts, but by cardbord, which was then typically covered in wool estamine. The crest--as with the grenadier model--was also reinforced with cardboard, and this too was generally covered in estamine. However, this was not universal: IR-46 used black silk satin. For IR-42, 43, and 45, the cap was covered in black oil-cloth. Metal clasps decorated the cap, though no lace or metal was used to line the top of the crests, as was done for grenadiers. However, as with the grenadiers, the crest did come with brass pieces in the shape of grenades and bombs. The clasps met at the top by a stylized grenade, which terminated just under the top of the mitre plate. All brass fittings were attached with brass wires.

The lining of the mitre was, as with the grenadiers, made of linen. A braided length of horsehair was then sewn in, to keep the cap in place.

Coat, Waistcoat, Breeches

The general style of uniform was introduced no later than 1718, and up to the 1740s was considered something of a curiosity unique to Prussia. This curiosity becomes understandable when the Prussian style is compared to the large-cuffed, knee-length full coats common to armies of the period. Thus, it was only after the War of Austrian Succession that other armies began to copy part or all aspects of the Prussian style.

Before 1753, it was not unusual for the uniform of a given regiment to change on the accession of a new colonel. The uniform regulations of 1753 ended this practice, and all units (with minor exceptions) would adhere to the broad specifications provided therein for each regiment until Frederick's death in 1786. The only differences appear to have been to the specific cut (which tended to be tighter with time), and a change in hat style.

Coat

The coat was for the time quite tight-fitting, though generous compared to surviving examples of Frederician uniforms, which largely date to the end of Frederick's reign. The coat was, as of 1733, to be made with 2.5625 cubits of wool cloth. Enlisted ranks and NCO coats only extended to mid-thigh, or about where a full outstretch hand could reach. The outer fabric of the common coat was made of so-called Montierungstuch--essentially similar to English milled bay; this meant that on new uniforms, the weave of the cloth was obscured by the milling and napping. The threads were relatively coarse, and the weave loose. Officer uniforms were, in contrast, made of wool broadcloth, which was more tightly woven and used finer thread, and was so thoroughly felted that it had a slight shimmer; this completely hid the weave of the fabric. If similar to British examples, this cloth would have also been pre-shrunk.

For most infantry units, the outer fabric was a shade of dark blue, which is often nowadays called "Prussian blue". However, the term at the time did not refer to this color, but to a pale blue color also known as Saxon blue. Surviving uniforms--especially of officers--instead show a shade similar to what period French sources called "Bleu de Roi" which was a very deep and vivid shade of blue, similar to the modern understanding of "Prussian Blue". Due to the lower quality of enlisted uniforms, surviving examples are generally faded relative to this color, though period paintings suggest that originally, the colors of both officer and enlisted uniforms' outer fabrics were, at least when new, quite similar (this is in contrast with British soldiers, where the madder red of the enlisted soldiers contrasts with the scarlet of the officers). As with original Bleu de Roi samples, this color was achieved generally with indigo, though woad was also a possible dyestuff.

The coat for enlisted ranks was typically lined in baize, which was a type of very loosely woven, coarse-threaded cloth, and which for most infantry units was red-colored. One surviving example--albeit from a Dragoon unit--suggests that for some units, flannel could be used; this can be distinguished from baize by its napped appearance, which partly obscured the weave. Officer's coats were lined in a variety of non-milled woolen cloths, such as estamine, wool sateen, or wool twill.

For most regiments raised before Frederick the Great's accession, the cuffs were round, in a style introduced early in Frederick William's reign. For units raised after 1740 and the Guard, the norm was for so-called "Swedish cuffs", which were slashed triangular cuffs. Where applicable, the coat came with lapels and collars, which on examples from the 1780s are non-functional. However, this lack of functionality may have been an economy measure only introduced after the Seven Years' War, perhaps mediated by fashion, which increasingly favored tighter-fitting coats with less generous skirts. Another effect was to the cut of the sleeve itself: in period depictions, the sleeves were actually quite short by modern standards, and so revealed not only the shirt cuff, but a little of the shirtsleeve itself. By 1786, the coat sleeves were longer and more tightly fitted.

Prussian Grenadiers of IR12 Erbprinz von Hessen-Darmstadt. Note the more generous skirts compared to surviving uniforms, and the slightly exposed shirtsleeves- Source: Kling, C., Geschichte der Bekleidung, Bewaffnung und Ausrüstung des Königlich Preussischen Heeres
Sers Fusiliers Private, c. 1792; note the longer coat sleeve, which covers all of the shirtsleeve, and much (if not all) of the cuff. It is unclear if what is showing is the lower cuff, or ruffles. - Source: Horvath, C. C., Friedrichs II. König von Preussen Armee-Montirungen…

For enlisted infantry uniforms, the turnbacks were generally secured in place by a button sewn to a tab on the back of the skirt, a matching tab with a buttonhole was present on the front end of the skirt. Surviving examples show these tabs are by and large integral to the outer fabric of the coat.

Regardless of rank, all uniforms were tailored to the wearer. Thus, there were no set sizes as in modern uniforms, and soldiers generally couldn't simply swap coats directly, but needed modification (if even possible).

Waistcoat

The waistcoat during this period was sleeveless and colarless. As with the coat, the outer fabric was also made of Montierungstuch. The sole surviving example--from IR-15 and dated c. 1786--is lined with linen (this would have been made either of flax--as would be expected--or hemp). The waistcoat was buttoned down with 12 buttons of the same size and material as that used on the coat. Waistcoats from the 1750s would have been similar, except that the front edge would have been almost completely straight, unlike the 1786 example, where the front edge was cut quite diagonally under the buttons. This can be seen in period depictions of the Prussian soldiers.

Grenadier of the II battalion in 1759; the cut of the waistcoat can be seen here, and slightly differs from the surviving example from c. 1786. Additionally, the coat sleeve was relatively short, which can be seen with the exposed sleeve. - Source: Engraving by von Schmalen, Nürnberg 1759

Breeches

Breeches were high-waisted by modern standards and cut to a length sufficient to cover the leg four fingers below the knee, and in a sufficiently generous cut that a man could bend his leg without tearing or even stretching the fabric; the cut around the loins was to be comfortable, but without causing wrinkles. By 1773, linen straps were used to tie down the breeches at the knee, but it is unclear if this was the case during the Seven Years' War, or if buttons or straps were used instead.

During the summer, linen breeches could be used. Otherwise, the breeches were made of the same Montierungstuch as the waistcoat.

Gaiters and Shoes

Gaiters

Gaiters were cut to a length sufficient to cover no more than the middle of the soldier's knee. They were cut tight enough to (ideally) not be wrinkled, but not too tight to prevent their being donned by fingers alone (over-tight gaiters at this time were often donned with the help of hook and possibly guide threads); the buttons also had to be in a line when worn. No garter was provided for the gaiter, unlike in British or French service. The gaiter itself was simply made of wool, with the lining along the button row made of linen.

Aside from IR-15, whose gaiters had tin buttons, the rest of the army was to use brass gaiter buttons. This was the case even for units that used pewter for their uniform buttons. This was likely as brass is more durable. than pewter.

Surviving examples--from IR-15 and dated c. 1786--exhibit 13 buttons, and period depictions seem to broadly confirm this, though some variation may have been present in practice (see the above IR-12 depictions).

White gaiters were discontinued for campaign service after the first years of the war, and were only retained for parade service for IR-6 and IR-15 after the war. Instead, gaiters on campaign were invariably black. These black gaiters were first introduced in 1744, initially for winter wear.

To wear the gaiter, the soldier was expected to button the lowermost part of the gaiter, and then pull up, to remove as much wrinkling as possible. This process was continued as the soldier buttoned up the gaiters. The buttons were to be polished with a "sharp" (i.e., coarse) brush using emery and brandy.

Shoes

Shoes were made of blackened cow leather, square-toed, and did not have distinct right and left sides. It seems that, as with the British Army (which issued similarly interchangeable shoes), these would have been alternated every day, to keep the shoes from becoming crooked (i.e., developing creases). The hair side of the leather was on the outside of the shoe, whereas the rough flesh side was on the inside. The shoe was secured with a buckle. In keeping with period fashion, the heels were relatively high by modern standards.

Leather Equipment

Cartrdige pouch

Prussian infantry cartridge pouches Were made of cow leather, with four parts. These were sewn together with coarse linen (flax or hemp) thread. The cartridge box was blackened and coated with black pigment, gum arabic, and wax on the hair side. This method was used to protect the leather itself and the threads, which made for a longer-lasting pouch. The side and rear panels of leather were lined with elk hide. An additional pouch was sew onto the front panel, covered by the cartridge pouch lid. This was a place to store flints and musket maintenance tools (e.g., picks, wisks, etc.).

Within the pouch was a block of wood, which held 30 cartridges. An additional 30 cartridges were carried in a linen bag under the block (thus hidden from view), for a total of 60 rounds of ammunition. The overall dimension of the pouch, as measured via the lid, was ~21x30, with the latter expanding to a maximum of 34 cm. The box itself was ~19x27x9 cm; in practice, both varied noticeably. The central badge varied in size, but was typically around 12 cm across.

Nearly all infantry regiments had on the lid of the cartridge pouch a circular or oval brass plate. On this was embossed a variety of badges, the most common of which were either a variation on the king's crest, or the Prussian eagle surrounded by trophies. Grenadiers, and many fusilier regiments, would have also had four grenades placed on the corners of the lid. These grenades could have flames coming from one side (usually pointed toward the central plate), or four flames. All brass pieces were set in with pre-made holes via eyes soldered on, and held in place by leather straps.

The straps of the cartridge pouch were made either of chamois or elk leather, with the outside painted white. The width of the bandolier varied slightly, but was generally c. 11 cm across. The two ends of the bandolier were connected to the cartridge box to that they would be side by side.

Peculiarities of Drummers

To do

Peculiarities of Officers

To do

References

Cardon, Dominique: The Dyer's handbook: Memoirs of an 18th century master colourist, Oxbow Books, 2016

Cardon, Dominique and Iris Bremaud: Workbook, Antoine Janot's colors, CNRS Editions, 2021

Cardon, Dominique: "Paul Gout's 157 colours"

Horvath, Daniel, Zimmer, Judith, and Boxberger, Elizabeth: The Uniforms of the Prussian Army under Frederick the Great from 1740 to 1786 (vol. 1-2), Deutches Historisches Museum, Berlin, 2011

Acknowledgements

Ibrahim90 for the research on the uniforms of the Prussian line infantry