Russian Cuirassiers Uniforms

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Introduction

Sources describing the Russian cuirassier uniforms widely differ. Most German sources seem to be based on the description of the uniform initially published in the work of the German Großer Generalstab on the wars of Frederick II ('see the “References” section of this article for more detail). They depict a blue coat. For their part Russian sources depict a thick leather chamois coat. Kronoskaf has beased its description on the Russian sources.

The mention of blue uniforms can be explained by two reasons:

  1. The Russian cuirassiers wore heavy a thick leather coat for active duty. This coat was quite cumbersome and was replaced by a blue coat made of cloth while not on active duty.
  2. Three of the six Russian cavalry regiments were in fact dragoon regiments who had been transformed into cuirassier regiments a few month before the outbreak of the Seven Years' War (March 1756). During the first years of the conflict, these former dragoon regiments retained their original dragoon uniforms, which included blue coats.

To further complicate the matter, cuirassiers also had parade uniforms which were similar to the uniform worn on active duty to the exception of the chamois coat which was replaced by a buff leather jerkin (Kollet) similar to the one worn by the Prussian cuirassiers.

Finally, some authors pretend that the Russian cuirassier got rid of their thick chamois coat during summer, wearing their breastplate directly on their sleeved red waistcoat. This hypothesis seems quite unlikely because:

  • it would have been very uncomfortable to wear a breastplate directly over a waistcoat made of cloth;
  • the thick chamois coat offered a much better protection.

Hat and Fatigue Cap

The Russian cuirassiers wore black felt tricornes (reinforced with an iron skullcap for combat). This tricorne was laced gold and had a white cockade on its left side fastened with a white strap and a small copper button

Coat, Waistcoat, Breeches

Service uniform in 1757 - Source: Frédéric Aubert

The service uniform consisted of:

  • A thick chamois coat lined and edged in red and fastened with hooks and eyes. This coat was laced in red on the collar, cuffs and turnbacks.
  • A sleeved red waistcoat fastened with hooks and eyes.
  • Buff breeches with white knee covers.


Tenue quotidienne in 1757 - Source: Frédéric Aubert

When not on active duty, the thick chamois coat was replaced by a blue coat made of cloth.

Boots, Gaiters, Shoes

All line cavalry wore knee-length cavalry boots.

Armament and Leather Equipment

Every trooper was equipped with a sword, a pair of pistols, and a short carbine.

The bandoleer was made of natural leather while the waistbelt was white> The cartridge box was made of black leather with a copper front plate carrying the regimental arms

Horse, saddlery and harnessing

The saddlecloth and housings were red without lace.

Peculiarites of Kettle-drummers and Trumpeters

Musicians wore uniforms similar to those of the troopers with the following distinctions:

  • swallow nests at the shoulders

The kettle-drum and the trumpets were usually made of copper. Exceptionally, the Lifeguards as well as the first company of the Prince Fedorovitch Cuirassiers and the 3rd Cuirassier had silver instrument. The banners were of the colour of the field of the squadron standards. The banner of the kettle-drum was embroidered and fringed in gold.

Peculiarites of Non Commissioned Officers

Corporals, armourers, quartermasters and sergeants wore uniforms similar to those of the troopers with the following distinctions:

  • gold stripes above the red lace on collar, lapels and cuffs (1 stripe for corporals, 2 stripes for armourers and quartermasters, 3 stripes for sergeants)

Peculiarites of Officers

Officers wore uniforms similar to those of the troopers but made of cloth instead of leather and with the following distinctions:

  • golden laced tricorne bordered with golden plumes
  • gold stripes on the red lace of the coat edges, collar, lapels and cuffs (thin 1/3” stripe for subaltern officers and large 3/4” stripe for superior officers)
  • red waistcoat edged with a chamois braid carrying a gold stripe (thin 1/3” stripe for subaltern officers and large 3/4” stripe for superior officers)
  • red breeches
  • black and gold silken sash worn over the breastplate
  • red saddlecloth and housings laced gold (thin 1/2” stripe for subaltern officers, one thin 1/2” stripe and one wide 1” stripe for superior officers) carrying the imperial cipher

Sometimes, for sulbaltern officers, the holster caps were edged with blue lace.

References

Großer Generalstab, Kriegsgeschichtliche Abteilung II (Publisher). Die Kriege Friedrichs des Großen, Part 3: Der Siebenjährige Krieg 1756–1763. Vol. 4 Groß-Jägersdorf und Breslau, Berlin 1902

  • chapter A: Das Kaiserlich Russiche Heer, page 1-46
  • appendix: supplement 1, Das Kaiserlich Russiche Heer, page 3-18

Konstam, Angus, and Bill Younghusband; Russian Army of the Seven Years War, vol. 2, Osprey Military, London, Reed International, 1996

Schirmer, Friedrich, Die Heere der kriegführenden Staaten 1756-1763, published by the KLIO-Landesgruppe Baden-Württemberg, Neuauflage 1989

Viskovatov, A. V., Historical Description of the Clothing and Arms of the Russian Army, vol. 3, Petersburg: 1900

Ziegler, Volker: Die Russische Kavallerie zur Zeit des 7-jährigen Krieges (1756-1763), in: Jahrbuch der Gesellschaft für hessische Militär- und Zivilgeschichte, vol. 4, 2007, pp. 62-80

Zweguintzov, L'Armee Russe, 1973