Russian Line Infantry Uniform

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Introduction

Hat and Fatigue Cap

Guards

Guards wore tricorne with linear or scalloped golden edge, button and link of the cockade. Preobrazenskiy had broad and scalloped edge, Semenovskiy narrow and scalloped, Izmailovskiy linear.

Musketeers

The headgear was a tricorne (Model 1742) in black woolen felt lined in white, a white cockade on the left, fixed by a bronze button.

Grenadiers

It is quite difficult to know what type of mitres were worn by Russian grenadiers during the Seven Years War. A standard model had been introduced in 1731. Between 1743 and 1756, this model seems to have been unofficially modified, at least in some units. Then a new model was approved in 1756 but soon considered as very uncomfortable. Thus, at the end of 1758, grenadiers were allowed to use a combination of older models or fatigue caps ornamented with the front plate of the M1756 mitre… Viskovatov thought that the M1731 mitre was replaced by M1756 without the introduction of any experimental models between 1742 and 1756. He knew about the modified M1731 mitres but noted that, according to the information he had, these mitres were just the models that were not approved as standard. That is why Viskovatov did not describe these mitres neither as 1742-1756 models nor as 1759-1761 models. However, modern historians got access to additional written notes of that period, e.g. information that in 1749 officers of Nevskiy Infantry ordered a “new-manner” front plate similar to those “already used in Sankt-Peterburgskiy and Voronezhskiy regiments”. Therefore, the mitres of Bjeloserskiy Infantry and Rostovskiy Infantry are nowadays considered to be of the 1742-1756 period.

M1731

Grenadier mitre introduced in 1731 - Source: Roman Shlygin

The first experience of standardization of the grenadier headdress was the M1731 mitre cap. It was mostly similar to the types used previously to the exception of the front plate which was specifically designed for this model of mitre by General-Fieldmarshal Burkhard Christoph von Münnich.

The mitre was a green carpus-style cap with red turnbacks on the front and rear sides. Its seams and the edges of its turnbacks were decorated with woolen white lace (golden for officers), topped with a pompom. The front turnback was decorated with a brass front plate embossed with trophies of weapons and standards and carrying in its center the regimental coat of arms. The rear turnback was decorated with a flaming grenade.

Regimental coats of arms were introduced at the same time as this new mitre cap, in 1731. Regiments who had no coat of arms used the imperial monogram instead.

Note: The specimen from State Historical Museum is 34 cm tall.

On daily duties, grenadiers wore a fatigue cap made of cloth leftovers after the sewing of uniforms. There was no special design for such caps but they seem to have been made in the same way as the standard M1731 mitre but without decorations and baleen frame (this allowed to store them folded).

Modified M1731

Bjeloserskiy Infantry modified M1731 grenadier junior officer mitre in use between 1743 and 1756 - Source: Roman Shlygin
Rostovskiy Infantry modified M1731 grenadier captain mitre in use between 1743 and 1756 - Source: Roman Shlygin

At the beginning of the reign of Empress Elizabeth Petrovna, the old M1731 grenadier mitres were to be gradually replaced with mitres of a new style. However, no standards were introduced so the new caps could only be considered as modified M1731. Nevertheless, according to the specimen of mitres from the period 1743-1756 preserved in museums, the tendencies were as follows:

  1. The new front plates were much higher, as tall as the cap, with the addition of a black Imperial Eagle in their top part.
  2. The baleen frame inside the cap was designed to keep it tightly fastened to the front plate.

Therefore, the new mitres were just a modification of the M1731 but looked very close to the Prussian style mitres.

It seems that this new style of mitres was made strictly for regular line infantry regiments (even only for officers in some cases). Meanwhile, garrison regiments, who could not afford to acquire these new mitres due to lack of money, still used the old M1731 mitres.

Note: the specimen from the Memorial Museum of A. V. Suvorov, dated 1743-1757, has a 30 cm tall front plate and is 18 cm in diameter.

M1756

Grenadier mitre in 1756 - Source: Frédéric Aubert

The M1756 mitre cap, introduced on March 30, 1756, was intended to replace the various styles of mitres worn in the army and was designed on the base of the mitre caps of the Guards.

This new mitre had a 28 cm tall brass front plate embossed with trophies of weapons and standards and carrying in its centre the regimental coat of arms surmounted by the Imperial Eagle; a black boiled leather skull-cap and neck guard with brass reinforcements and decorations; a white woolen pompom. Men belonging to Grenadier regiments wore a mitre with a black Imperial Eagle instead of the regimental coat of arms. Grenadiers of the Observation Corps had an imperial eagle with rays, trophies and EPI ciphers on the brass front plate.

Since the M1756 mitre was introduced shortly before the beginning of the war, the re-equipment of grenadiers with these new mitres was not yet completed at the beginning of the war. For example, the Grenadier Regiment of the Observation Corps received M1756 mitres only in January 1758.

After the campaign of 1758, General Fermor reported that the M1756 grenadier mitres were very uncomfortable and it was allowed to use the fatigue cap in all cases (anyway soldiers did it even without order). It was also permitted to decorate this fatigue cap with the front plate of the regular M1756 mitre. However, these changes were allowed only for the grenadiers of regiments involved in the campaigns in Europe.

From 1759

From 1759, grenadiers wore the M1731 fatigue cap with the brass front plate of the discarded M1756 mitre, a pompom and, probably, laces. Overall, these fatigue caps could look like modified M1731 mitres. It looked quite similar to Prussian mitres.

It also seems that, when possible, grenadiers were allowed to use the mitres they had prior to the re-equipment with the M1756 mitre.

However grenadiers could still use the M1756 mitres if they wished.

Coat, Waistcoat, Breeches

The Russian soldier wore a green cloth coat without pockets but with red collar, cuffs and turnbacks. Buttons were made of brass and buttonholes were trimmed in red: 9 along the chest, 2 in the small of the back, 2 on the turnbacks and 3 on each cuffs.

They also wore a red waistcoat lined green, with two lateral pockets closed by lapels en patte d’oie. As for the coat, buttons were made of brass and buttonholes were trimmed in red: 9 along the chest, 3 on each pocket-lapel.

Soldiers wore red breeches, tight and long to the knee.

Guards wore green waistcoat and breeches, with 10 golden buttons along the chest.

Gaiters and Shoes

Legs were covered by white or black gaiters (black in winter) closed laterally by 10 buttons. Exceptionally, Apcheronskiy regiment wore red gaiters, in recognition of his conduct at Kunersdorf in 1759, where they fought “immersed in blood to their knees”.

Musketeers of the Observation Corps wore heavy cavalry boots.

Armament and Leather Equipment

The most important weapon was the calibre 18 smooth bore flintlock musket (1,63 m. long without bayonet, 2,05 m. with bayonet), with an iron ramrod. It derived from the bigger and heavier calibre 16 Petrine model (1,65 m. long without bayonet). The pattern in use during the Seven Years' War imitated the Austrian Model of 1754 with 38 g. ball. Metal fittings were in iron or in copper. Russian army suffered of a chronicle shortage of muskets along the whole XVIIIth century, so old Petrine models were carried alongside the new Model of 1756.

As sidearm, musketeers carried a 77 cm. sabre in a black leather scabbard decorated with copper fittings and hanged to a red leather belt. Musketeers of the Observation Corps carried a sabre without guard.

Cartridge boxes were richly and variously decorated. In the cartridge pouch or patronna sumka, were carried cartouches of ammunition or hand grenades. Boxes can be classified in two main categories: shoulder-belt or waist-belt. The shoulder-belt cartridge boxes (or patronna sumka) were bigger (30 x 20 x 12 cm.) than the waist-belt cartridge pouch (or lyadunka) that measured 27 x 9 x 3 cm. The former brought 18 cartridges in a wooden block (40 from 1761, with leather separations), the latter only 10. Cartridge boxes were suspended across the left shoulder by a red leather bandoleer or shoulder-belt 10 cm. wide closed with a copper buckle.

The waist belt was fastened on the shoulder with a metal button. The leather lapel cover was decorated with the regimental coat of arms engraved on a copper plate. The edgings of the box were reinforced by little copper edging-plates. Line infantrymen carried patronna sumka while the lyadunka was reserved to officers and grenadiers. Grenadier wore black leather lyadunka.

Troopers of the Observation Corps didn't carry shoulder-belt cartridge pouches, but only black leather lyadunka, on the lapel the regimental coat of arms, eagle with trophies of weapons, EP and rays.

Line and Observation Corps were furnished even with cartridge boxes for grenades: in the black leather pouch, a wooden box, that was parted to carry two hand grenades; the grenade box was suspended to a natural leather (chamois) bandoleer which bore on the front a match-case. The lapel was decorated with the regimental coat of arms, grenades and trophies of weapons at each corner (Observation Corps bore the same decoration on the lyadunka).

Troopers of the Leibkompanie of each Guard regiment carried cartridge boxes covered with red cloth while troopers of other companies of the Guards regiment carried black leather patronna sumka and lyadunka.

Peculiarities of Drummers and Fifers

Musketeers and grenadiers drummers wore the same uniform as the troopers, with swallow nests on shoulders and braids on cuffs, pockets and collar. Braids were often yellow stripes (edged in red in the Observation Corps) and red XXXX decoration in the middle. However, the colonel of the regiment might have chosen a different colour for the braids. The Drum Major had a gold edge on tricorne, gold braids on cuffs and collar. No swallow nests for fifers.

Drums were made in copper, the regimental coat of arms engraved in the front, bordered in red and green, green and white cords.

Peculiarities of Non Commissioned Officers

NCOs preferred to carry a musket in action, so the use of halberds and spontoons was abandoned.

Kaptenarmous and other NCOs carried bigger cartridge-boxes with ammunition reserves for the company.

Peculiarities of Officers

Most officers wore tricorne. Some officers wore a mitre with a central shield with the EPI cipher (Elizaveta Petrovna Imperatriza), over St. George killing the dragon, between trophies of weapons and standards.

Officer’s coat was similar to other rank’s, with lateral pockets closed by lapels en patte d’oie with 3 buttons each. Buttons in gold. Green breeches. Generally officers wore the coat with opened turnbacks.

Officers carried a 1,80 m. long musket with bayonet (1,43 m long without the bayonet). Officers preferred to carry a musket in action, so the use of halberds and spontoons was abandoned.

Officers also carried a 86 cm. long sword suspended to a red leather belt. Models differed widely because many officers purchased privately their own sword. On the blades were engraved words like “vivat la grande Elisabeth” and “à Dieu et la Patrie”.

Officers' patronna sumka (cartridge box) was suspended to a red leather waist belt edged in gold. For ceremonies and bad weather there was a cover in tiny red leather. The lapel was heavily decorated with plaque sewed in pair, the upper (removable) representing an eagle, the lower the Order of St. George and the coat of arms. The lyadunka was made of red leather, with the regimental coat of arms in the centre of the lapel. Grenadier officers had even grenades at each corner of the lapel.

Guards had more elaborated decorations, the Leibkompanie’s officers carried shoulder-belt cartridge-boxes covered in red velvet, with EP and weapons and grenades trophies embroidered on the lapel, bandoleer were made in gilt mail. The similarly lyadunka was in red velvet, lined by a golden edge, trophies and grenades. Officers of other companies had a red leather cover to protect and decorate the patronna sumka.

For all Guard officers, a two pieces metallic decoration was fixed on the lapel: the upper half (removable) represented EP and two grenades, the lower an eagle with two grenades. The waist belt was heavily embroidered in gold.

Officers’ saddle cloth and holsters were red with round posterior corner, edged with one of two gold stripes (the inner broader), as rank distinction. EPI ciphers on the corner and holsters.

References

Brock, Dr.: Russische Truppen in siebenjährigen Kriege in Mittheilungen zur Geschichte des militärischen Tracht No. 4 - August 1894

Egorov, V. I.: [www.reenactor.ru/ARH/PDF/Egorov_05.pdf Гренадерские шапки драгунских и пехотных полков образца 1731 года] (Grenadiers' caps of dragoon and infantry regiments of 1731 model), Saint-Petersburg 2010

Konstam, Angus, and Bill Younghusband: Russian Army of the Seven Years War, Vol. 1, Osprey Men at Arms Series, No. 297, 1996

Knötel, Richard: Russiche Truppen in der Neumark 1758, in Mittheilungen zur Geschichte der militärischen Tracht, Beilagen zum X. Bande der Uniformkunde, No. 6, 1899, pp. 21-23

Leonov, O. G. and I. E. Ulianov: Регулярная пехота 1698—1801: Боевая летопись, организация, обмундирование, вооружение, снаряжение (Regular Infantry 1698-1801)

Letin, Sergey: [www.reenactor.ru/ARH/PDF/Letin_02.pdf Русский военный мундир XVIII века] (Russian military uniform of XVIII century), Moscow 1996.

Malyshev, V. N.: Суконные гренадерские шапки первой половины XVIII века (Cloth grenadiers' caps of the 1st half of XVIII century), Saint-Petersburg 2010

Pengel and Hurt, Russian Infantry Uniforms and Flags of the Seven Years War

Schirmer, Friedrich, Zweifarben Tücher Borgdorf o. J. - Russische Infanterie 1740-1762

Shamenkov, S. I.: [www.milhist.info/2012/10/09/shamenkov_2/ Неизвестная шапка армейских гренадер царствования Елизаветы Петровны] (Unknown cap of army grenadiers of the reign of Elizabeth Petrovna)

Tatarnikov, Kirill: [www.reenactor.ru/ARH/PDF/Tatarnikov_06.pdf Обсервационный корпус. 1756-1760 гг. Обмундирование и снаряжение] (Observation Corps. 1756-1760. Uniform and equipment)

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

Acknowledgements

Carlo Bessolo for the initial version of this article and Roman Shlygin for additional information on grenadier mitre-caps.