Home >> Encyclopedia Americana, Volume 27 >> Twelfth Night to United States And Macedo >> Uniforms_P1


century, uniform, 18th, time, cap and military

Page: 1 2

UNIFORMS, Military and Naval, special costumes used in an army or a navy. While badges of identification have been known at all epochs, and while the followers of a lord often wore the livery of their master, the use of a uniform costume by large bodies of men was unknown until the modern era of large standing armies. The first advance beyond temporary badges was the use of a colored scarf to identify the various brigades of the Swedish army under Gustavus Adolphus. This device spread rapidly. The danger of the use of such simple devices by an enemy soon led— first in France and soon after in England— to the adoption of a more or less definite uniform. The "New Model" of Cromwell was clothed in a costume essentially that of the civilians of its time but of the uniform color of red with gray breeches and with special regimental fac ings. The armor which was originally worn over the uniform disappeared throughout Europe early in the 18th century and the use of the uniform was established to about the same extent as it prevails to-day.

The military costume, like the civil, changed little in general outlines till the end of the 18th century. The original broad-brimmed felt hat was modified into the cocked hat, the breeches and coat lost their original fullness and the uniform became what is familiar to us in pic tures of the American Revolution. Garments apparently less adapted than those of the middle of the 18th century to the active business of fighting can scarcely be imagined, yet after all they were in precise accord with the stiff, formal, drill-master-like spirit of the close order fighting of the day. The stock and collar came into use and much that previously played a useful part in the uniform—cuffs, lapels, etc. — was reduced to a dummy form which served for ornament alone. Various forms of head gear worn by irregular troops from eastern Europe became stiffened and formalized into shapes which partly ousted the cocked hat, and are even yet in use. Among these were the busby, the fur grenadier cap and the mitre-cap of the Prussians, all descended from a conical cap edged with fur; the stiff leather shako— which has given rise to most of the military headgear of the world to-day—and the square topped czapka or lancer cap, which has shrunk from a crude leather cap to a complicated de vice mimicking to a greater or less extent the German pickelhaube.

Toward the end of the 18th century the ample tailed coat began to shrink into the coatce, of a size scarcely greater than that of the tunic or blouse of the present day. This made necessary the introduction of a new article of military apparel — the overcoat. The breeches and white gaiters followed tardily in the suit of the civilian clothing of the time and were replaced by trousers in the first quar ter of the 19th century. The helmet was also introduced at about this period, and is at pres ent retained by the dragoons of most armies and by the German infantry.

The period after Waterloo was distinguished even above the 18th century for the extreme un comfortableness of the uniforms and their total unfitness for any activity whatever. This was swept away in England by the reaction due to the Crimean War. At about the same time or a little earlier the coatee gave way to the looser tunic. The dress uniforms of to-day date back in essentials to this epoch. The dull service uniforms worn by all armies in the field at the present time are designed for comfort, useful ness and inconspicuousness and date back to the border warfare in India during the latter half of the 19th century. Their general use is due to the experiences of the British in the Boer War. America soon followed the British khaki with its olive drab. Germany adopted a greenish gray, Italy a bluish gray and Russia a grayish green. The Bclgian khaki and the French horizon blue were only introduced after the unsuitability of the old brilliant uniforms had been manifested in the first months of the European War. The steel helmets in general use at present were introduced a little later.

Page: 1 2