Enlisted Man's Dress Uniform

Blue wool uniform coat with red trim

Red, painted knapsack over the back of a blue wool uniform coat

Each of the men from the regular army who volunteered for the expedition brought along his own dress uniform,1 which was worn for formal, official occasions such as dress reviews and parades, courts-martial, and funerals.

The coat of blue and red wool, lined with linen, was cheaply made, without edging or binding. The black neckpiece, or "stock," under the red coat collar was made of leather. Twenty-two purely decorative buttons were of pewter (in those days mostly lead, with a little tin added). An infantryman was identifiable by the white "turnback" at the lower front of his coat, an artilleryman by one of red.

Hanging from the brass (an alloy of copper and zinc) buckle is a whisk used for cleaning the pan of his flintlock firearm. Each soldier would also have carried a pick to clean the touchhole, through which the flash from the pan ignited the powder in the breech of the gun.

The enlisted man's "small clothes" were similar to an officer's—a knee-length flannel or linen pullover shirt that was tucked between the legs inside a pair of tight-fitting white (for summer) or blue (winter) full-seated pantaloons. The pant-legs covered knee-length stockings, and ended in buttoned "spats" that kept dirt and mud out of the shoes.

At his back the enlisted man carried a wooden water canteen, probably painted red. Some may have carried a leather rifleman's pouch, or "possibles bag," and a knapsack or haversack for extra clothes and personal articles2, with a blanket sometimes tied under the flap. At his hip were slung a bayonet and a tomahawk (hatchet).

Though it undoubtedly looked quite impressive from a distance, the enlisted man's uniform was cheaply made, since the conservative government still placed a low value on its small, 3,000-man, standing army in 1803. After all, taxpayers believed, they had already won the ultimate war—the War for Independence.

Beaver-felt Military Hat
with Bearskin, Cockade, and Plume3

black, round hat decorated with a small bear skin and deer tail

Enlisted Man's Hat

Between about 1794 and 1810, every enlisted infantryman was issued a tall hat—called a "round hat" in original documents—that stood about 5 inches high and had a two-inch brim. The dress version of this hat was decorated with a leather cockade and white laced strap, a white deer's tail, a strip of black bear's fur running over the top, and white worsted trim around the brim. Artillerymen wore the more traditional three-cornered cocked hat laced with yellow worsted trim.4

 
 
 

Formalities

According to modern military tradition, the gesture we call a salute originated in medieval times, with the raising of the armored knight's visor. However, in the 18th century the proper gesture between gentlemen was a low bow accompanied by a sweeping removal of the hat.

During the Revolutionary War cavalrymen and light infantry men, who wore leather helmets, were permitted the simpler motion of raising the flat of the hand up to touch the brim. British soldiers used a similar gesture if not wearing cocked hats. Upon the introduction of the round hat, it was soon discovered that the old-fashioned doffing of the hat quickly broke down the stiff, narrow brim, so the abbreviated gesture became the preferred one.


1. Re-creation by Robert Moore, Historian at Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, St. Louis; Peyton C. Clark; Greg Hudson, Weeping Heart Trade Company, Ehrlanger, Kentucky. Photos by Jon Stealey.

2. Souvenir-collecting is a human impulse shared by many. Upon leaving "Canoe Camp" above the Great Falls of the Missouri, on their way west, Lewis complained: "We find it extreemly difficult to keep the baggage of many of our men within reasonable bounds; they will be adding bulky articles of but little use or value to them."

3. Re-creation by Robert Moore, Historian at Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, St. Louis; Peyton C. Clark; Greg Hudson, Weeping Heart Trade Company, Ehrlanger, Kentucky. Photos by Jon Stealey.

4. "Worsted" yarn is made of wool that has been combed to remove the short fibres, and make the remaining long fibres lie parallel so they can be twisted more tightly than the usual full-bodied wool yarns.