Wednesday, May 25, 2011


During the Niagara campaign of 1814, the US Left Division included a brigade of militia under the command of General Peter Buell Porter, including troops from New York and Pennsylvania. They acquitted themselves well in both the battle of Chippewa and Lundy's Lane, and to the surprise of a skeptical Winfield Scott, did credit to the American army during the campaign.

In previous campaigns, the militias of Pennsylvania and New York each had various state militia uniform distinctions, however during the 1814 campaign they were equipped by the US government and dressed much like the remainder of the Left Division. The leather shako and short grey roundabout jackets were very much in evidence. In order to portray them on the tabletop, I have chosen to sculpt them with bayonets unfixed and in their scabbards, and with a variety of irregular equipment. Their shakos are not trimmed out to the full extent one would expect of a disciplined regular, and substitute headgear such as straw hats, round hats, and old felt shakos are worn by some of the troops.

The long garment worn by this figure is a work smock, not a long wool coat. These were a very common item in camp and rarely seen on the wargame table. The pattern formed the basis of the rifle frock, which had the addition of fringe and a "cape" (layer of cloth over the shoulders, also with fringes).

Miltia units sometimes painted their unit designations on the shakos rather than wearing a shako plate. They were also quite fond of decorating their knapsacks, canteens, and caps with stars, eagles, and other patriotic designs.

I have yet to sculpt command for these figures. I will be adding some Pennsylvania and New York uniform flourishes to the command packs. For instance, New York militia commanders wore cocked hats and coats with lapels as Napoleonic French.

The new militia packs can be found here at

All for now!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


Add caption

Canadian militia attire in the War of 1812 is a confusing subject. In attempting to put together a unit to represent the Lincoln and York Militias at the battle of Lundy's Lane, I turned first to standard wargame references such as Renee Chartrand's excellent Osprey volume on Canadian troops and Stuart Asquith's more recent uniform book. As good as these references are, it wasn't until I had consulted reenactors portraying the Lincoln militia that I felt I could confidently field a wargame unit.

Note: This unit should not be confused with the Incorporated Militia posted on the British left at Lundy's Lane, a unit which more closely resembled British regulars and which will be the subject of a future post.

My first question was whether the Lincoln and York militia men wore uniforms or civilian clothes. It turns out that although they very much wanted to present a uniform appearance, it was very rarely achieved. Throughout the war, red coats with yellow facings, green coats with red or yellow facings, castoffs from the 41st Foot, and the ubiquitous "gunmouth" blue trousers were sporadically issued to the militia. The troops who came the closest to military uniformity were the flank companies, who tended to have uniforms, including lace and possibly wings. These troops served (or were "embodied") for longer tours of duty than the center companies (a term which was not used in the militia), which tended to be sedentary militiamen called away from their farms and businesses only during times of dire emergency. The latter only sometimes had uniforms. If no uniform was available, the sedentary militiaman was instructed to report for battle turned out in a coat made of a dark cloth, and to avoid grey, which was the color frequently used by the Americans.

I next asked what headgear should be worn, and specifically if the Belgic shako was in use at Lundy's Lane. I thought this would be the more difficult question, but it turns out there was broad consensus that all the regular troops and most of the incorporated militia had been issued the Belgic by this time (the incorporated militia was made up of volunteers from the other militia formations and served for longer periods of time). The sedentary militia, however,  had to content themselves with castoffs from the regulars, and if they had any military headgear at all, probably wore stovepipe shakos, even at Lundy's Lane in 1814. The remainder of the men would have turned out in a variety of headgear, including straw hats, civilian round hats, tams, fatigue caps, or wool caps of various sorts. Officers in the militia by 1814 would have been expected to report for duty in red coats with blue facings and scarlet sashes, but many militia commanders still preferred the round hat.

 Some of the sedentary militia 
were instructed to tie white cloth 
to one arm to identify them 
as King's troops.

In portraying the Lincoln and York Militias on the wargame table in the Niagara campaign, a mix of figure types should be used. Here are the figures I will be using to create my 36-man unit (I'm partial to the big battalions!):


I've tried to make these figures compatible with the newer plastic figures, so you could augment these with figures from other manufacturers, or wait for my upcoming releases. More uniformed flank company figures are on the sculpting table right now and will be available soon.

Here is a very helpful discussion from an 1812 reenactors site. It explains how the Upper Canada militia was uniformed throughout the war, and the research all comes from primary documents.

If you are not completely decrepit, don't mind sleeping rough in order to reap the reward of a night singing old songs around a snapping campfire, and have a few bucks left to throw around when you're finished filling your Knuckleduster shopping cart, please consider reenacting the War of 1812.

All the best,
Forrest Harris