Monday, July 1, 2013


The uniforms of the War of 1812 are varied and endlessly fascinating. One of the most unusual uniforms was worn by the Kentucky Volunteer Cavalry at the battle of the Thames in 1813.

This cavalry unit, which also included men from the area where the River Raisin massacre took place, was trained to fight mounted or dismounted in the wilderness, and were armed with a rifle, hatchet, and long knife.

During the battle of the Thames, Harrison used them to overrun the British 41st foot deployed in the woods on the American right. He commented that nobody could gallop through wooded terrain like American backwoodsmen, and the result of the charge, one of only two cavalry charges undertaken in the War of 1812, was a complete route of one of Britain's most heavily-engaged and well-regarded regiments in North America.

I finally painted a unit of these figures in their distinctive black hunting shirts with red fringe. Their gear was, in reality, probably black, but I chose buckskin belts to stand out against the black shirts, reasoning that it would not be uncommon to find natural colors of leather in use among troops such as these.

They are armed with the Model 1804 Harper's Ferry Rifle, the official rifled longarm of the US Army during the war. It was a half-stock weapon with no sling. I've thrown in a dragoon pistol, since they were ubiquitous among mounted troops of all types during the Napoleonic era.

"Ok you, hand over that bugle . . ."
  (I really need to glue the flag on one of these days!)

The command figures include a bugler and standard-bearer, and in a separate pack is their leader, Richard Mentor Johnson. I posed this figure to be reminiscent of an illustration depicting his supposed duel with Tecumseh, whose death many credited him after the battle (a fact trotted out when he ran for Congress after the war); after I painted my sample, I learned that his white horse was not the sentimental hyperbole I had supposed, and that he in fact rode a white horse into battle!

Forrest Harris


  1. what color were the men's pants??

  2. what color were the men's pants??

  3. Hi Ian,
    Kind of a neutral tannish-grey, from what I can tell. Here's a link with more illustrations: there is a leather seat and inseam, but I don't know if it shows enough to try painting it.