Hesse Kassel Jaeger Korps

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Regimental Uniform

One thing that may be noticed about the 2nd Company Hesse-Kassel Jäger Korps Re-enactment group is their unique uniform. Beyond the green regimental coats, a color that was uncommon in the 18th century, there is something else very different about their uniforms. While the soldiers of a typical British or Hessian infantry unit all dress exactly alike, the members of the Jägers seem to wear whatever they like. This is actually meant to illustrate the extraordinary situation that surrounded the Jäger uniform in North America. Throughout this time the Jäger's uniform evolved, either by choice, force or out of necessity, to the point it had little in common with the original.

The first change to the Jäger uniform took place as soon as the unit began movement to North America. The decorations of the Prussian inspired uniform were discarded in an effort to improve its efficiency. Only the minimum of adornments were retained to identify the Officer, Feldwebel (Sergant) and Korparal. At what level of the chain of command this modification was approved is still open to debate but it seems to have taken place among all the Jäger units.

During the fighting of the New York Campaign it became clear that the Jäger uniform was no match for the North American forest as their uniforms were soon turned to rags. Regimental coats were expected to last a year but were worn out at a much higher rate by the Jägers who took to the field more often and moved through rougher terrain than the line troops. Thus in the winter of 1777-1778, Lord Cornwallis personally diverted green uniforms and white woolen smallclothes intentioned for loyalists units (The King's American Regiment) to the Jäger Corps so that they would have the appearance becoming a proper military unit.

Frederick II and the other Land Graves had promised in their treaties with George III to supply replacement uniforms on a regular basis but the supply system was unable to get them to North America as had been planned. When uniforms did arrive the British Quartermaster further confused the uniform situation by issuing them to the units in the most need regardless of the origin of the uniforms. At one point the Jägers were issued Braunschweig uniforms as the Braunschweig Jägers had been in a long period of inactivity and their uniforms were in good condition.

The British Quartermaster also substituted British uniform items to replace Hessian items. One such case was the issue of British gaiter pants. The British were changing army wide from the gaiters and breeches, which had been the standard for many years, to the one-piece pants. These were issued to many Hessian units as well as the British units, and there is evidence the Jägers were one of these Hessian units.

The French also managed to supply the Jägers with uniform items even though they were a major source of the supply problem in the latter stages of the war. Several French supply ships were captured, one providing the Jägers with blue and white stripped breeches. Another captured French ship provided the Jägers with various types of fabric that the Necessary Women of the unit used to make items for the uniforms themselves.

There were also unofficial modifications to items of the uniform performed by resourceful soldiers. Most notable of these were the hats many soldiers wore. While a hat was a simple matter of appearance in the north, it became a major issue in the south with the strong sun to deal with. To over come this many soldiers let down the front brim of their tri-corn hat to protect their face and shield their eyes. Others adopted wearing straw hats either for their protection or simply because they found themselves without a hat at the end of a battle. The lose of hats during battle was a major problem for the Jägers as they often moved through the thick forest while fighting. One solution they came up with was to take pieces from their old torn regimental coat and make a cap, commonly known as a fatigue cap.

By the time of the Southern Campaign little was left of the uniform the Jägers wore on their journey to North America. The uniform Jägers worn into battle were a mix and match affair with one Jäger in gaiter pants and white linen shirt while another wore leather gaiters, stripped breeches and a plaid shirt. Upon seeing them one would have been hard pressed to believe the Jägers were the best and most professional fighting unit in North America during the American Revolution.

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