This oversized book was extremely costly to produce because of the
60 full-color plates depicting the various uniforms of Wellington’s
army, but thanks to a tip from a kindly soul on the Beau Monde loop, I
purchased a never-used copy for a pittance on the internet.
And am I glad I did! Illustrator Charles Hamilton Smith, born in
1776, served in the British Army from 1796 until he went on half pay in
1821. His plates (except one) are housed in the Anne S.K. Brown Military
Collection at Brown University in Rhode Island. One of the plates is in
the National Army Museum in London. But those who own this book need go
no farther than their home to see how officers, the cavalry,
infantrymen, artillery, Royal Marines and various other military
personnel dressed during the regency.
For those who don’t know a dragoon from light cavalry, this is the
book for you.
Remembering the "red coats" of the Revolutionary War, I was under
a bit of a misapprehension about military uniforms of the era. Not all
of them are red. Some wore navy blue, some green, some gray.
Each regiment’s uniform was different, and within that regiment,
uniforms varied according to rank.
Each of the plates in this book is presented with a companion page
of text that thoroughly describes the variations and evolutions of the
uniforms and provides details on hats and helmets, along with historical
information on the regiment’s action. Here are a few examples of plates:
"A Private of the 1st or King’s Dragoon Guards," "Heavy and
Light Cavalry Cloaked," "Grenadiers of the Foot Guards in Full Dress,"
"British Infantry of the Line, 1812," and "Soldiers of the 1st
Regiment of Foot Guards in Marching Orders."
There’s a comprehensive chapter titled "Hamilton Smith’s Army"
that details the regimental system and gives information about
Wellington’s army, weapons, and men.
The book’s appendix enumerates the British regiments of 1814-15,
including all commanding officers.
Those wishing to accurately describe an army officer’s dress in
their books would do well to get this volume.