Uniforms of the 1798 Irish Rebellion - Part 2
The Trent Miniatures range contains a wide variety of wonderfully characterful models across a variety of warzones and time periods. This includes models from the Irish Rebellion, the Caribbean Rebellion and the French Revolution to name but a few.
If you would like to view the whole range of models available as part of the Trent Miniatures range click here.
This week marks the 2nd in our blog posts that are taking an in-depth look at the background of the 1798 Irish Rebellion and focuses on the Uniforms of the time.
Uniforms of the 1798 Irish Rebellion
Beadles and Watchmen
Most of those involved in the rebellion turned up in their civilian clothes and being mostly farm labourers these clothes were generally different shades of brown. One contemporary source described the rebel army:
“They had no kind of uniform but were most of them in the dress of labourers, white bands round their hats and green cockades being the only marks by which they were distinguished…From the military they had routed they had collected some clothing which added to the motley show. Their arms consisted chiefly of pikes of an enormous length…some carried rusty muskets.”
Anyone collecting a rebel army has carte blanche to paint their army as they wish. Although white and cream linen shirts, brown or black trousers and similar coloured jackets would be common, it is perfectly possible that rebels could appear in more colourful coats that they had looted from a stately home, or perhaps some of the rebels were more well to do citizens to begin with, making blue, green or even chequered jackets perfectly acceptable. The rebel leaders would be well turned out, either in their best suits or in faux uniform, seeing themselves as military leaders. There were also many members of the Clergy in the rebel ranks and dropping in the occasional priest can break the monotony of pike miniatures. In addition, many members of the militia deserted to the rebels, and so the occasional militia soldier in your rebel ranks would not look out of place. Hats were black with white bands, but collectors should consider making use of the numerous packs of separate heads that Trent provide to do some head swops. As described above, some of the rebels looted government head gear after battles as well as their uniforms and weapons, providing the potential for endless options for your mixed rebel bands.
Having few firearms, the rebels had secretly been making pike heads and stockpiling them pending the start of the rebellion. When the time came it was easy to issue pike heads to volunteers than it was to find them a gun. Indeed, the rebels would not have been able to trade volleys with trained Government forces, and so the pike forced them to take a more aggressive approach, charging the Government infantry and cavalry often with great success. Colours were also carried by many rebel units, sporting revolutionary phrases or images of Irish harps.
The French troops who landed to support the rebels wore French revolutionary uniform as they did on mainland Europe, with the infantry wearing long tailed blue coats with white facings and red trim, white waistcoats and breeches and black cocked hats.
The Government Forces
The forces available to the Dublin Government at the beginning of the war consisted or regulars, militia, Yeomanry units and fencibles.
Regular battalions on the Irish establishment were usually there to refit and recruit after a period overseas or had been reduced from the establishment, stripped to skeleton staff, its officers placed on half pay and the battalion placed into barracks until it was needed again. As a result, the regulars available to oppose the rebels were under strength and usually in poor condition. For example, the 6th Battalion of Foot that fought at Castlebar was described as a “remnant” and performed poorly. At the beginning of the rebellion, the Government were forced to rely on their Militia and other forces until trained regulars, such as the 100th Foot and the Foot Guards, arrived later in the year.
All men between the ages of 18 to 45 were required to serve a term of four years in the militia. The men were not allowed to serve in their home county (to avoid conflicts of interest). Each of the militia battalions consisted of ten companies organised in a similar manner to the regulars, having a Grenadier and Light company. However, just because they had the name Grenadier, or light, did not mean they had the training or morale to match, and the performance of the militia battalions varied from terrible to outstanding!
Militia wore black cocked hats edged white. They had red tailcoats with white lace, white waistcoats and breeches, black gaiters and shoes. Their jackets had facing colours unique to each regiment. For example, the Longford Militia had blue facings, whilst the Kilkenny Militia wore yellow. Trent miniatures produce separate heads for the militia as some companies wore different headgear. The Grenadier companies wore a distinctive bearskin whilst some of the light or flank companies wore a mitre cap.
To support the regular units and the militia, the Government also raised volunteer units from amongst the locals, usually paid for by local members of the nobility. Specific details of the uniform were down to whatever member of the gentry was funding them, but generally cavalry and infantry regiments wore red jackets usually faced blue, red or yellow. Infantry appeared much as the militia did but they also wore Tarleton hats with some regiments choosing to wear the round hat favoured by the regulars. Cavalry regiments wore Tarleton helmets but tended to lack carbines, as this was an expense too far.
These regiments were essentially “Home Defence” battalions who were raised and trained along regular lines but could only serve at home and were not deployable overseas. They were not always full time units and resembled the modern Territorial Army, turning out when required rather than on duty every day. Raised originally due to the threat of French invasion, these units were the only “regular” units available to the Dublin Government at the start of the rebellion. Ireland had no Fencibles, and those deployed there came mainly from Scotland.
In many cases, the exact uniform worn by a particular Fencible unit during this campaign is not known, as once again the uniforms may vary depending on who was paying for them. Scottish Fencibles were originally issued with kilts and appeared much as Highland regiments in the British army. However, during the campaign, tartan trews were issued instead, with kilts being kept for parades, so your troops could appear as you please. Jackets were red with facings unique to the regiment. Frasers Fencibles, for example, had black facings and wore trews, whilst the Reay fencibles had light blue facings and wore kilts. Fencible cavalry regiments wore blue hussars tyle jackets with white lace, Tarleton helmets and white breeches. The Ancient British Fencibles wore blue jackets with silver lace.
Colours were carried by battalions and companies if they had them.
Royal Irish Artillery
Highlander Officer in overalls
Highlander Officer in kilt