Monday, April 1, 2013

Belchers Breeches

The Belcher Journal has truly revolutionized our understanding of the life of the common soldier in the Continental Army.  Thanks to Belcher, we now know that there were camp counselors at Valley Forge and that von Steuben’s “Model Company” was outfitted in wigs made from goatskin backpacks.  Those of us who glean through every scrap of available information about the material culture of the Jersey troops have been astonished to learn from Belcher that in 1777, one company of the 1st NJ was outfitted in reverse colored regimentals thanks to a miscommunication between him and the contract tailors. 

While it is well known that New Jersey provided large numbers of buckskin breeches to its soldiers in the first years of the war, only the Belcher Journal provides crucial information about the way that these were sized and fitted to the troops.

[Jun. 13th 1777] – To Day after the General ye men wair issued leathern breechers by Quartmastr Periam -  Ye officers sized thair Coys & Directd
 Them to be breechd  – ye men grately distemperd as  breeches are but large size only & much vexd as to how to fall out without thair fallin’ down – Colo. Ogden spoke warmly & orderd Battalion form colum – Did march at Quick Step into a brook wair ye ford was half fathom deep - Oncet on ye far side Colo. Ogden did order ye men groundd & stackd head to foot much as a snake rail fence to dry in the Sun – Lay to ‘til nooning when ourn leather breeches fit all alike as to a second skin.”

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