What follows is a description of the General seaman's attire during the War of 1812.
The "Rig" of the Corvette Wolfe's crew would have reflected the uniforms of much of the land forces currently deployed thoughout upper Canada. Just as was evident in the American Navy of the time provisions were made to make the clothing warm and servicable over a broad range of seasons. It is also true that the provencial navy as well as his ocean based cousin, would express his personality in the going-ashore clothing choices.
The seaman's dress was extremely distinctive, marking them at once from any other trade, they wore 'short clothes' and the landman 'long clothes': Men ashore wearing long coats ot tial coats and waistcoats reaching nearly to the knee, over tight tousersor kneebritches which were going out of everyday fashion. Typical attire for the experienced seamen around the turn of the nineteenth century was the short blue 'bum-freezer' jacket (Woolen pea-jackets and frocks (jumpers) in the cold and off white Duck (untwilled Cotton) in hotter climes, with red waistcoat and checked shirt and a scarf or handkerchief loosely knotted round the neck. Round hats were popular, especially straw or quited cotton ones glazed with tar for cold weather use and decorated with the ship's name on a silk ribbon. Shoes were worn ashore and to go aloft, otherwise, the sailor went bare footed.
These clothes were 'short' because they stopped at or just below the waist, leaving no loose skirts to endanger a man working aloft. Instead of breeches they wore a garment then quite unknown to landmen, unless they happened to have a nautical dictionary to hand: 'Trowsers [sic], a sort of loose breeches of canvas worn by common sailors. For boat work they sometimes wore a canvas 'petticoat' or divided 'petticoat breeches'. These clothes made seamen instantly recognisable, and anyone who adopted them was likely to be taken for one. Seamen scorned to wear landmen's clothes, and their best clothes were more elaborate and fancy versions of their working rig, with white duck instead of canvas trousers, silver buckles to their shoes, brass buttons on their jackets, colored tape along the seams, and ribbons in their hats.
Below is a description of the Crown Forces are asking us to consider as clothing choices while participating Naval activities
Officers to satisfy the Dress Regulations for the Royal Navy or Provincial Marine as desired between the chronological brackets of 1792-1815.
Royal Marine infantry or artillery, and officers of infantry regiments serving as marines, to be governed by their own unit regulations.
As per officers, with respect to dress of Warrant Officers, 1792-1815.
As no official uniform existed for the Royal Navy and Provincial Marine for this period, the following choices are suggested as guidelines to an historically possible appearance.
Round hats, painted or left felt, plain or with painted device, ship’s name, or ribbon (“tally”) bearing same in white, gilt or yellow paint/stitching; “tarpot” painted canvas low-crown hats, decorated as per round hats or left plain; wool stocking caps, various colours; fur cap; straw hats, natural or painted, with “tally” or without; bandana, knotted at rear, of non-modern design; or bareheaded.
Plain, striped or checked shirt, 18th or early 19th C. pattern, worn ‘close up’ at the neck or open with loosely-knotted neck scarf.
Scarf: Black, red (colours known to have been worn) or other plain colour, including patterned ones similar to bandana. Worn ‘close up’ around throat and knotted in front, or loosely and finished with square knot.
Single or double breasted, with collar or without, cut square across at the waist, in red (preferred) or other plain colour, with flat brass fouled-anchor buttons, or plain brass, pewter, horn or wooden buttons.
The predominant colour should be blue, but can be of varying depth although darker blue was commonest by 1812-1815. Brown, grey and green jackets were also seen. Cut can be anything from a hip-length sleeved wool waistcoat of essentially 18th Century pattern, single-breasted, blue lined with white, through to a plain blue wool jacket almost identical to a soldier’s coat, with high standing collar and sleeves to the first knuckle, and double-breasted. The double-breasted feature allowed warm closure in foul weather. Linings should be white. Buttons should be (first choice) flat brass with a fouled anchor pattern, but may be pewter (of varying patterns,
although the 18th Century Marine button, with a fouled anchor design, would work well), wood, or bone. A ‘domed’ button should not be worn.
Drop-front trousers in cotton duck, plain white or dark blue, or with vertical stripes in red, blue, or green, with drawstring adjustment at back of waistband and fastened with buttons as per waistcoat. Can be supported by suspenders under the waistcoat.
All belting to be of black leather, and closed with brass or steel (non-polished) buckles.
Simple, plain seaman’s knife without crossguard. Carried in an enclosing sheath of leather or stitched canvas, and fitted with a lanyard of line (e.g. tarred marline) to prevent it falling from aloft.
Plain colour or striped cotton or woolen hose.
Black shoes of period pattern, fastened with brass or steel period buckles, or tied with lacing. Shoes worn ashore to be leather heeled and soled. Shoes worn at sea (recommended) to have thin rubber sole, and rubber heels, affixed.
Foul Weather Gear:
Individuals to eventually make/ pursue acquisition of handmade black-painted canvas smocks and/or storm coats, the latter with cape shoulders, fastened with pewter, horn or wooden buttons, or with ties.. Interim usage of brown oiled “Drizabone” Australian-type cape-shoulder drover’s coats (full length) accepted.
Personal kit and Facial Hair:
Seamen rarely wore infantry-style haversacks, deriding them as marks of the soldier. Their usefulness, however, suggests they can be carried by Naval Establishment personnel in ashore circumstances, but not worn at sea (a small personal seabag is preferred when serving in a boat or aboard a larger vessel, stowedout of the way). Haversacks should, if possible, be decorated with nautical motifs and sayings to distinguish them from soldier’s kit (no offense intended to John Lobster).
Beards and moustaches were not worn in 1792-1815 except by certain troops ashore. A recommended appearance is clean-shaven, with sideburns to the bottom of the ear, and hair worn either in a queue or cut to the collar. You’ll have to decide how committed you are to a fully accurate look, it being, after all, a hobby.
Yours with great Regard
Squadron Commodore pro tem
Crown Forces North America
Below is a description of the requirements for offices of rank, etc.:
Honourary appointment. Candidate shall be selected from list of command-qualified Post Captains
Candidates shall possess a CCG/MoT 60-Ton Limited Waters Command Qualification with Sail Endorsement, or an equivalent USCG-certified or United Kingdom MoT qualification or parallel certification (e.g. British Yachtmaster minimum with additional certification) and an acceptable record of command of multi-masted traditional-rig vessels, or professional certification as a practitioner of a naval/marine art or skill that historically was recognized by the granting of Post rank or its equivalent, e.g. Dockyard Captain. A further qualification shall be an acceptable degree of historical knowledge about the Navy of 1792-1815.
Candidates shall possess a demonstrable record of offshore and/or coastal command of a licenced or privately-owned traditional-rig vessel and/or modern yacht or vessel with sufficiently traditional aspects to the rig and operation, and a demonstrable record of command of a flotilla (more than two) of traditional small craft in the execution of naval evolutions under sail and oar. Candidates shall demonstrate the ability to teach traditional-rig seamanship in gaff-, lug-, and gunter-rigged vessels, and instruct in all aspects of boatwork. Historical knowledge of the Navy of 1792-1815 shall be an additional requirement.
Candidates shall have passed, or will be confirmed by passing at a convenient School Of The Sailor, a Board which shall examine him/her on elements of seamanship; navigation; shiphandling; boatwork; naval organization; discipline; small arms and weaponry; personal example and the leadership of re-enactment naval personnel; and naval historical knowledge of the Navy of 1792-1815. Such candidates shall make application to sit their Board upon successful completion of two (2) seasons’ activity as a naval re-enactor of whatever rank within the programmes of Crown Forces North America. Candidates may be nominated by Post Captains to sit their Board if deemed by performance to have merited it.
Warrant Officers shall be offered the King’s Warrant in their chosen field of expertise upon demonstration of a suitable level of recognized and official competence in that field; e.g. Master Gunners must have satisfied all requirements for gunnery training as provided for by the Canadian Parks Service, The US Parks Service, and/or similar agencies in the United Kingdom or elsewhere; Boatswains shall be certified by individuals at the Post Captain rank and/or traditional-rig vessel operators outside of the CFNA programme of their competence in marine arts: rigging, ropework, sail handling, gear and tackle, boatwork; work aloft (as appropriate) and the demonstrated capacity to (a) stand a watch in command of the vessel under the supervision of the Officer of the Watch or the vessel’s Master/Captain; (b) coxswain and command a ship’s boat under oar and sail; and (c) demonstrate if required to examiners an acceptable level of ropework, knot-tying, rigging and sail knowledge, helmsmanship and ship husbandry. Such examination may take place at the School of the Sailor as and if required by the warranting officer(s).
Petty Officers shall be appointed as the Post Captain, Commander, or Lieutenant of the ship’s company or vessel to whom the seaman shall belong, recommend, on satisfactory demonstration of (a) the basic seaman’s arts and ability to “hand, reef, and steer”; (b) leadership skills and suitability, and (c) historical knowledge of the Navy of 1792-1815.
Individual members of naval re-enactment groups who form part of the Crown Forces North America shall for confidential bookkeeping purposes be entered as Landsmen until in the judgment of the Petty and Warrant officers who have sailed with the individual in question, he or she can be reported to have mastered a basic level of seamanship and awareness of the seaman’s art, through successful attendance at one or more Schools of the Sailor, experience afloat, and/or having satisfied his/her superior officers as indicated above of suitability to be entered as a Seaman. The term Seaman is ONLY to be applied to an individual who has proven himself/herself to be an asset afloat, not a liability, and shall be a coveted designation much sought after.
Aside from Sea Officers or the “people”, portrayals of other roles in the Georgian Navy such as Chaplain, Surgeon, etc., shall be entertained and welcomed in Naval Establishment activities provided an acceptable level of historical accuracy in clothing, equipment, behavior and appearance is forthcoming, as provided for by the general regulations of Crown Forces North America. In all other respects ,simply deciding to wear the uniform of a given rank and/or function in the Royal Navy or Provincial Marine of 1792-1815 shall not lead to an official event role within the Naval Establishment in that rank or function, even if the individual---and he or she is free to do---chooses to attend a Crown Forces event in naval dress as a member of CFNA. Actual roles and responsibilities in the deployment of boats and ships serving at events as part of the Naval Establishment, CFNA, shall only be assigned to those who have satisfied the above rank requirements and can “walk the talk”.