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Memoirs and Adventures of Sir John Hepburn
Appendix II. Military Attire - The Red Coat


It has been shown that the troops of Gustavus Adolphus were divided and distinguished as the Green, the Blue, the Red, Yellow, and White Brigades; but body-armour and buffi coats were still so much worn that coats of one colour, or uniforms, were considered unnecessary in European armies; and though scarlet was at an early period considered as the military colour, there are no means of ascertaining the exact garb of le Regiment d'Hebron. The Gendarmes Ecossais wore scarlet, like other corps of the French Guards; but the Red Coat, from an early period, has been peculiar to England or Britain alone.

Thus, in 1547, in Patten’s account of Somerset’s expedition, it is mentioned that “Sir Miles Patrick being nigh, espied one in a red doublet, whom he took to be an Englishman.”

David Ramsay, who was an officer of Gustavus, when appearing to fight a duel with the Lord Reay, wore a coat of scarlet, laced so thickly with silver that the ground of the cloth was scarcely visible.—(Sanderson’s History of England.)

Colonel Mackinnon, in his History of the Coldstream Guards, and other writers, have attributed the adoption of the British uniform to William III.; though there is abundant proof of its having been common both to Scotland and England long prior to the Revolution.

Sir James Balfour, in his “Annales,” records that, in the middle of February 1651, an English ship was made a prize by the Scots, who found in her “eleven hundred ells of broad clothe, seven hundred suttes of made clothes, and als many Read Cottes, two hundred and fifty carabines, five hundred muskets, with powder and matches.”—(Vol. ii.)

Montrose at his execution wore a scarlet coat richly laced with silver; and the “History of Dunbar” mentions that human bones and pieces of scarlet cloth” have been found near Spottdean, where the dead were interred after the battle fought there in 1650.

Crichton, the cavalier trooper, saw a party of Scottish dragoons “in red” in 1676; and in 1684, the dress of the Coldstream Guards was a red coat lined with green, red stockings, red breeches, and white sashes. “The colonel, and other officers on duty, to wear their gorgets.”

In Sir Patrick Hume’s account of Argyle’s descent upon Scotland, (printed in Rose’s observations upon the historical work of Mr Fox,) among the Scottish forces led by the Earl of Dumbarton, he says, “Wee saw in view a regiment of red-coat foot, too strong for us to attacque.” Before the charge at Killiecrankie, Dundee is said to have exchanged his scarlet uniform for one of green; and that colour is “yet considered ominous to those of his name who wear it.”—(Browne's Highlands.)

In 1698, by order of William III., it was ordained, “that no person whatsoever shall presume to use or wear scarlet or red cloth for livery, except such as are for his Majesty’s service, or the Guards.”


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