THE FRENCH ARMY
Following the Seven Years' War, the appearance of the French Army uniform changed dramatically. Uniforms were strictly regulated, down to the last button. Increasingly complex regulations appeared in 1767 when white cockades were made universal, and were restated 2 September 1775. The French line infantry was dressed in white coats. The foreign line infantry wore red coats in the Irish and Swiss units, and dark sky blue in the German units.
The most controversial uniform order was devised by Count Saint-Germain and became regulation on 31 May 1776. It was a radical departure, and featured a closed coat with short tails and four-cornered hat. Though well intentioned, his 'Prussian' uniform met with hails of protests and jeers.
It consisted of a short-tailed coat with lapels, each having seven small buttons, and four buttons below which could be fastened; two buttons on the cuff and two above it; shoulder straps buttoned at the top of the shoulder; a small standing collar; and horizontal pockets. The facing color was applied to the lapels, cuffs, turnbacks and the piping of the shoulder straps and pockets. The coat collar was usually of a different color.
The white waistcoat was a very light affair with no sleeves, no lining and with cloth buttons. A white cloth belt was introduced which had two rows of four cloth buttons to fasten it. The breeches were white with cloth buttons. The white gaiters had no garter and buttoned to the breeches at the knee; and in the winter a pair of black gaiters ending below the knee was also worn.
Though the four cornered had was intended to provide protection against rain, it was roundly criticized and considered ugly. It was made of black felt laced with black, and featured a small plume: white for fusiliers, red and white for grenadiers, green and white for chasseurs.
[REFERENCES: The French Army in the American War of Independence. Men-At-Arms Series, #244. Reed International Books, Ltd., London, England. 1991. Color plate by Francis Back.]