The American War for Independence was one of the longer wars in American history, being waged by a government which had very few resources available to it until foreign aid could be secured. For this reason, the 2d Virginia Regiment underwent three major uniform changes throughout the course of the war. When the regiment was raised in 1775, a uniform consisting of a purple hunting shirt and round hat was used. This was followed in 1777 with a blue coat trimmed with white lace, made by soldiers of the regiment with tailoring experience. In 1778 and 1779, the 2d Virginia Regiment received French-made "contract coats" along with most of the army, which was supplemented by bounty clothing issued by Virginia. The regiment was most likely still using this uniform when the majority of the men were captured at Charleston SC in May 1780.
In an effort to be as historically accurate as possible, the 2d Virginia Regiment incorporates all three of these impressions into our interpretive "bag of tricks", so that we can wear the most appropriate impression for the given scenario. We also have a militia impression we use for any situation where none of these impression "fit", giving us the flexibility to adapt to just about any event.
The 2d Virginia Regiment was authorized for one year of service by the Convention of Delegates in the Summer of 1775, stipulating that each soldier was to be supplied with a good musket and bayonet, cartouche box, or pouch, and canteen. Soldiers were urged to bring “best gun, of any other sort” that they could, and those bringing rifles would to be allowed twenty shillings as a bounty.
This impression is generally representative of what the 2d Virginia Regiment looked liked from formation of the regiment, at Battles of Great Bridge and Gwynn’s Island, to the subduing of “Insurgents in Somerset and Worcester Counties” of Maryland. However as the uniform did change slightly over time, this impression depicts the regiment as it would have appeared in the fall and winter of 1775, when the 2d Virginia Regiment was forming and fought at the Battle of Great Bridge. Generally, purple hunting shirts (capes added after March 1776) of osnaburg, drilling small clothes, round hats, blue duffle or “coating” leggings with horn buttons, drilling shot pouches with powder horns, cartridge pouches, haversacks, knapsacks, and muskets.
The Philadelphia Campaign would prove to be the high point of the military service for the Virginia Continentals, however since the campaign ended with the capture of Philadelphia by the British and the miserable winter at Valley Forge, this service goes largely unnoticed in the history books. The 2d Virginia Regiment would serve with distinction at the battles of Cooch’s Bridge, Brandywine, Germantown, and Monmouth during this period.
As of June 11, 1777, Colonel Spotswood confirms orders from February 1777 that those men who were tailors by trade to be sent to Philadelphia to draw blue wool and trimmings for new regimental clothing. In January 1777, the regiment had marched from Williamsburg to the Eastern Shore of Maryland and then onto Trenton where they were supplied. The raw materials issued take form as the 2d Virginia Regiment’s primary impression in deserter descriptions starting in September and are corroborated in October and December of the same year, and again in May 1778.
Again, there seems to be some slight variation in the standard clothing, but given the large quantities of drilling issued, it is probable that most men were in blue regimental coats with white worsted tape, drilling small clothes (though there now seems to be a mixture of breeches and overalls), and round hats.
During this time, it is most probable that the 2d Virginia Regiment received, along with the rest of the Virginia Line, French produced “Lottery Coats” of blue, faced red. This seems to be confirmed by the fact that on November 22, 1779 Colonel Febiger writes that he has “…drawn an elegant suit of clothes blue and red with white weskit, and britches…” Presumably, this is the uniform he is wearing in a miniature painted of him, a blue faced red regimental coat, buttons in pairs, with silver buttons and epaulettes. On November 30, 1779, Febiger further references clothing saying that “I must first request of you not to permit one of the men to wear their new clothes until the huts are done…I am extremely sorry the blue cloth did not hold out for all for all the officers.” Sure enough, Doctor Joseph Savage is listed as drawing cloth for clothing from the Virginia Public Stores on December 31 1779: “3 yards coarse linen, 1 1/2 yards fine linen, 1 3/4 yards blue cloth, 1 1/2 yards colored cloth, 1/4 yard cambrick, 1 pair buckles, 3/16 yard scarlet cloth, and 3 dozen vest buttons” and Ensign George Blackmore draws: “1 3/4 brown cloth, 1 1/2 light colored cloth, 3/16 yards scarlet, 3 yards shalloon, 3 yards course linen, 1 1/2 yards fine linen.” This seems to collaborate what Febiger writes. The Virginia Public Store also issues cloth and finished goods for roughly 796 pairs of stockings, 96 stocks, 416 pairs of shoes, 11 coats (this includes cloth only, likely to receive finished Lottery Coats), 83 weskits, 100 breeches, 256 shirts, 91 blankets, 51 hats, and 61 single and double knit caps.