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HEAD DRESS

The felt ‘stovepipe’ shako was adopted in 1806, and was the common headdress of British infantry regiments at the beginning of the War of 1812. It bore a large brass plate decorated with a crown, the king’s cipher and trophies of arms, although the plates of some senior regiments bore their own unique badges. On top was fixed a woolen plume, the colour denoting service in the regiment’s grenadier (white), light infantry (green) and battalion companies (white over red) respectively.

 

Shortly before the War of 1812, however, authorities in Great Britain authorised the adoption of the new ‘Belgic’ shako for British infantry regiments; this bore a tall false front, a shield-shaped brass plate, white cords, and the plume fixed on the left side. Few shipments had reached Canada before war with the United States began in June 1812, and many regiments did not receive the new headdress until the spring of 1814. Still, nearly all units received the new shako by the conclusion of the war. 

 

British field musicians were further distinguished by brass drum badges affixed to the backs of their shakos, a feature carried over from their bearskin caps worn in full dress.

British infantry field musicians (except buglers) wore black bearskin caps for ceremonial occasions. The pattern introduced in 1805 – bearing a large brass plate, white cords and plume – was larger than previous models, and stiffened by a rigid internal frame. Instead of the brass grenade worn by soldiers of the regiment’s grenadier company on their caps, fifers and drummers wore a large brass drum badge.

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The use of bearskin caps in Canada varied between regiments depending upon supply; while some units received caps for their entire Corps of Drums, other regiments received only enough for their grenadier company musicians.