Russian Line Infantry Uniform
Under Empress Anna Ioannovna in 1731, a Military Commission was created under the leadership of Field Marshal Münnich, which, among other things, was supposed to develop and approve standardised models of uniforms for the Russian army. For this purpose, dozens of models of weapons, cartridge boxes, horse harness, etc. were ordered from Prussia. The influence of the Prussian uniform had been growing in Russia since the 1710s, when Peter I became friends with the then Prussian Crown Prince Friedrich Wilhelm. As a result, the Russian guards uniform was copied from the Prussian uniform of the Crown Prince, as well as a number of models of firearms and bladed weapons.
Hat and Fatigue Cap
Guards wore tricorne with linear or scalloped golden edge, button and link of the cockade. Preobrazenskiy had broad and scalloped edge, Semenovskiy narrow and scalloped, Izmailovskiy linear.
The headgear was a tricorne (Model 1742) in black woollen felt laced in white, a white cockade on the left, fixed by a bronze button.
At the beginning of the 18th century, the Russian Army did not have a standardised model of headdress for grenadiers. The army used various models, guided both by considerations of practicality and existing fashion.
In 1731, the model of the Russian grenadier cap was developed based on the received Prussian models, however it had a smaller brass plate than the Prussian model. The regimental coat of arms was to be embossed in the centre of the front plate, according to the standardised regimental coat of arms approved in March 1730. The pointed cap of the new caps was assembled from four equal cloth wedges. In the infantry regiments, the caps were made of green cloth. The seams on the cap were trimmed with white woollen cords. A white woollen tassel was sewn to the top of the cap. Infantry caps were issued for a period of six years, and brass plates for 12 years. More expensive and high-quality cloth was used for officer's caps.
The final shape of the brass plate was approved only in 1733. By 1735, contracts had been concluded with suppliers. However, during the War of the Polish Succession, the Russian grenadiers wore a mix of grenadier caps without brass plates, or with brass plates of arbitrary designs. The process of replacing grenadier caps in the army with a single unified model dragged on for several years. Only by 1737 did the field and garrison regiments almost completely switch to the new headdresses. The exception was the regiments of the former Nizowoi Corps, for which caps of a new model were ordered to be made in January 1738 with standardised brass plates, that is, without regimental coats of arms, but with the coat of arms of Russia and the monogram of the Empress.
The so-called M1731 caps was the only officially approved grenadier headdress from 1731 to 1755.
Around the mid-1740s, new models of grenadier caps began to appear in the regiments. They differed from the 1731 model in that they had a high front plate, which was similar to the Prussian models depicted in the 1737 Dessau Specification. No official documents relating to these headdresses have survived. But at the same time, several models of such hats have been preserved in museums. Most likely, the reason for such innovations was the changing fashion. And probably the regiment ordered and manufactured such caps based on the wishes of the colonel, but at the same time the regiments tried to adhere to the existing costs for the production of the 1731 model. As a result, the brass plates were thinner and often cracked and broke. The design of the cap itself retained all the features of the 1731 cap, but with a higher front flap. The crown itself, of the previous design with a frame on four whalebones, now leaned towards the front plate, the rear flap remained short. In 1747, the very first caps of this design were officially received by the grenadier cadets of the Gentry Cadet Corps.
In the early 1750s, grenadier caps with high front plate began to dominate, and their rear cloth flap began to be attached close to the crown. It was precisely these grenadier caps that were worn by the grenadiers of the Sankt-Peterburgskiy Infantry at the Battle of Zorndorf, judging by Prozorovsky’s memoirs.
Modern historians got access to additional written notes of that period, e.g. information that in 1749 officers of Nevskiy Infantry ordered a “new-manner” front plate similar to those “already used in Sankt-Peterburgskiy and Voronezhskiy regiments”. Additionally, the mitres of Bjeloserskiy Infantry and Rostovskiy Infantry are nowadays considered to be of the 1742-1756 period.
In 1755, the Military Collegium considered a new model of leather grenadier helmet modelled on the hats of guards grenadiers. Additional changes were made to the design of the 1743 model. In 1755, a new model was officially approved and a regulation was issued for grenadiers to wear leather caps of a new type. That is why some historians call it the 1755 model, while others call it the 1756 model. But this does not change the essence. Since 1756, new headdresses began to arrive in the regiments. Most likely, within two years the army's needs were fully satisfied, given the deadlines announced by the contractors for the production of headdresses. The service life of grenadier hats was set at 8 years. For some regiments, caps were made centrally, and some regiments assembled them independently, that is, within the regiment.
The 1756 model was soon considered as very uncomfortable. Thus, at the end of 1758, grenadiers were allowed to use a fatigue caps and then in 1760 a red cloth mitre cap was approved and the M1756 were put in storage…
The first experience of standardization of the grenadier headdress was the M1731 mitre cap. It was mostly similar to the types used previously to the exception of the front plate which was specifically designed for this model of mitre by General-Fieldmarshal Burkhard Christoph von Münnich.
The mitre was a green carpus-style cap with red turnbacks on the front and rear sides. Its seams and the edges of its turnbacks were decorated with woollen white lace (golden for officers), topped with a pompom. The front turnback was decorated with a brass front plate embossed with trophies of weapons and standards and carrying in its centre the regimental coat of arms. The rear turnback was decorated with a flaming grenade.
Regimental coats of arms were introduced at the same time as this new mitre cap, in 1731. Regiments who had no coat of arms used the imperial monogram instead.
Note: The specimen from State Historical Museum is 34 cm tall.
On daily duties, grenadiers wore a fatigue cap made of cloth leftovers after the sewing of uniforms. There was no special design for such caps but they seem to have been made in the same way as the standard M1731 mitre but without decorations and baleen frame (this allowed to store them folded).
At the beginning of the reign of Empress Elizabeth Petrovna, the old M1731 grenadier mitres were to be gradually replaced with mitres of a new style. However, no standards were introduced so the new caps could only be considered as modified M1731. Nevertheless, according to the specimen of mitres from the period 1743-1756 preserved in museums, the tendencies were as follows:
- The new front plates were much higher, as tall as the cap, with the addition of a black Imperial Eagle in their top part.
- The baleen frame inside the cap was designed to keep it tightly fastened to the front plate.
Therefore, the new mitres were just a modification of the M1731 but looked very close to the Prussian style mitres.
It seems that this new style of mitres was made strictly for regular line infantry regiments (even only for officers in some cases). Meanwhile, garrison regiments, who could not afford to acquire these new mitres due to lack of money, still used the old M1731 mitres.
Note: the specimen from the Memorial Museum of A. V. Suvorov, dated 1743-1757, has a 30 cm tall front plate and is 18 cm in diameter.
The M1756 mitre cap, introduced on March 30, 1756, was intended to replace the various styles of mitres worn in the army and was designed on the base of the mitre caps of the Guards.
The black boiled leather skull-cap and neck guard was decorated at the front with a solid copper plate no more than 267 mm high, embossed with trophies of weapons and standards and carrying in its centre the state or regimental coats of arms surmounted by the Imperial Eagle, and a small plate was attached at the back with the regimental monogram, that is, the initial letters of the name of the regiment. The grenadier regiments had a front plate embossed with the state coat of arms, and on the back the first letters of the name of the regiment name. For example, the 1st Grenadier Regiment had the letters ПГП on the back in Cyrillic characters. A white woollen pompom. Men belonging to Grenadier regiments wore a mitre with the state coat of arms instead of the regimental coat of arms. Grenadiers of the Observation Corps had an imperial eagle with rays, trophies and EPI ciphers on the brass front plate.
Since the M1756 mitre was introduced shortly before the beginning of the war, the re-equipment of grenadiers with these new mitres was not yet completed at the beginning of the war.
The grenadier caps, approved in 1756 for the newly formed Observational Corps, had a number of distinctive details. The shape of the front plate on these caps had wavy side edges. The upper edge of the front plate ended not with an acute angle, but with a semicircle. The design of the front plate was particularly original. The image of the military fittings was complemented by the figure of the god of war Mars, and the soaring goddess of victory Nike under the monogram of Empress Elizabeth Petrovna. A brass grenade with Elizabeth's monogram was attached to the back of the leather crown of the hat. The regiments of the Observation Corps received ready-made caps at the beginning of 1758, that is, they came to the theatre of military operations equipped with the new-style grenadier caps.
As for grenadier officers, on August 31, 1756, through General Stepan Apraksin, a decree of the Empress was announced, in which the appearance of the grenadier cap for officers was finally approved. Officers' caps in all regiments were approved to be the same and had the same design of the front plate, namely Elizabeth's monogram at the top, below was the state coat of arms made of black enamel, and below it, was St. George. On the back plate is Elizabeth's monogram. In fact, in the Russian Army, officers often moved from regiment to regiment. As a result, a standardised design avoided unnecessary replacement of all the brass fittings. Officers' hats were distinguished by the quality of materials and more elegant decoration. The brass parts were gilded, and a silk tassel was attached to the top instead of a woollen one.
It soon became cleat that, with the new M1756 mitre, practicality had been sacrificed to decorativeness and pomp. This headdress turned out to be uncomfortable and sensitive to the effects of rain and sun. Many regiments had not yet received these new headdresses when, on September 23, 1756, General Pyotr Saltykov wrote to the Military Collegium about the inconvenience of the M1756 caps for horse grenadiers. And this is not the only example.
After the campaign of 1758, General Fermor reported that the M1756 grenadier mitres were very uncomfortable and it was allowed to use the fatigue cap in all cases (anyway soldiers did it even without order).
However, the earliest known official decree to replace the M1756 caps with cloth caps was issued only on December 29, 1759. Then General Saltykov’s proposal to replace the M1756 caps in the horse grenadier regiments of the army operating in Europe with triangular hats with iron iron-skull was finally approved. And on May 25, 1760, General Fermor ordered the transfer of all M1756 caps of the infantry regiments operating in Europe to arsenals for storage and the production of red cloth caps to replace them.
- “Instead of the grenadier caps now used in the infantry regiments of the Foreign Army, which during the campaign are not only in themselves inconvenient for people, but also from the heat and rain, drying out and becoming wet, cause them considerable burden, use ordinary cloth caps, and these old caps, do not take them on a hike.”
It was planned to hand over the M1756 caps for temporary storage to the nearest commissariat stores. However, it it important to note that they had not been discarded but simply replaced temporarily with cloth caps.
It was not before 1764, that M1756 caps were officially abolished.
Thus, from 1755 to 1760, grenadiers were required to wear the M1756 cap, at least during parade, formation, battle and when passing through the city. That these leather caps were worn in battle or when passing through the city is confirmed by archaeological finds on the battlefields of the Seven Years' War (re.: the findings of Grzegorz Podruchny), as well as by a small amount of iconography, such as the manuscript of Elbląg.
Even though cloth caps were officially allowed from 1760, this does not mean that they were not used before 1760. Cloth grenadier caps were not included in the officially approved uniform lists and, accordingly, the state did not allocate money for them. Therefore, cloth caps were made from regimental savings. According to the history of the Life Guards and of the Grenadier Regiments, in the Summer of 1756, red cloth caps with tassels trimmed with yellow braid were made for the lower ranks of the 1st Grenadier Regiment, which had been formed from separate grenadier companies of several infantry regiments. These caps were intended for lower ranks while they were in camp and on campaign. A grenadier cap was sent to the grenadier companies of the infantry regiments of the Observation Corps in March 1757 to use as an example. In other regiments of the Russian Foreign Army that participated in the Seven Years' War, cloth caps also began to be produced everywhere.
Documents attest that the cloth mitre cap was made of red cloth and without any brass plate. But in practice, the shape, finish and colour of such caps could have different variations. The iconography of this period is, unfortunately, very poor. We can see what the red cloth cap looked like by looking at the one illustrated on a box kept in the Deutsches Historisches Museum, as well as in the Pavlovsk Museum. The picture shows a Russian grenadier in a red cap with a semicircular crown and two front and rear vertically standing visors. Essentially, this is the only existing iconographic source that we know. Based on these drawings, the cap was red and had two vertical visors. The front high visor was additionally decorated with a tassel. This faithfully corresponds to the cloth cap depicted for the bombardier in the Elblag manuscript. However, please note that the bombardiers of the artillery regiments were the only soldiers who wore officially approved cloth caps as everyday headdress.
In field regiments, caps could be sewn in various shapes. The colour combinations used were limited to red, green and blue, since the caps were made from cloth left over from the production of uniforms. But again, the caps were officially approved in red and they had no brass decorations.
The design of these cloth caps probably proved its practicality, because the use of such caps continued further in the 1760s and 1770s.
Hair and Mustache
Hair was powdered, curled into 'boucles' and put into a braid tied with a black leather strap, so the bow of it was at the level of the collar.
Rank and file could wear a moustache. For musketeers this was optional, but for grenadiers it was a prerequisite, if one did not have a moustache, he had to wear a false-moustache dyed black. However, officers, had to shave their moustache.
Coat, Waistcoat, Breeches
The Russian soldier wore a green cloth coat with pockets and with red collar, cuffs and turnbacks. Buttons were made of brass: 9 along the chest, 2 in the small of the back, 2 on the turnbacks, 3 on each pocket and 3 on each cuffs.
They also wore a red waistcoat lined green, with two lateral pockets closed by lapels en patte d’oie. As for the coat, buttons were made of brass and buttonholes were trimmed in red: 9 along the chest, 3 on each pocket-lapel.
Soldiers wore red breeches, tight and long to the knee.
Guards wore green waistcoat and breeches, with 10 golden buttons along the chest.
Gaiters and Shoes
Legs were covered by white or black gaiters (black in winter) closed laterally by 10 buttons.
Musketeers of the Observation Corps wore heavy cavalry boots.
Cartridge boxes were richly and variously decorated. In the cartridge pouch or patronna sumka, were carried cartouches of ammunition or hand grenades. Boxes can be classified in two main categories: shoulder-belt or waist-belt. The shoulder-belt cartridge boxes (or patronna sumka) were bigger (30 x 20 x 12 cm.) than the waist-belt cartridge pouch (or lyadunka) that measured 27 x 9 x 3 cm. The former brought 18 cartridges in a wooden block (40 from 1761, with leather separations), the latter only 10. Cartridge boxes were suspended across the left shoulder by a white leather bandoleer or shoulder-belt 10 cm. wide closed with a copper buckle.
The waist belt was fastened on the shoulder with a metal button. The leather lapel cover was decorated with the regimental coat of arms engraved on a copper plate. The edgings of the box were reinforced by little copper edging-plates. Line infantrymen carried patronna sumka while the lyadunka was reserved to officers and grenadiers. Grenadier wore black leather lyadunka.
Troopers of the Observation Corps didn't carry shoulder-belt cartridge pouches, but only black leather lyadunka, on the lapel the regimental coat of arms, eagle with trophies of weapons, EP and rays.
Line and Observation Corps were furnished even with cartridge boxes for grenades: in the black leather pouch, a wooden box, that was parted to carry two hand grenades; the grenade box was suspended to a natural leather (chamois) bandoleer which bore on the front a match-case. The lapel was decorated with the regimental coat of arms, grenades and trophies of weapons at each corner (Observation Corps bore the same decoration on the lyadunka).
Troopers of the Leibkompanie of each Guard regiment carried cartridge boxes covered with red cloth while troopers of other companies of the Guards regiment carried black leather patronna sumka and lyadunka.
Rank and file had backpacks. They were made of black cowhide leather, had a belt and iron buckles. However, not a single one has survived and there are no images and no clear descriptions of their design. In the Russian army, the backpacks were carried in the baggage train.
During campaign, a soldier could carry a bread-bag made of randomly shaped canvas, a water flask and, of course, a musket and a cartridge box.
In January 1758, General-in-Chief Willim Fermor ordered all infantry regiments subordinate to him to have bags for carrying five-day provisions. These bags were made "...of calfskin with hair facing outwards, and in case calfskin was not available, from canvas or from thick dense linen, with straps sewn for carrying over the shoulder" (backpacks for carrying provisions were not suitable – "they were filled with clothes and other small things, and were carried on pack-horses."
Unlike backpacks, the design of a water flask is known, since its detailed descriptions were preserved when the Military Commission developed a sample flask and entered into supply contracts.
The water flask was made of double tin and had a brass plate on one side with the image of a two-headed eagle. It had a black cowhide belt with an iron buckle. There is one example of such a flask preserved in the Gotland Museum. Brass plates from such flasks are also found at battle sites in the 1750s - 1770s.
Peculiarities of Drummers and Fifers
Musketeers and grenadiers drummers wore the same uniform as the troopers, with swallow nests on shoulders and braids on cuffs, pockets and collar. Braids were often yellow stripes (edged in red in the Observation Corps) and red XXXX decoration in the middle. However, the colonel of the regiment might have chosen a different colour for the braids. The Drum Major had a gold edge on tricorne, gold braids on cuffs and collar. No swallow nests for regimental oboists.
Drums were made in copper, the regimental coat of arms engraved in the front, bordered in red and green, green and white cords.
Peculiarities of Non Commissioned Officers
NCOs preferred to carry a musket in action, so the use of halberds and spontoons was abandoned.
Kaptenarmous and other NCOs carried bigger cartridge-boxes with ammunition reserves for the company.
Peculiarities of Officers
Most officers wore tricorne. Some officers wore a mitre with a central shield with the EPI cipher (Elizaveta Petrovna Imperatriza), over St. George killing the dragon, between trophies of weapons and standards.
Officer’s coat was similar to other rank’s, with lateral pockets closed by lapels en patte d’oie with 3 buttons each. Buttons in gold. Green breeches. Generally officers wore the coat with opened turnbacks.
Officers carried a 1,80 m. long musket with bayonet (1,43 m long without the bayonet). Officers preferred to carry a musket in action, so the use of halberds and spontoons was abandoned.
Officers also carried a 86 cm. long sword suspended to a red leather belt. Models differed widely because many officers purchased privately their own sword. On the blades were engraved words like “vivat la grande Elisabeth” and “à Dieu et la Patrie”.
Officers' patronna sumka (cartridge box) was suspended to a red leather waist belt edged in gold. For ceremonies and bad weather there was a cover in tiny red leather. The lapel was heavily decorated with plaque sewed in pair, the upper (removable) representing an eagle, the lower the Order of St. George and the coat of arms. The lyadunka was made of red leather, with the regimental coat of arms in the centre of the lapel. Grenadier officers had even grenades at each corner of the lapel.
Guards had more elaborated decorations, the Leibkompanie’s officers carried shoulder-belt cartridge-boxes covered in red velvet, with EP and weapons and grenades trophies embroidered on the lapel, bandoleer were made in gilt mail. The similarly lyadunka was in red velvet, lined by a golden edge, trophies and grenades. Officers of other companies had a red leather cover to protect and decorate the patronna sumka.
For all Guard officers, a two pieces metallic decoration was fixed on the lapel: the upper half (removable) represented EP and two grenades, the lower an eagle with two grenades. The waist belt was heavily embroidered in gold.
Officers’ saddle cloth and holsters were red with round posterior corner, edged with one of two gold stripes (the inner broader), as rank distinction. EPI ciphers on the corner and holsters.
Brock, Dr.: Russische Truppen in siebenjährigen Kriege in Mittheilungen zur Geschichte des militärischen Tracht No. 4 - August 1894
Egorov, V. I.: Гренадерские шапки драгунских и пехотных полков образца 1731 года (Grenadier caps of dragoon and infantry regiments of 1731 model), Saint-Petersburg 2010
Konstam, Angus, and Bill Younghusband: Russian Army of the Seven Years War, Vol. 1, Osprey Men at Arms Series, No. 297, 1996
Knötel, Richard: Russiche Truppen in der Neumark 1758, in Mittheilungen zur Geschichte der militärischen Tracht, Beilagen zum X. Bande der Uniformkunde, No. 6, 1899, pp. 21-23
Leonov, O. G. and I. E. Ulianov: Регулярная пехота 1698—1801: Боевая летопись, организация, обмундирование, вооружение, снаряжение (Regular Infantry 1698-1801)
Letin, Sergey: Русский военный мундир XVIII века (Russian military uniform of XVIII century), Moscow 1996.
Malyshev, V. N.: Суконные гренадерские шапки первой половины XVIII века (Cloth Grenadier Caps of the 1st Half of the XVIIIth Century), Saint-Petersburg 2010
Pengel and Hurt, Russian Infantry Uniforms and Flags of the Seven Years War
Schirmer, Friedrich, Zweifarben Tücher Borgdorf o. J. - Russische Infanterie 1740-1762
Shamenkov, S. I.: Неизвестная шапка армейских гренадер царствования Елизаветы Петровны (Unknown Cap of Grenadiers of the Reign of Elizabeth Petrovna)
Tatarnikov, Kirill: Обсервационный корпус. 1756-1760 гг. Обмундирование и снаряжение (Observation Corps. 1756-1760. Uniform and equipment)
Viskovatov, A. V., Historical Description of the Clothing and Arms of the Russian Army, vol. 3, Petersburg: 1900
Carlo Bessolo for the initial version of this article, Arthur Yushkevich and Roman Shlygin for additional information on grenadier mitre-caps, and Arthur Yushkevich and Daniel Milekhin for additional information on backpacks, bread-bags and water flasks.