Camp followers in the Peninsular War

January 12th, 2015 by Peter Harrington

Soldiers on a marchIn earlier wars and campaigns, it was not uncommon for wives and children of soldiers to march with the armies. This was the case during the Peninsular War in Spain and Portugal fought from 1807 and 1814 between Britain and France. In a recently published account written by one such wife of a soldier,  Catherine Exley, the difficulties and travails experienced under such appalling conditions are brought sharply into focus. She describes one particular march in the Spain:

The rain poured down the whole way, the road was so bad we walked in mire and wet. The sand amongst my clothes, which, rubbing against my body, caused acute pain in  walking…having    neither tents nor beds, everyone was provided with a blanket only; the one which covered me was soaked with water.

The cover of the new publication uses a detail from a rather interesting engraving after the well-known British artist, Thomas Rowlandson. Entitled Soldiers on a march, it was published in London in April 1811 during the height of the war in Iberia, and captures the suffering borne by women camp-followers and wives. Indeed, the subtitle reads: ‘To pack up her tatters and follow the drum’. While it does poke fun at the subject, for instance, a woman carrying her husband, we see women with their children, and the stress is readily visible on the face of the woman on the right- hand side, who carries one child in a sling on her front while another is on her back. That the subject of women following the army was well-known in Britain at the time is suggested by other images which depict them. Examples are shown below:


Soldiers marching                 British troops on the march

March of baggage

An Officers Room

December 9th, 2014 by Peter Harrington

The military collection has recently acquired a rather interesting hand-colored engraving depicting British officers at rest. It was published in Dublin by William McCleary whose premises were located at 39 Nassau Street. While the artist is unknown, the practice of poking fun at the army was very common in the post-Waterloo era. This image dates from around 1825 at a time when the uniforms worn by officers were becoming more flamboyant. Dandyism was rife and many satirists caricatured such trends which were reflected in the vanity of the military elite.

An Officers Room

This particular scene is crammed with fascinating vignettes. Various uniform accouterments litter the carpeted floor and these along with the dress of one of the men suggest that they are members of a cavalry regiment. The one wearing his dress uniform on the left admires himself in the mirror as he sits by the fireplace. The items of dress on the floor appear stiff suggestive of starching. A military cap lies beneath a table while a helmet with a bearskin crown stands on the chest of drawers. A corset in the foreground might seem out of place in a male setting but is yet another symbol of the extremes to which the officer class had gone to create their immaculate image. Another officer, his back to the viewer, practices his flute while a third lounges on a chaise l’ange smoking a long Meerschaum pipe while reading a a list of promotions. He leans on a table looking rather intoxicated from the claret that he has consumed from the overturned glass but there is still more to be drunk from the two bottles.

Cavalry officers were drawn from the upper classes and their recreational pursuits are denoted by the framed pictures hanging of the wall, the boxing gloves, a cricket bat and ball, fishing and shooting gear. The publisher has added a personal touch by including a printed list of his prints, &c on the wall. A pet dog and two puppies who tug at the tunic complete this amusing scene which satirizes the easy life experienced by many officers in stark contrast to the lives of their men.

18th century Vues d’Optique

May 22nd, 2014 by Peter Harrington

Sixty years ago, Anne Brown acquired five hand-colored engraved transparencies from a dealer in Maine. These date from the late 18th century and were probably published in Vienna. Some of them may have been engraved by Georg Balhazar Probst. Known as Vues d’Optique, they were displayed in a back-lit box containing a candle and a convex lens designed to enhance the depth perception as well as illuminating parts of the scene. This was achieved by cutting-out sections while painting over other parts on the back. They depict the following:

1. An indoor scene with a large number of attendants and spectators in mourning dress and military uniforms, at an investiture of the Holy Roman Emperor.

Transp4 Transp4a

2. An outdoor night scene by and after Johann Hieronymus Löschenkohl (1753-1807) showing a Turkish commander surrounded by a military escort, titled ‘Der Bascha u. Novi wird am 3ten Oct. 1788 um zu Capituliren zum G.F.M. Baron v. Loudon geführt‘.




3. An outdoor military scene in Prussia, showing soldiers in foreground kneeling, while mass is celebrated under a canopy near a flowing scene.

4. The death of F.M. Lt. Gen. Prince Fürstenburg at the battle of Stockach, 26th March 1799.

5. A bird’s eye view of the Siege of Gibraltar, by Probst.


Recently two additional prints by Probst have been acquired depicting naval battles.

Naval BattleNaval Battle verso


For further details of Vues d’Optiques, see Devices of Wonder (Getty)

Prussian Uniform Chart

May 16th, 2014 by Peter Harrington


1799 Prussian uniform chart      Prussian chart detail 3



A recent acquisition is a large painted chart depicting the entire range of uniforms in the Prussian Army of the late 18th century. It is somewhat similar to a chart in the Royal Collection at Windsor Castle which dates to 1799 and is probably from the hand of the same artist. Such charts were published officially, frequently to show the changes and additions of the uniforms. The collection owns another water-color painted chart, circa 1788 entitled Plan der Königl: Preussischen Armee so wohl Ober Officier als Gemeine in ihren accuraten Uniform, und Staercke. Annual manuscript books containing entire pages for each regiment but often with more detailed written information, were also produced and a number of these are in the Military Collection.

The gouache on board image measuring approximately 63 x 86 cm. contains upwards of 270 figures in all,  showing three-quarter length images of soldiers in various uniforms, each identified by a faint caption. At the top are six full-length figures flanking an oval portrait showing the head and shoulders of the Prussian king, possibly Frederick William II (reigned 1786-1797) or III (reigned 1797-1840), although the full name cannot be made out.

Fort Custer Army Illustrators

May 6th, 2014 by Peter Harrington

A recent addition to the Military Collection is a fine gouache painting of soldiers playing cards in camp stateside during the period of the Second World War.

Gaylord Flory PAY DAY

In anticipation of war, Congress passed the Selective and Training Act of 1940 requiring all men between the ages of 21 and 35 to register with their local draft boards. This resulted in a massive influx of inductees into training camps around the country who were housed in temporary barrack buildings and recreation halls. At a number of camps, artist-recruits came together to create art programs designed to brighten-up the new wooden buildings in addition to creating recreational programs. One of the earliest and most successful soldier art programs was at Fort Custer near Battle Creek, Michigan. Self-styled the ‘Fort Custer Illustrators’, a group of soldier-artists began creating paintings and murals representing army life in the early summer of 1941. The illustrators held a number of exhibitions at the Camp Service Club and the first to showcase soldier art opened in early August 1941. So impressive was the quality of the artwork that a selection was chosen for exhibition in February 1942 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. This painting by Gaylord Flory entitled Pay Day, is typical of the high standard of art achieved in the camps.

Veterans of War

March 20th, 2014 by Peter Harrington

Two recent additions to the Military Collection focus on veterans of military service in the first decade of the 19th century during the Napoleonic Wars. The image below is actually from a panel of 15 similar figures painted from nature by Christian Gottfried Heinrich Geissler (1770-1844); a second panel bears a further group of veterans. Both are titled Trümmer der französichen Armee bei ihrer Rückkher ins Vaterland im Jahre 1813 [Retreat across Germany of the French Army in Shambles after the Disastrous War in Russia] and both prints can be viewed on the Cornell University digital archive. A blog about them describes the awful conditions that Napoleon’s army had to endure during its retreat from Russia.

Poor Veterans

The second image is a water-color measuring 13 x 9 inches. According to uniform historian, Christopher Bryant, “this is a very rare and compelling watercolor of a Royal Navy Lieutenant on half pay around 1815.  This was the fate of apparently many impecunious junior officers, who when placed on shore and without a ship, faced very challenging economic circumstances if they did not have private means, or enough Prize money.  The point of the painting seems to be that all he has is his kit bag and his single Lieutenant’s epaulette as all he has to show for his services to his country.  Unshaven,  down at heel and neglected by the authorities, apparently such men were not an uncommon sight in places like Portsmouth at the end of the War.  It is very rare to find such an unsentimental view of one, however, as evidently a piece of social commentary.”

RN Lieutenant on half pay 1815

U.S. Naval Uniform Project, 1946

March 7th, 2014 by Peter Harrington

Following the end of World War II, the United States Navy proposed changing some of the enlisted man’s uniforms as well as those of WAVES and nurses, and commissioned some designs to be created. They also contracted the artist, Andrew Wyeth (1917-2009) and the New York-based commercial photographer, Murray Korman (1902-1961) to create mock-ups of some of uniforms. The designs were apparently never adopted, but as John Nicholas Brown was Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Air at the time, and aware that his wife was a scholar of military uniforms, the Navy presented him with the photographs and three paintings.












Wyeth painted three designs in oil on panel showing figures dressed in the proposed uniforms. Korman provided photographs of models wearing the proposed uniforms superimposed on a ship deck.

Korman 1              

William Simpson in Abyssinia

February 5th, 2014 by Peter Harrington

In 1868, the Illustrated London News dispatched the Scottish special artist, William Simpson (1823-1899) to cover the military campaign that was taking place in the east African country of Abyssinia (Ethiopia). While his remit was to record images of the army as it moved towards the capital of Magdala,  Simpson was rather more interested in the history and antiquities of the country and his diary entries and numerous of his sketches attest to this preoccupation.

New Pier at Annesley Bay 1868Burning camels AbyssiniaThe Military Collection has acquired from two dealers in England, a group of eight of Simpson’s original sketches dating from April and May 1868 and depicting various scenes.

Abyssinian PloughTwo prisoners AbyssiniaThis selection of pictures represents the new pier built at Annesley Bay to allow the unloading of supplies for the expedition, drawn on 25th March 1868 (top);  burning dead camels and mules in a pass; an Abyssinian plow; and the trial of two prisoners for looting commissariat stores, painted in April 1868 (bottom).

Recrutment des Chasseurs d’Angoulême

December 20th, 2013 by Peter Harrington

A recent addition to the Anne S.K. Brown Military Collection is a French recruiting poster dating from 1814. This folio broadside includes representations of two uniformed figures, one a grenadier, the other a line infantrymen. The text reads:

Chasseurs dAnguileme

“Good men of Languedoc, Those of you who wish to serve His Majesty with distinction in the Noble Regiment of Chasseurs of His Royal Highness, Monseigneur the Duke of Angoulême, can place their trust in the Officers of the Corps; they will find in them compatriots who will find their good deeds particularly noteworthy. They will also receive a prize for enlisting, and the Colonel gives his word that you are guaranteed a leave after four years of service.”

The regiment served during the French Empire and in 1814 became known as the Chasseurs Angoulême under the command of Louis-Antoine d’Artois, Duke of Angoulême, who was called to arms from Nimes to raise several battalions in the south to counter the landing of Napoleon in Golf Juan following his return from exile on the island of Elba. The regiment became the 5th Chasseurs during the Hundred Days and was dissolved at the end of the 1815. Re-constituted in 1816 in Avignon under the name of Chasseurs Regiment du Cantal, it became the 5th Regiment of Chasseurs in 1825, and was transformed into Lancers under the July Monarchy.

Storming of Monte Video

October 23rd, 2013 by Peter Harrington


Storming of Monte VideoThe Military Collection has recently acquired an aquatint depicting the action at Monte Video, Uruguay in 1807. Entitled Storming of Monte Video, Feby 3rd 1807, it was taken “from a drawing made by an officer on the spot, Lieut. George Robinson, Rl. Marines.” The print was engraved by John Heaviside Clark and Matthew Dubourg and was published and sold in London by Edward Orme of Bond Street on March 25, 1808. In addition to the main image, there is an inset ‘View of Monte Video from the Sea’ after a drawing by Irby, Esqr, and a ‘Plan of the City and March of the Troops.’ It is ‘Dedicated by permission to B. General Sir Samuel Auchmuty and the Officers engaged at that Gallant & ever memorable Attack by Edward Orme’.

The print commemorates the events of February 3, 1807, when British troops under Auchmuty and Admiral Charles Stirling besieged and captured the city. This was the culmination of several days of bombardment which targeted the wall near the large Anglican cathedral. A breach was finally achieved allowing the British to assault the city but under a withering fire from two bastions held by the defenders, and hindered by hides which the defenders had added to the wall to partially fill the breach. This resulted in heavy casualties on the attacking force. Within a month, the city was back in Spanish hands following the surrender of the British garrison.

For further information on the Battle of Montevideo, see the Wikipedia entry.