Red Coats in Colonial Times

Redcoats refer to the military dressing of the British soldiers from 17th century to the 19th century. The term is of notable significance in American history.

This is because the British soldiers wore this iconic military dress when fighting the Patriots during the American Revolutionary War.

Even before the War, the redcoats had arrived in the Colonies in large numbers during the French and Indian War. It was around this time that the Colonies took a dislike to the British soldiers.

Recruitment of the Red Coats

The redcoats were often forcefully recruited into the British army. Very few willingly joined as the pay was very low and the conditions were dismal. The army had recruiting squads, who would scour the countryside and the towns and cities for potential recruits. In many cases, the squads used trickery, deception and threats to force new recruits to enlist.

The punishment for many crimes was also enlistment in the army. Individuals could avoid death penalty and other serious punishments by joining the army. Joining the army was known as accepting the ‘King’s shilling’. This term was used because the recruits were given a shilling as a bonus when the enlisted in the army.

Uniforms of the Red Coats

The redcoats drew their name from the style and color of their uniform. The British parliament decided to adopt the red color for military dressing in 1645. This was largely done because the red dye was cheap.

The main red jacket of the uniform was complemented by white facings and brass buttons. The soldiers in all the regiments were required to take excellent care of their uniforms. The uniforms were inspected on a daily basis.

Soldiers would spend hours in polishing the brass buttons, whitening the facings and on the overall maintenance of the uniforms. In time, their iconic uniform became the pride of the British soldiers.

After the French and Indian War

During the French and Indian War, a large number of redcoats arrived in the Colonies. They came to fight against the French alongside the British colonists. Once the war was won, the redcoats stayed on in the colonies.

They asked the colonies to pay for their expenses and arrange for their lodgings. They would also use deceptive recruitment methods and high-handed treatment. This increasingly estranged them from the colonists. Americans across all the colonies began to dislike the redcoats. Ultimately, this played a major role in the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War.

During the American Revolution

During the American Revolution, the Redcoats fought the Patriots. The redcoats wanted to maintain the rule of the British Empire over the Colonies. The Patriots, on the other hand, fought to secure the freedom of the Colonies.

The redcoats initially had the upper hand but the tide soon turned. They had little to no support in the Colonies. And supplies from Britain took months to reach North America. The redcoats were also smaller in number. The numerical advantage prevented them from maintaining control over any areas they won.