top of page
Equipment, Accoutrements, Weapons and Instruments of the Marines
Equipment and Accoutrements
For equipment Privates, Corporals and Sergeants of Marines during the War of 1812 era would have been issued a knapsack and that most likely being the pattern adopted by the United States government in early 1809. The Lherbette pattern knapsack was a simple design that had a divided central pocket with a flap that fastened down over the top of the pocket with a leather strap and buckle system. The straps that the Marine put on his shoulders were of brown leather. The pack was painted Prussian Blue with the rear over flap having a red oval, bordered with white containing the letters U.S. in white paint. In 1814 the flap of the pack would be painted a dark blue with a one inch Spanish Brown (which is much more red than brown) border.
The accoutrements they carried, hung on 2.5 inch whitened leather belts, were a pattern 1808 cartridge box adopted by the U.S. government in that year, and a leather scabbard for their bayonets. Like the U.S. Army the black leather box contained a wooden cartridge block placed on top of a tin insert with three compartments. The two on
1809 Newspaper Advertisement for the Knapsack
the end could contain extra cartridges while the middle compartment could contain extra flints and an oiled rag for keeping the Marines’ weapons coated and in working order. The middle compartment was accessible from a small opening covered by a flap on the front face of the box. However the Marine Corps’ boxes were unique in three ways from those of the Army. The Marines'
Cartridge Box Plate: United States Marine Corps Historical Division Collection
had an interior, oiled linen flap that could be drawn over the cartridges for extra protection against a wet environment. The Army would not take to this idea until the 1820s. Also, the wooden block in a Marine’s box was drilled to .80 inch as to receive Marine Corps larger caliber ammunition. Also unique was the Marine Corps' adoption of a brass, cartridge box plate on the flap of the box. This plate was a small, thin, strictly ornamental piece that served no real utility.
Lastly, due to the fact that Marines were primarily at an established barracks or aboard a ship they were not regularly issued canteens. Yet, it is known that Marines that were on extended missions away from their post were issued canteens. These canteens were likely general U.S. issue wooden canteen, painted blue suspended from a 1 inch leather strap.
A Marine’s weapon in the War of 1812 era is going to be one of two commonly used smooth bore muskets of the time. By far the most used and sought after weapon of the Marine Corps was the British made Third Model musket often referred to as the “India Pattern” of the famous "Brown Bess"
lineage of British muskets. In Marine correspondence of the time they are referred to as "British pattern" or "Tower pattern" muskets. Since their first purchase of the British muskets in 1805 the Marines were enamored and preferred it over the American counterpart. for its short length, longer bayonet and larger caliber (.75 thus the need for the .80 holes in the cartridge block). It also had a brass trigger guard, butt plate and ramrod pipes that would stand up better to exposure aboard ship. The Marine Corps obtained 500 of the India Pattern muskets in 1805 and continually bought, exchanged and captured them throughout the War of 1812.
The other musket a Marine was issued was the Model 1795/1808 Springfield musket or muskets of the same design made at Harpers Ferry Arsenal or by private contractors. These weapons were based on the 1763 “light model” Charleville muskets the French sold to the United States in its war for independence. Though this weapons was much easier to disassemble it was longer, had a shorter bayonet, were of a smaller caliber and all metal parts were steel leaving it more susceptible to rusting. When supplies of the India Pattern dwindled the Marines often received the Springfields but, as noted, the Marines never ceased to look to replace them with the British muskets.
Aside from the bayonet, Privates and Corporals of Marines did not carry edged weapons. However, Musics (drummers and fifers) and Sergeants did. Musics would also have a modified bayonet belt over their right shoulder that was adapted to carry a musician’s sword in a leather scabbard. The musician sword was a two foot straight bladed
British Third Model
"India Pattern" Musket
US 1795 Springfield
weapon of simple design. Sergeants carried the same weapons and accoutrements of the enlisted men but they also carried an NCO sword and scabbard in their adapted
bayonet belt. The NCO sword was also of strait bladed often somewhat longer than the music sword and was of private purchase so the complexity and ornamental nature deepened on the Sergeant.
Example of an early 19th Centry Staight bladed NCO sword
Musics would, of course, carry their instrument in substitution of a firearm. Drummers would carry their drum on a leather drum sling hanging off their right shoulder with the drum resting on the left thigh. The drum would be a US military drum with red hoops and decorated with a painted Federal Eagle clasping a banner in its beak on which is printed “United States Marines.” Fifers carried a fife case suspended from their right shoulder. The fife is tuned to C.
bottom of page