Home Forums Horse and Musket 18th Century What is a Hunting Shirt?

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    Avatar photoSane Max

    It’s a simple question. All my books say what a simple, smart, practical piece of equipment the Hunting Shirt was. Apparently Washington wanted to make it uniform equipment, he thought that highly of it.

    So what makes it so great? I know what it looks like and what it’s made of, but what was it that made it so eminently suitable? And I am assuming the various layers are attached to something underneath, or do they hang loose with minimal attachment to each other?

    It really isn’t very important…. but I am painting the damn things, it feels wrong to know so little about them, and my google searches don’t really help.

    Avatar photoPatrice

    I don’t know much about hunting shirts, but one answer probably is to compare with a late 18th century more formal military uniform and see which one is more practical to run in the woods and through the countryside and live and sleep outdoors for days…


    Avatar photoNot Connard Sage

    It was warm, homemade, cheap, and the militia provided their own. What’s an impecunious rebel leader not going to like about them? 😉




    Obvious contrarian and passive aggressive old prat, who is taken far too seriously by some and not seriously enough by others.

    Avatar photoGeneral Slade

    I’ve always assumed that part of the reason Washington favoured the hunting shirt was because it looked distinctly ‘American’ so it had something to do with trying to forge a unique identity.  I imagine the ‘cape’ parts on the shoulders were separate layers with as few seams as possible in order to increase the degree of water resistance.

    Avatar photoMartinR

    It doesn’t seem to have any pockets, which might reduce its utility a bit.

    I am sure they looked jolly dashing though.


    "Mistakes in the initial deployment cannot be rectified" - Helmuth von Moltke

    Avatar photovtsaogames

    I saw one recently in an exhibition at the New York Historical Society. It was much thinner material than I would have thought, being semi-translucent. That may have been a function of age. My wife also noted that it was made from several smaller pieces of material, leading to fringed seams down the front either side of the center line. Wish I’d taken a photo.


    It certainly required less tailoring than contemporary “Prussian style” uniform jackets. One reason Washington favored them was because it made ordinary line soldiers look like riflemen, who were marksmen and had a longer range than muskets.

    It's never too late to have a happy childhood

    Avatar photocrestabear

    Is it one that stalks and preys on other shirts? 

    Avatar photoOB

    It is a smock to protect you and your good clothes should you own any.


    Avatar photozippyfusenet

    I agree that the key perceived advantages to hunting shirts were ‘home made’ and ‘cheap’. They weren’t particularly warm. They were intended for summer wear, and troops who had to make do with only hunting shirts in cold weather suffered. They were *shirts* or smocks, made up from light weight homespun linen or linsey-woolsey. The garment originated with men pulling off their coats and waistcoats, pulling out the tails of their big 17th century shirts, and going around in shirt-sleeves in the hot North American summer. The Indians took to wearing shirts over a breech-clout + mitasses ensemble, then began decorating the shirts, and that fashion was picked up and developed by white frontiersmen. Originally a frontier style, hunting shirts could also be quickly made up in more settled regions using local labor and materials.

    You'll shoot your eye out, kid!

    Avatar photoDarryl Smith

    Also, to add to Zippy’s excellent post, the layers of fabric over the shoulders kept the soldier dry as rain would not penetrate that many layers very well.

    Buckeye Six Actual

    Avatar photoOldNick

    Cheep and easy to make.  Gives a uniform appearance to your army.  And since hunting shirts are associated with rifles makes your enemy think all the army could be rifle men.

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