The Service Life of Clothing and Equipment during the Napoleonic Era
By: Peter Wacker
Translated by: Justin Howard
These articles previously appeared in Issue 2 of the German-language magazine Depesche, which is published by our partner, Napoleon Online. We appreciate the kindness of the editor, Markus Stein, for giving us permission to publish the translation.
For each item of clothing and equipment a definite service life was specified, during which, under normal conditions, this item should remain useable. This definition describes the so-called “lifetime”, which in the Austrian Empire was also termed the “wearing time”.
We can now present the service life of various items, using the troops of the Duchy of Nassau as an example.
The following information beforehand:
Toward the end of 1813, after defecting to the Allies, the Duchy of Nassau mustered new troop contingents, whose clothing and equipment presented a financial burden well beyond the means of the small state. All citizens of means were therefore called upon for donations to meet the expense. In 1814, in order to enable an overview of these donations as well as those funds which came from the state coffers, the General Directorate of the Duchy’s Military Administration published an “Instruction for the Administrative Committee of the Duchy’s troops”.
For an infantry regiment, this committee consisted of the Commanding Officer or Colonel of the regiment, the Commanding Officers of both battalions, the most senior Captain, an NCO who was newly elected each year, and the regimental treasurer as secretary. The administrative committee was directly answerable to the General Directorate of the Military Administration. Its duties were the administration of the required funds for pay, equipment and catering, as well as of any other issues. Each administrative committee had to meet at least once per month. Each member’s vote was equal – majority decision decided; in case of no majority the chairman had the final decision.
However, this form of military administration was dissolved on 1 January 1815 and all further business was carried out by the War Commissariat, which was part of the War College.
Various Service Lives
The following excerpt from the “Overview of the ordnance-related items of uniform of a light infantry regiment and of the Landwehr, including the specified service lives for the same” comes from the extensive appendices of the “Instruction” mentioned above.
A) Larger uniform items
B) Smaller uniform items
N.B.: In the case of leave, the service life of the smaller uniform items was extended by the complete duration of the leave.
Excerpt from the “Overview of the ordnance related items of equipment and weapons of a light infantry regiment and of the Landwehr, as well as the specified service life”
The author’s archive (after evaluation of the collections in “Section 202, Military Administration” of the Hessian National Archive in Wiesbaden).
Note: The drawings interspersed with the text show items of French army equipment (after M. Pétard, Uniformes).
Placed on the Napoleon Series: May 2010