Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

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Uniforms of the War of 1812

In August 1802, Secretary of the Navy Robert Smith revised the Navy’s uniform Officer Regulations.  The new uniforms included a profusion of gold “lace,” or gilt metallic wire braid, gilt buttons, and the coveted blue and white color scheme.  While the cut and details shifted slightly with changes in civilian fashion over the next decade, this was the uniform worn at the beginning of the War of 1812.

There were changes in the uniform of the Navy approved by the Secretary of the Navy William Jones on 23 November 1813. The description of the full dress coat for the senior officers in the 1813 order, “The coat of blue cloth; with broad lapels and lining of the same; a standing collar...” is very similar to the description of the 1802 order, except in 1802 the lapels were to be long. Instead of the breeches of 1802, all officers were directed to wear pantaloons. In a period of transition, one finds men dressed in both the old uniform, the new one, or in combinations of both.

There were no written regulations for the American seamen during this time but they were depicted in paintings and draws of the time wearing blue jackets, scarlet waistcoats, blue trousers, neckerchiefs and glazed hats. Leaving the impression that high degree of uniformity did exist.