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Line infantry helmet - 1790 pattern
(Courtesy of the Vienna War Museum)


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Line infantry officer's helmet - 1790 pattern
(Courtesy of the Vienna War Museum)

Patterns of the infantry coat of 1790-98 (A); the infantry jacket of 1798-1808 (B); and the infantry jacket of 1806 - 15 (C).

The Infantry - Uniforms

The 1798 Uniform

Experience and campaigning revealed that changes of uniform and equipment were necessary; indeed, modifications may already have been made unofficially. In 1797 a commission was established to modernise the army's equipment, not without opposition from traditionalists. Some proposals were rejected, among them apparently a scheme for numbering the buttons, and introducing black belts and red leather musket slings.

Most dramatic of the changes introduced by the 1798 regulations which probably came into force in the following year, were a new jacket, and, instead of the Casquet, a large leather helmet. Supposedly styled upon classical designs, this headdress consisted of a black laquered leather skullcap 16.5cm high, topped with a raised comb running from front to back, upon which was fixed a crest of black over yellow wool 5cm high. Reinforcing bands ran up the sides of the helmet, usually of black leather, or blackened or shiny brass; the front of the helmet bore a large brass plate bearing the Emperor's cypher embossed,* ( with the adoption of the title 'Emperor of Austria' in 1804 it changed to 'F.I' ). It had a large brass-edged peak and a wide rear peak, with a 4cm wide leather flap at each side between the front and rear peaks, intended to divert rain water from the wearer's ears. On each side of the helmet were brass bosses to support the chinstrap, of black leather for the rank and file, officer's chinstraps being covered with chain. It is coceivable that some helmets had two chinstraps, one for use and the other , covered with brass chains, as a decoration arouns the rear of the helmet; but despite this unusual arrangement featuring in a number of reconstructions, it is unlikely that the practice was widespread and it may have been limited only to officers. Many variations appear to have existed in the dimensions and minutiae of the helmet's construction, and though many illustrations show it as a handsome and well-proportioned, some extant examples appear clumsy, especially when officers (unoficially) increased the height (with crests up to 10cm high) or reduced the rear peaks to a size which rendered them useless in practical terms.

Note: *Illustrated here at left

The 1798 Uniform

German Fusiliers in the 1798 uniform, the officer at left wears a dark grey frock coat Uberrock. A brass-crested helmet and gold and black sash concealing the belt from which his sword is suspended.

(Print By: R. von Ottenfeld)

The new jacket was white cloth with ten yellow or white buttons on the breast; the collar (now upright), cuffs and turnbacks (the latter smaller and the skirts less voluminous) were all in the facing colour. Shoulder straps were now present on both sides, either white with facing colour piping or vice-versa. Two small buttons fastened the open rear seam of the cuffs. The vertical pockets had flaps about 2cm wide, fastened with a single button at the centre of each flap. Two buttons were present at waist level at the rear of the skirts, which had three vertical lines of facing-coloured piping. About 1808 - 09 the cut was altered slightly, the turnbacks being somewhat reduced, and the rear piping reduced also to two lines; from around this time it was common for the turnbacks to be slightly deeper at the front of the jacket, so that a band of facing colour was visible at the lower edge of the breast. Hungarian regiments retained their pointed cuffs with button and Barentatzen lace.

From 1798 the white breeches of German infantry extended to below the knee, with half-stockings below, the latter covered by shorter black gaiters. The boots introduced at this time had wide heels and soles protruding slightly from the leather uppers. Hungarians retained their light blue pantaloons with black and yellow braid, and their lace-up shoes with a seam at the rear and raised ankles. White or off-white overall trousers probably continued in use on campaign.