Uniform Changes in the Life-Guards Semenovskii Regiment, 1725-1770.

(From Istoriya Leib-Gvardii Semenovskago polka. Vol. 2: 1725-1796. Staff-Captain P.P. Kartsev. St. Petersburg, 1854. Pages 192-203.)


Private fusiliers [ryadovye fuzelery] had dark-green coats [kaftany] with dark-blue turned-down collars. Cuffs, buttonhole trim [otorochka petel’], the coat’s and cape’s kersey lining, as well as the waistcoat [kamzol], were red. Neck-cloths [galstuki] were made from white linen [kholst] and tied in the back. Hats had round brims 3 vershka [5-1/4 inches] wide. They were lined only with silk galloon without cords, whose place was taken by white ribbon made from wool tape, fixed with a brass button above the left side of the hat. Both the coat and the waistcoat were fastened with all their buttons in wintertime; in summertime, even when in formation, they were only fastened at the waist. The gaiters [shtiblety] introduced under Petr II were made from white linen [polotno], with covered buttons and white straps under the foot [podvyazki]. It was ordered to also have cuffs on the shirts, these being closed around folds in the sleeves and with 1-1/2 vershka [7/8 inch] being visible past the coat’s cuffs. (Illustration No. 1.)

Non-commissioned officers [unter-ofitsery] had uniforms distinguishable from those of privates only by gold galloon trim around the collar and cuffs, the first with one row for all, and on the latter—one row for quartermaster sergeants [fur’ery] and officer-candidates [podpraporshchiki], two for supply sergeants [kaptenarmusy], and three for sergeants [serzhanty], which served as rank distinctions for them (Regimental Orders, 1730, Book No. 6). In addition, non-commissioned officers had bows on their hats not made of tape [tes’ma], but of lace [lenta] (Expenditures Journal, No. 7). They had the same galloon on their hats, grenadier caps, and crossbelts (Illustration No. 2).

The uniforms for grenadiers [grenadery] were the same as for fusilers, distinguished only by old pattern caps instead of hats, but with several ostrich feathers instead of one. Privates, drummers, and fifers had 22 red feathers and 3 white, and non-commissioned officers had 15 red and 15 white.

Hautbois players [goboisty] and drummers in fusilier companies had the same pattern and colors for uniforms as privates, with just the addition of wool lace [bason] sewn on in the same places as laid down in 1725.

Officers [ofitsery] kept the previous pattern uniforms. Only colors had some changes: coats and breeches were dark green while the waistcoat, cuffs, and coat lining were red. To distinguish them from army officers, their collars, cuffs, and front opening on the coat and waistcoat were trimmed with gold galloon. The same galloon, but somewhat wider and with a sawtooth pattern, was on officers’ hats (Regimental Orders, 4 September 1732. No. 9) (Illustration No. 4a).

At the end of Empress Anna Ioannovna’s reign the uniforms of the Semenovskii Regiment, as a result of oral orders from Her Majesty, underwent significant changes. The changes implemented were described in an order to the regiment dated 5 April 1738, in the following words:

Her Imperial Majesty Most Graciously willed that in guard infantry regiments Field-grade Officers have a uniform of the pattern approved by Her Majesty: green coats, red cuffs and collar, one row of gold lace [pozument] as trim on the front opening, around the collar and cuffs, and on the turnbacks. Red waistcoats and breeches, with two rows of lace as trim on the waistcoat. Flat gilt buttons. For Company-grade Officers all is of the same colors, but with only one row of gold lace. In the Semenovskii Guards Regiment non-commissioned officers, corporals [kapraly], soldiers, and other ranks, when making the current new coat, are to have red collars on the coats, and cornflower-blue shoulder straps are removed from the shoulders of soldiers.

In addition, all ranks in the regiment had to powder their hair and plait it into long queues. Lower ranks bound their queues with black leather, while officers used silk tape of the same color. All ranks had to wear mustaches. Men who could not grow their own were ordered to have them glued on (Regimental archive files, 18 March 1739).

The regiment’s uniforms remained in the uniforms described above without change until 1742.

Uniforms under Elizabeth Petrovna.

During the short interregnum of Princess Anna Leopoldovna the sole change in regimental clothing was that it was ordered that lower ranks have white calamico pants in summertime (Regimental archive files, Book No. 125).

Under Empress Elizabeth Petrovna, with the fusilier companies being renamed musketeer companies, it was laid down that:

For private musketeers, the coat and waistcoat, shirt cuffs and shoes are left in their previous colors and patterns; breeches are red once more; kersey [karazeinyi] lining is replaced throughout be stamin [stamen]; gaiters are to be of two types: for everyday use—of black cloth with white linen gaiter cuffs [stibel’-manzhety], and for parades—white. The hat is left in its previous form and size, but to its trimming are added two white woolen tassels, while the bow, instead of tes’ma tape, is ordered to be made of narrow linen.

The clothing of non-commissioned officers was in all ways the same as that of privates with the exception of galloon sewn onto the same places as before, and of tassels on the hat, which for them were gold.

In regard to the uniforms of officers of musketeer companies in 1742, there was a significant change in appearance compared to before. The coat, waistcoat, and breeches were green, and galloon was of sawtooth pattern along the coat opening, cuffs, collar, cuff flaps, and at the lower part of the pants at the slits. Neck-cloths and shirt cuffs were of white muslin [kiseinyi] with lacework. They had two kinds of footwear: for everyday wear they wore boots with cuffs, and for parades they appeared in shoes with white gaiters. Gloves were prescribed to be chamois with small gauntlet cuffs, trimmed with narrow gold galloon. Capes remained green as before but with green collars instead of dark-blue. This was the uniform for all musketeer officers of guards infantry. The Semenovskii officers’ distinction was the galloon trim with small indentations when it was smooth for the Izmailovskii Regiment and with large indentations for the Preobrazhenskii. Until 1746 they all had white feather trim [plyumazh] on their hats, white bows of silk tape, and the same tassels as for non-commissioned officers (Regimental archive files, 13 March 1746). In addition, in October of 1761 field and company-grade officers were ordered to have frock coats [syurtuki] for inclement weather, of green cloth with dark-blue collars. The frock coat was trimmed down the front opening with narrow galloon and reached to 2 vershka [3-1/2 inches] below the knee (Regimental Orders, Book No. 13, second section). (Illustration No. 4a.)

The privates and non-commissioned officers of the grenadier company both had the same uniforms as for musketeers except for wearing caps instead of hats. The grenadier cap was made from black thick leather [pumpovaya kozha]. Its shape was almost the same as established under Petr I. It consisted of a crown with three brass insets; it had a brass plate and black chin strap. The front [nalobnik] was 4-1/2 vershka [8 inches] high; along its edges brass tracery was inlaid, and in its center—a brass state coat-of-arms. At the rear end of the crown was fixed a small brass tube into which were inserted a bunch of ostrich feathers: red for privates, but for non-commissioned officers—red with white along the edges.

The grenadier officer’s cap was likewise the only difference from a musketeer officer. It was of the same pattern as for privates, but its fittings were gold and the feathers—all white. (Illustration No. 4b.)

Drummers, fifers, and musicians maintained their previously laid-down patterns and colors. Their sewn-on lace stripes [nashivki], which for many years were on their shoulders’ swallow nests and on their coat seams, were prescribed to be the same as in the army, i.e. of yellow and red woolen galloon. However, musicians’ uniforms changed frequently. It was customary to make them as decorative as possible, and therefore they were never used for the whole of their wear-out period and had to be maintained with funds beyond the regulation amounts. In 1760 musicians had red coats and waistcoats, trimmed with wide gold galloon down the front opening and on all seams, with lining of white stamin, while hats also had gold galloon and red feather trim (Income letters, Book No. 291).

Uniforms for noncombatant ranks [nestroevye chiny] remained the same as under Anna Ioannovna.

Changes under Petr III.

Emperor Peter III made significant changes in the troops’ uniforms. All of them date from the first half of 1762 and consisted of the following (Illustration No. 3):

The coat, now called a mundir instead of kaftan, actually differed only in that it was a little shorter and tighter, with somewhat narrower sleeves, and was made from dark-green cloth with dark-blue collars. Down the front opening were six slit buttonholes. These were arranged in pairs (which at the time were called nests [gnezdy]), and trimmed with yellow tape [tes’ma] with small worsted tassels on the outer end. This trim, along with the tassels, were called shleify [from the German Schleife, or “loop”- M.C.], and in addition to the front opening these were sewn onto each sleeve, two over the trimming, three on the flaps, and two behind on the turnbacks. An aiguillette [aksel’bant] was fastened to the right shoulder, of yellow wool, 3/4 arshina [21 inches] long. It consisted of three loops, a bow, and two ends with brass tips. One of the loops was held by a button sewn to the collar. The collar was turned down, as on the kaftan, but a little narrower. Cuffs, much smaller than before, were red. The coat’s skirts were turned back and fastened by small hooks. The lining, as before, was made from red stamin.

Worn beneath the coat was a sleeveless waistcoat with only two buttons on the pocket flaps. The remaining uniform items such as the cape, breeches, shirt cuffs, neckcloth, gaiters with cuffs, shoes, and boots were prescribed to be altered, but they actually kept their previous patterns and colors. The black gaiters used up to now for everyday wear were abolished, and it was ordered to always be in white gaiters (Regimental Order, 9 April 1762).

The hat was not made out of wool, but of felt, and was somewhat longer than before, trimmed with yellow tape 1/2 vershka [3/4 inch] wide, and had three worsted tassels: two on the side corners and one at its top. The side tassels were made from green, white, and red wool, and the upper one was entirely white. Behind this last tassel was placed an oblong buttonhole loop of tape, fastened at its lower end by a button sewn onto the hat. (Illustration No. 3.)

The non-commissioned officers’ uniforms were the same as for privates with the sole difference being that the bow on the hat was made from white hair [volos] instead of linen (Regimental orders, Book No. 14, Second Section). Rank distinctions were sewn on as before, except for the newly instituted rank of fel’dfebel’ [senior sergeant], which had four rows of galloon on the cuffs.

Musketeer officers wore the uniform described above but instead of buttonhole trim, they had gold embroidered shleify, a gold aiguillette, and smooth-sided gold galloon around the waistcoat and on the sides of the slit breeches. On the hat was galloon with a toothed edge. (Illustration No. 5b.)

Field-grade officers were distinguished from company-grade officers in that they had an additional two gold shleif loops at the back of the coat at the waist, and their hats were trimmed with feather edging. The frock coats authorized the previous year were ordered to be made more ample and not have lace [pozument] on them, and the cuffs were prescribed to be red (Regimental Orders, Book No. 14, Second Section).

The newly confirmed pattern for grenadier uniforms was exactly the same as for musketeers with the one difference being that grenadiers, as always, had caps instead of hats. The cap of 1762 was little different from that of 1731. Between the armature and two grenades was the Imperial monogram, and above—the state crest under a crown. The back piece of the cap was dark blue trimmed with likewise dark-blue worsted tape from the top to the rear piece which was decorated with three grenades within an armature. At the very top of the cap was fixed a spherical dark-blue worsted tassel. Such a cap was the sole distinction for grenadier officers, but for them the Imperial monogram was gold on sky-blue enamel, and the eagle at the top of the plate was adorned with red paint. The plate itself was gilded all over. (Illustration No. 5.)

Musicians, both at company level and in the choir [kak rotnye, tak i khornye], had a red coat, waistcoat, and breeches, trimmed as before.

It was under Emperor Petr III that officers holding staff positions, and likewise noncombatant lower ranks, first received distinctive and well-defined uniform clothing. The quartermaster, auditor, and doctor were to wear a coat with a dark-blue collar, green waistcoat and breeches with the same colored lining, brass buttons, and a hat without trimming. They were not authorized shleify loops or aiguillettes.

Not all these changes could be brought into actual use because ukases of 3 and 5 July prescribed a return to the uniforms of the Elizabeth Petrovna’s reign. The newly established Military Commission [Voennaya Kommissiya] thought up various changes that were the basis for the constant alterations made to the regiment’s uniforms during the 34-year reign of Catherine II. The main changes may be divided into two periods: the first group to 1763, and the second to 1786.

Uniforms from 1762.

The patterns for the coat, waistcoat, and breeches remained the same except that the round cuffs, sewn closed [sshivnye], introduced in 1762 became smaller every year. Waistcoats were worn under the coat only in winter, with the galloon lace removed. In spring, when the men began to go about in just the waistcoat, the galloon was sewn back on. Later a waistcoat pattern without sleeves was established. The reason for this was a desire to make the coat’s sleeves as narrow as possible and thus eliminate the folds that had been tolerated up to now due to the ampleness of the clothing. This was also the impetus for breeches beginning to be tied at the bottom with a cord and be drawn close over the knee. Even the boot shafts were made more narrow so that they lay flat under the gaiters (Illustration No. 6.)

There were two neck-cloths—one of red stamin for parade and another that was black and made from hair. The cape kept its earlier form, but it was more commonly called a plashch instead of yepancha. It was rolled up on the march into an elongated bundle and fastened to the knapsack. In 1771 linen pockets were sewn onto the inside of the cape, called shnabsaki [from German Schnappsack, meaning "knapsack" - M.C.], into which a soldier on campaign could put his daily rusk ration.

Up to 1775 men in the regiment’s gun detachment [pushkarskaya komanda] had nothing to distinguish themselves from the rest of the soldiers. In that year the regimental commander, Lieutenant Colonel Vadkovskii, took up a suggestion by Graf Bruce and ordered the gunners to sewn galloon made from raspberry colored silk onto their collars.

Changes in officers’ uniforms, compared to those for the men, were much more noticeable. The shleify loops that were such a significant part of the coat’s decoration were abolished, and neck-cloths were ordered to be white. To distinguish them from company-grade officers, field-grade officers had gold galloon along the front opening and flaps of their coats, and in full dress wore boots with bell-mouth tops instead of shoes.

To be continued.

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Translated by Mark Conrad, 2005.