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Go Back   Armchair General and HistoryNet >> The Best Forums in History > Historical Events & Eras > American Age of Discovery, Colonization, Revolution, & Expansion > American Colonial Era

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American Colonial Era 1660-1763 The growth of North American colonies, often with a change in native & national control.

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Old 01 Jul 17, 19:07
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QUESTION ABOUT A PAINTING REPRESENTING THE DEATH OF GENERAL WOLFE

Hi,

My question is about Edward Penny's painting "The Death of Wolfe". Can someone give me more info concerning the uniforms (units and ranks) worn by the British soldiers?

Thanks,

Richard



Last edited by Hussard5; 02 Jul 17 at 00:22..
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  #2  
Old 02 Jul 17, 00:24
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Old 02 Jul 17, 00:28
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The other version of Penny's painting.




Last edited by Hussard5; 02 Jul 17 at 08:25..
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Old 02 Jul 17, 03:42
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The other version of the Penny painting is the same picture in reverse and reproduced darker.

"During the 18th century corporals might indicate their ranks with a shoulder knot and, later, an epaulette. Sergeants had clothing that was of slightly better quality, wore a sash, and had lace trim on their hats and uniforms."

"An officer’s rank alone often didn’t describe his role. As if this weren’t confusing enough, there was no way to distinguish a British regimental officer’s rank by looking at his uniform."

Here are some pictures from Blandford's Uniforms of the Seven Years War 1756-63.





From Military Modelling magazine:




And the rest are contemporary paintings.













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Last edited by Dibble201Bty; 02 Jul 17 at 04:19..
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Old 02 Jul 17, 03:47
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Old 02 Jul 17, 03:50
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And here are some cavalry

















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Old 02 Jul 17, 03:59
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Old 02 Jul 17, 09:13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dibble201Bty View Post
The other version of the Penny painting is the same picture in reverse and reproduced darker.

"During the 18th century corporals might indicate their ranks with a shoulder knot and, later, an epaulette. Sergeants had clothing that was of slightly better quality, wore a sash, and had lace trim on their hats and uniforms."

"An officer’s rank alone often didn’t describe his role. As if this weren’t confusing enough, there was no way to distinguish a British regimental officer’s rank by looking at his uniform."

Here are some pictures from Blandford's Uniforms of the Seven Years War 1756-63.


Paul
Hello Paul!

Thank you very much for your comment and all these interesting pictures!

According to the "Canadian Military History Gateway", General Wolfe was with the "Louisbourg Grenadiers" when he was hit at the battle of the Plains of Abraham on 13 September 1759. And the 1763 painting "The death of General James Wolfe" by Edward Penny is probably much closer to the truth of how Wolfe died than Benjamin West’s more famous painting. Of all the accounts of the general’s last moments, Captain John Knox’s version is generally accepted as the most credible. Knox stated that ‘various accounts have been circulated of General Wolfe’s manner of dying, his last words, and the officers into whose hands he fell; and many, from a vanity of talking, claimed the honour of being his supporters after he was wounded; but […] Lieutenant Brown, of the grenadiers of Louisbourg and the twenty-second regiment […] with Mr. Henderson, a volunteer in the same company, and a private man, were the three persons who carried his excellency to the rear; which an artillery officer seeing, immediately flew to his assistance; and these were all that attended him in his dying moments.’

If we consider the fact that the "Louisbourg Grenadiers" was a temporary unit formed in 1759 for the Quebec expedition from the grenadier companies of the 22nd, 40th and 45th regiments, the soldiers on the painting (those wearing the mitre) are from these grenadier companies. And if we take into account the description of the uniform for each of these regiments, I would say that the Grenadier supporting Wolfe is from the 22nd Regiment of Foot, while the one delivering news of the battle to Wolfe is from the 45th Regiment of Foot.



The above image shows grenadiers of the 22nd (left), 40th (right) and 45th (centre) Regiments of Foot.

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Old 02 Jul 17, 19:20
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I prefer West's painting. Though it's very staged with officers taking the limelight, the uniforms are much better rendered, the Royal artillery are depicted and soldiers too but all are mitreless. The mitre on the ground is an officers belonging to who? Possibly the officer supporting Wolf. From the facings, those depicted could be from any of the regiments listed below

1st Brigade Brigadier General Robert Monckton
15th Foot (Amherst's)
43rd Foot (Kennedy's)
48th Foot (Webb's), Burton
78th Foot (Fraser's Highlanders)

2nd Brigade Brigadier General Charles Townshend
28th Foot (Bragg's)
47th Foot (Lascelle's)
2/60th Foot (Royal American)

3rd Brigade Brigadier General James Murray
35th Foot (Otway's)
58th Foot (Anstruther's)
3/60th Foot (Royal American)

Louisbourg Grenadiers
22nd Foot (Whitmore's) (1 coy)
40th Foot (Barrington's) (1 coy)
45th Foot (Robinson's) (1 coy)

Light infantry (3 coys), Lieutenant-Colonel William Howe
Rangers
2 light guns

I see you have used the 'wrong' picture in your reply.

The correct one is this:



I suppose the grenadier depicted in Penny's picture would be that of the 22nd foot though his mitre detail is wrong.

There are plenty surviving examples of mitres:

https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=br...w=1342&bih=600





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Old 04 Jul 17, 17:09
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Here are some notes I made on the subject a few years ago. There is a difference of opinion as to whether in fact Wolfe was wearing a plain red frock (as in McGregor's Blanford illustration No. 132), or a conspicuous "new uniform." whch made him a target. Penny chooses to show him in a grenadier's coat (40th Regt?) which he reportedly wore for a recce before the Plains of Abraham operation.

NOTES:
“Contrary to the advice of one of his officers, he had rendered himself particularly conspicuous that morning, by donning a new uniform, and as he moved about giving orders to that part of his army drawn up near the Ste Foye road, he presented an easy mark for the ambushed Indians, concealed in the wood on the city side of DeSalaberry Street.”

CH XII p. 201 Wolfe’s dying moments
Siege of Quebec (Doughty 1901)

“Clad in the same plain old red uniform that he had favoured through out the campaign, Wolfe stalked the line.”

Paths of Glory, p.279 (Brumwell)

Behold the Hero: General Wolfe and the Arts in the Eighteenth Century
*By Alan McNairn pp.102-105

The officers surrounding Wolfe in Penny’s painting have been given names by modern writers who have assumed incorrectly that the picture is a visual document of a historical event. The surgeon’s mate has been taken to be Heriot or Wilkins, the grenadier holding Wolfe has been identified as Lieutenant Browne, and the other grenadier has been taken to be James Henderson. The man in the background has been said to be Captain Curry.27 The identity of these soldiers was determined not on the basis of phyiognomic similarities with known portraits of the individuals but rather through reference to names taken from the eye-witness accounts. The propensity to identify all the people in paintings of contemporary historical events arose as a result of West’s influence through engravings made more than a decade after Penny exhibited his picture and would not have been part of the reaction of the contemporary audience. It is likely that apart from Wolfe, and perhaps Monkton, Penny intended the figures in his picture to be generic soldiers and not identifiable portraits.

A visual comment in the principles of military virtue on a very human level at a particular moment in time

Moral didactism c.f. Penny’s ‘Marquis of Granby giving Alms to a Sick Soldier’


Paths of Glory: The Life and Death of General James Wolfe
*By Stephen Brumwell

The artist Edward Penny shows the stricken Wolfe attended by a surgeon believed to be Thomas Wilkins of the 35th Foot- one of several medical men mentioned in contemporary accounts as being present, or who later claimed to have been on hand. Other contenders include John Watson, the surgeon of the 48th Foot, and his mate ‘Mr Treat.’ Two of the Louisbourg Grenadiers who were with Wolfe during his last minutes, Volunteer James Henderson and Lieutenant Henry Browne, both feature in the foregorund. Although Penny was apparently advised by Henderson himself, his painting cannot be regarded as an entirely accurate record of events. Some of the details, for example, Wolfe’s uniform and the close proximity of the British firing line, do not tally with eyewitness evidence


OTHER REFS:
Behold the Hero: General Wolfe and the Arts in the Eighteenth Century
*By Alan McNairn

Clarence Webster, “Pictures of the Death of Major-General James Wolfe,” The JSAHR 6 (1927):33.

The Marquis of Sligo, ‘ Some Notes on the Death of Wolfe’ Canadian Historical Review 3 (1922)
(identifies Browne- Henry Brown of 22nd Regiment/Louisbourg grenadiers)

Col C.P. Stacy ‘Benjamin West and the Death of Wolfe’ The National Gallery of Canada bulletin 7 (1966): 1
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Old 04 Jul 17, 19:00
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One interesting point about Benjamin West's "Death of General Wolfe is that Lord Nelson was quite taken by the painting and told West "You should do more paintings like that". To which West replied that he would but he needs more subjects . An amused Nelson "Perhaps I shall provide you a subject.

Benjamin West's "Death of Nelson was way over the top and not historically accurate in the least. Nelson died in the dark depths of the orlop with very few people around him.


If West ignored historical accuracy in the Death of General Wolfe as he did in the Death of Nelson then nothing from the Wolfe painting can be taken as being historically accurate.

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