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Old 7th November 2012, 12:30 AM   #1
PClemente
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Default Identifying Gorget

Hi All,
A number of years ago I was able to trade with a dealer in the UK for a particular gorget pattern that I had never seen before. Instead of the usual brass or silver gorget, this example was made of leather and bears a royal cypher in brass. The dealer informed me that the piece was an example of a gorget pattern adapted to warfare in the colonies during the French & Indian War, by colonial ranger companies such as Rogers Rangers. Please see the pictures for reference.
Any thoughts?
Thanks,
Paul
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Old 8th November 2012, 04:56 AM   #2
Jim McDougall
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Hi Paul,
Incredibly interesting item, and the gorget is an element of military fashion seldom discussed it seems. Actually from what I understand in reviewing some information on Rogers Rangers, it does seem quite possible this gorget could be from that or one of the resultant auxiliary units.

Robert Rogers, a New Hampshire farmer, organized his famed unit in 1755 for the British in campaigns during the French-Indian war (1754-63). His irregular frontier unit and those which followed were called 'rangers' for the tactics regarding as unconventional by the British, known as "Rogers Ranging Rules'.
Many elements of thier uniform and attire were of leather in accord with that worn by American Indian tribes, and frontier type clothing, eventually adopting green dyed uniforms. Rogers apparantly favored a leather cap with a steel plate which became also uniform for his officers.

These units were involved in other campaigns up to the time of the Revolution but were greatly mistreated and disregarded by the British, and actually some of the rangers were among early volunteers in the American Revolution at Concord and Lexington. Washington feared them being loyalists and denied thier assistance further however, so Rogers and his men returned to the British side.

The gorget was not worn in warfare, but was a dress element worn by officers and is often seen with British officers of the period. It would not seem unlikely that officers in these unique units might adopt these key items of military regalia done in thier early trademark leather. Closer examination of the cypher and devices on the piece might reveal which unit but we would need more uniform resources.

Very nice gorget Paul, and extremely unusual! Thank you for sharing it.
All the best,
Jim
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Old 8th November 2012, 06:09 PM   #3
PClemente
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Default Thanks for insight regarding the leather gorget.

Thanks Jim! Your insight and knowledge is much appreciated!
As you probably know there is very little literature on early gorget patterns such as this, and prior to finding this example I only knew about the silver and brass patterns from the Revolution and Napoleonic Wars. I have not come across a similar gorget online or in print since obtaining the piece.
Best,
Paul
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Old 10th November 2012, 02:26 AM   #4
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Default Gorget ID

Hi Jim,
I took your advice regarding possible research of the insignia to help ID the regiment that the gorget might be associated with. At first I couldn't make sense of the royal cypher that is unlike the traditional examples I have seen. But further research led me to believe that the cypher is the royal cypher of King George II or III " reversed and interlaced " which was a device used by the First Royal Regiment of Foot which fought with distinction in the colonies during the French & Indian War. My hope is that the gorget was part of the regiment's esteemed history during this time.
Regards,
Paul
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Old 10th November 2012, 03:42 AM   #5
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Hi Paul,
My curiousity still profoundly piqued by this fascinating and unusual gorget, I have discovered that perhaps my note that these were not used in warfare may have not been entirely correct. Further reading revealed that the gorget was apparantly used by officers in infantry units and other as a signal that the officer was on duty. Apparantly cavalry and rifle regiments officers did not favor these vestigial elements of armor as they were annoying for men who needed often to move quickly in situations. This would suggest that perhaps these were worn during combat by officers of infantry.

My original line of thinking was that these various 'ranger' type units officers might have adopted the 'frontier' effect in using leather in place of the typical silver or gold metal gorgets of regular army regiments. While selecting distinctly different colors and types of clothing, they also added leatherwear as worn by Indian warriors as well as frontiersmen.

I have found information concerning some of the Indian allies during these 18th century campaigns in "A British Regimental Gorget in Minnesota", H.R. Holand, Minnesota Historical Society journal, 1928, pp.285-86. Apparantly British units sometimes bestowed medals, ornaments and awards to prominant Indian chiefs to gain good will and loyalty. One of the highest honors was to be appointed a 'gorget captain' and the award of a gorget.

Perhaps this unusual gorget made in the woodlands favored material of leather and decorated with elements of military insignia might have been fashioned for such presentation to one of these Indian chiefs by the officers of one of these units.

Again, thank you for the opportunity to research this great item!

Best regards,
Jim
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Old 10th November 2012, 04:28 AM   #6
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STONE GORGETS ARE WELL DOCUMENTED AND NOT UNCOMON FINDS IN NORTH AMERICA SO THE TRIBES WOULD LIKELY KNOW OF AND VALUE THEM. FOR STALKING AND THE TYPE OF WARFARE THE WOODLANDS TRIBES USED A FLASHY AND PERHAPS NOISY METAL GORGET WOULD NOT BE PRACTICAL. SO A LEATHER ,WOOD, BONE OR STONE GORGET WOULD BE MORE PRACTICAL. I AM SURE A CHIEF WOULD HAVE BEEN DELIGHTED TO OWN A FLASHY METAL ONE BUT WOULD LIKELY WEAR IT ON CEREMONIAL OCCASIONS ONLY, NOT ON RAIDS OR IN BATTLE.
A VERY INTERESTING ITEM I WOULD NEVER HAVE THOUGHT OF A LEATHER GORGET, THANKS FOR POSTING IT.
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Old 10th November 2012, 08:30 PM   #7
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Apparantly simple geometric shapes were of course inherent among tribal peoples from prehistoric and archaic times, and probably the most common were the circle and the crescent of half moon. In North America among the Indian tribes there were various shapes of these and certain items which had totemic or other significant values which were fashioned in copper or other soft metals. Many of these shapes seem to have been worn as breastplates, and even some iron tools traded to the tribes by the Dutch apparantly ended up being worn as breastplates rather than properly used as noted in "Mishwabik, Metal of Ritual" (A, Trevalyan, 1981, p.89). In post contact period, apparantly numerous supplies of European metallic crescents traded resulted in less native production and fashioning of these kinds of items.

This would support that these crescent gorgets of European military uniforms would have distinctly have interested the warrior chieftains, not only with the inherent symbolism denoting power but that of rank or status.
The apparant attraction to metal of the Indian tribes in certain symbolic properties may well lead away from this example of leather being of suitable material for presentation to one of these chieftains. However, the key use of leather in the attire of the woodland tribes warriors may have been of consideration given the adoption of these kinds of attire by these guerilla units.
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Old 17th November 2012, 04:52 PM   #8
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Hi Paul,
In rereading this thread on this fascinating gorget, I noticed that I had failed to acknowledge your follow through on discovering the identity of the cypher discussed and its use by that unit. I also, in the flurry of exchange failed to thank you for your kind words, a courtesy which is paramount to me, in addition to your direct responses, again a courtesy too often absent here.
I hope you will let us know if any further developments are discovered in your research.
All the very best,
Jim
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Old 9th March 2013, 06:21 AM   #9
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Paul, I wanted to pick up with where we left off, and agree with the suggestion on the current thread regarding the Royal Armouries, that the National Army Museum would be a great source for information on this fascinating gorget. I would also suggest the Maine based 'Company of Military Historians' Rutland , MA 508-799-9229, who have maintained their journal on militaria and uniforms since 1949.

It seems there are two probabilities for this gorget; one as suggested that it may have been a field adjusted item with one of the British ranger units, who were actually inclined toward more functional attire and gear. The use of leather in the gorget, typically an officers badge of rank , would have been more in accord with the woodland attire adopted in these colonial circumstances.
What is puzzling is that the device is reversed? which seems contrary to use by an officer of the British military.

If the reversal, and the devices above the cypher (which I cant make out) was placed on this perhaps makeshift gorget by one of the American Indian 'gorget captains', then possibly that might explain.

In an article by John Hawkins, "Governor Macquarie and the Badges of Distinction" found online, the author notes the Indians fighting along with the British against the French in Canada, and were rewarded with silver gorgets made by colonial silversmiths. Some of the Indians were given local or field commissions in the British army and granted the title 'gorget captain'. Three Cherokee Indians visited London in 1762 displaying thier status as gorget captains and a portrait believed of the chief Oconostata shows this.
This portrait by W.Hodges is also mentioned in " The British Gorget in North America" by S.C.Wood (Waffen und Kostumkunde, 1984).

Your research indicates that the cypher on the gorget is of George III probably, and this device was used by the 1st Regiment of Foot. This unit was apparantly present at Montreal in 1760 so that might fit with this device, perhaps off uniform or accoutrement.

I found a Canadian silver gorget from War of 1812 period with silver Georgian crown and noted as probably for presentation to Indian chief.
Another, also silver, with British coat of arms and Order of the Garter device listed as Indian trade gorget c. 1760.

It would appear that gorgets were quite important items to be presented to allied Indian chiefs by the British, and I am led to wonder if this item may have been fashioned in accord with one of the mentioned field commissions of a tribal member and fashioned in imitation of the known trade examples of the time. This seems possible if of course in the field, and the trade items of silver made for these purposes were not available.

Hopefully this information might be useful in pursuing further with the NAM or Company of Military Historians, and they might have information to support either of these scenarios.

All the best,
Jim
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Old 24th March 2013, 08:20 PM   #10
PClemente
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Hi Jim,
Thanks for your continued input and interest in the gorget. These last months I have sent a description of the gorget and pictures out to many sources including fellow collectors, museums, dealers and auction houses, hoping for additional information, and I just heard back from a collector in the UK. He said that he remembers the gorget from a UK estate auction years ago and was pretty certain it came from a collection of Queen's Rangers material and accoutrements belonging to a Robert McCray (?). My research confirmed that the Queen's Rangers were a Loyalist Regiment that served in the American Revolution, so it would date the gorget later than the F&I War, but the particular pattern would make sense for a officer in such a regiment that adapted their uniforms and accoutrements to the conflict in the colonies, while not having to follow the same regulations as their British counterparts. I will continue to try to find information on the officer in question, but early research has not turned up a Robert McCray. I will keep you posted.
Regards,
Paul
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Old 24th March 2013, 08:28 PM   #11
Jim McDougall
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Hi Paul,
Thank you so much for your follow up on this interesting item, and I very much appreciate you keeping us posted. It is very kind of you to share this information and most useful as this thread will help those interested in these kinds of items in learning more on them. Best of luck as your research continues !

Jim
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