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Rifle Frocks

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On Monday there was a complete Company of 60 volunteers ready to march to join General Hull, with hunting shirts, moccasins, Tomahawks,Scalping Knives, muskets "-Columbian Centinel, August 22, 1812

The Rifle Frock and Fatique Frock

The third common coat worn by volunteers was the Fifle frock or "hunting shirt" as it was often called./fatigue frock.  It was a very simple garment descended from the farmers overshirt/work smock of the 18th century.  The frock had evolved into a coat that reflected the style of the napoleonic period.  The sleeves were longer, reaching down across the back of the hand.  The hunting frock had a high standing collar with high shoulder seams unlike 18th century hunting shirts.  There was decorative fringe used on the earlier hunting shirt and on the napoleonic hunting frock.

Rifle regiments wore green hunting frocks with buff/yellow fringe and nine buttons down the front, one cape and simple fringe adorning.  A painting of a volunteer Kentucky rifle regiment officer has very elaborate fringed natural dyed high collared frock.  The hunting frock was a practical coat for hastily raised troops to achieve some uniformity.   Frocks were dyed with natural dyes yielding natural shades.  Rifle regiments often dyed there hunting frocks green like the green coated rifle regiments in Europe.  The decorative fringe was dyed the same as the coat or any of a number of colors such as red.   Johnson’s Mounted Volunteers were required to wear a black roundabout jacket or a black hunting frock and formed into uniform companies based on coats.  Few examples of the frock survive as they were probably worn out after the war.   

The fatigue frock/hunting frock coat was by description a very commonly worn coat on the Old Northwest/Great Lakes area in the Mid-Atlantic and southern states.  It was a simple garment to make and could bring uniformity to volunteers using local materials in a timely manner.  The typical frock coat seems to be blue with red fringe or natural colors for infantry and green with yellow fringe for rifle units.  The 1st Regiment encourages those interested in this more regional coat to make them.  It is not a required coat to participate.  The gray roundabout jacket could be mixed with frocks or even worn under the frock in cold weather as a sleeved vest.  Standards will be established in construction to maintain uniformity.  This includes material, color, fringe arrangements and pattern.

The fatigue frock is a curious garment.  It also has an established past as a simple work over shirt and utility garment for heavy work and to prevent the dress uniform from becoming unecessarily soiled.  The army produced a similarly cut loose fitting "fatigue" coat. The garment, is in the collection of the Missouri Historical Society, St. Louis, MI and is cataloged as a “U.S. Infantry Frock , 1810-1820. The frock in question was worn by Augustus H. Evans (1791-1863) in the War if 1812.

Missouri Fatigue Frock

The regular army of the pre-1812 period had adopted the frock as a fatigue garment minus the decorations while up dating it with napoleonic era fashion details.  The 18th century fold down collar and loose sleeves were modified to current fashion of the high collar and fitted extended sleeves.  The fatigue version had no fringe or cape and just a couple of buttons to close it.

The regular army continued to use the hunting frock updated to napoleonic era fashion in the rifle regiments as a summer garment.  It had a cape with fringe round it and around the body of the coat.  The green hunting frock with yellow or buff fringe also closed at the chest with nine buttons like the roundabout jacket.  Descriptions of state troops frock coats are very diverse.  Below is a painting of Captain Bland W. Ballard of the 1st Rifle Regiment Kentucky Volunteers in a hunting frock. The hunting frock appears to be a pale tan color with a high collar and two capes.  The frock has fringe round each cape and down the front on both edges.  No buttons are visible in the painting.

Portrait of Ballard
Bland W. Ballard-
Hunter, Indian fighter and scout for George Rogers Clark in Wabash expeditions. Born in Va., 1761. With Wayne at Fallen Timbers. Wounded at River Raisin. Survived Long Run, Tick Creek Massacres, Floyd’s Fork Ambush. State Legislator. Died in 1853 in Shelby County, buried in the State Cemetery at Frankfort. Ballard’s Frock shows a double cape with long fringe. Portrait courtesy of The Filson Club

The frock coats varied in color from natural dyes of tans, browns, yellows and dirty reds to formally dyed blue, black and green with many colors of fringe. The frock coat offered a very cheap and locally available means to uniformity for state troops at a low cost to the citizens and government.

The frock coat should have a high collar; fitted sleeves that extend onto the hand with a cuff like the roundabout jacket.  It can close on the chest with nine buttons reaching from neck to a line round the body at the hipbones, like the roundabout jacket. By contrast, the 18t century versions had just few buttons and the coat was kept closed by the use of a belt.

It should have one cape extending just over the shoulders as the 18th hunting frock version or overcoat cape extends to the upper arm.  The length of the coat should extend to the mid-thigh.  The frock should be unlined and without pockets.  AS noted in many contemporary drawings,fringe should run around the cape and body edge.

Rifle Frock


The most expedient way to obtain a military rifle frock is to make one.  The pattern used by the 1st Regiment is U.S. Army fatique coat shown above. The patterns is let out or fitted using a muslin template. A PDF file of the pattern can be downladed here. Please be advise that this garment pattern is depenent on the skill of the tailor or seamstress to modify for specific sizes and body types.


Fustian Material for a Military hunting frock can be obtained from Period Fabrics. It can be left natural or dyed for specific regimentss(Hamilton Dry Goods).


Lindsey-Woolsey and other fine woolens can be obtained from District Storehous 96.


The frock coat is a fairly simple garment to make.  They were most often described as being made from “linsey – woolsey”, a flax(linen) wool blend.  Linen would also be an acceptable material to make the frock from.  At present the 1st Regiment does not have a recommended pattern for the frock, nor a button to recommend at this time.  


Last Updated (Friday, 05 February 2010 05:25)