Coat Colours

The tricky question of 'what colour' should I paint my armies was my next conundrum.

The fanciful Victorian imagery of the wars has pretty much been dispelled (Roundheads in striped sleeved shirts, Cavaliers in poncey big hats); in reality both sides were, very much of a muchness. There are some items of equipment and uniforms, which give us a starting point. Our best primary source of evidence are contemporary eye witness accounts, from spies to flag designers, account books from great houses and military manuals.

Whilst I do strive for accuracy, at the end of the day my armies are a pastiche, they aim to give a 'feel' rather than pleasing the 'button counters' that populate the darker corners of the wargaming community. But, as there is so much that historians don't know about Civil War uniforms, a pastiche is probably the best that anyone can aspire to.

My unit choices are based upon coat colours (or civilian clothes in the case of the Trained Bands) that are known with standards that are  known or we can have a very good stab at. These were my methods for choosing regiments to represent rather than the order of battle at Marston Moor say. On the odd occasions where I represent unknown coat colours or flags I look at the Colonel's coat of arms, and other regiments from the same locality for colour inspiration.

Where to find out coat colours? My first stop is always the BCW Regimental Wiki part of the rather good BCW Project, a rather expansive on-line resource documenting the British Civil Wars. The regimental wiki lists regiments by allegiance, and also by which phase of the wars. It provides any known battle participation, historical references, coat colours and standards (along with primary source references), and links to any reenactment groups.

Both the Sealed Knot and ECWS sites, and their individual regimental websites (and Facebook pages) are fantastically inspiring in getting a visual idea of a 'look' to aim for.  I post photos from Sealed Knot and ECWS events that I have attended - have a look at posts labelled painting guide for some inspiration.

Historical references and wargaming painting guides will often just mention a colour, for example 'red'; but as we know 'red' comes in all manner of shades and hues. Throw in the mix dyes which were unstable, and we have carte blanche for artistic freedom.  To help with a colour palette you might find this useful.

Regiments often changed their names, taking on the name of their Commanding Officer at the time; if you have found a commercially available flag that you want to use but can't find the Regiment in the Wiki, search the Wiki for the name that you 'know'. You may well find that the regiment you were looking for has many different names.

Another consideration I had was for the overall look of each army. Too many red coated units? Maybe needs a white coat or green coated unit for a bit of variety...

From the slightly skewed wargamer angle of 'what colour coat and do we know about their flag' the BCW Regimental Wiki can be a bit laborious to use (searching for a Royalist purple coated unit with flag? You're going to have to check out every regiment until you find one. Spoiler - you won't!).

Caveat: many coat colours were given to regiments in the 1960s on the incorrect, assumption descriptions such as 'red regiment' meant red coats; cross referencing evidence shows that descriptions of regiments with a colour, refers to the colour of flags carried by the regiment not their coats. This mistake and many others have been repeated so often that you will see many incorrect coat colours appearing on websites and also in books.

Slightly irked by seeing the same errors replicated in 'lists of coat colours for wargamers' I decided to write my own: my lists only include those regiments with contemporaneous references, or those where the weight of evidence is very suggestive of a coat colour. In all cases I have provided the appropriate reference.

You can find them:
Part 1 Parliamentarian coat colours
Part 2 Royalist coat colours
Part 3 Scots coat colours
Part 4 Dragoons, Horse and the New Model Army coat colours
The Trained Bands

I have also written a guide to flags:

Flags Part 1
Flags Part 2
Flags Part 3

Other lists on the web (these lists do contain errors - better to check your sources before getting your brushes wet):

Wargames Designs are probably best known for their flags they have a list of ECW units by coat colour.

Warlord Games post articles supporting their Pike and Shotte rules, including some basic clothing colour guides and lots of eye candy (albeit in the devil's own 28mm).

Baccus is one of the better, more accurate, online resources, and has a couple of downloadable *.pdf files which give a handy painting guide, and an introduction to ECW standards.

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