After two major defeats by the Indian confederations of the Old Northwest, the United States Army underwent a significant reorganization under its new commander, General Anthony Wayne, who had distinguished himself in the War of the Revolution against Great Britain. Wayne was, without a doubt, 'an unusually competent, forceful, and imaginative commander.'-Military Uniforms, Volume I, 122.
'The Legion was the equivalent of the division of all arms which the French Army was then developing as a self-sufficient tactical organization.'-Military Uniforms in America, Volume I, page 122. The Legion was an efficient and well-trained combat organization that proved itself against the hostile Indians at the battle of Fallen Timbers in 1794, the power of the tribes being broken.
The Legion was 'unquestionably one of the most effective military forces in all American history.'-Military Uniforms, Volume I, 122.
Interestingly, the United States adopted and employed in combat a similar organization to the French division of all arms while the major European nations then fighting France were still a collection of regiments and ad hoc formations.
The Legion was to be composed of four sublegions each composed of two infantry battalions, one rifle battalion, one battalion (four companies) of light dragoons, and four artillery companies. The cavalry and artillery would be employed either assigned to the sub legions or separately 'as the situation required.'
The legion never reached its authorized strength of 5,120 officers and other ranks which did not include the Legion's command and staff. The 3d and 4th rifle battsions were never formed, but this shortage was partially overcome by the organization of an elite light infantry company in each infantry battalion. Further, Wayne insisted on individual marksmanship.
H Charles McBarron did a print of the Legion of the United States and it is excellent, as all of his work is. You can find it in the series McBarron did on the American soldier. The uniform is very similar to the one worn by Continentals in the War of the Revolution-dark blue with red facings (collar, cuffs, lapels), the turnbacks were white. The collars were standup types, not those worn in the Revolution. The line infantry wore long-tailed coats, the light infantry wore shortened coats and the Revolutionary era light infantry cap.
The infantry wore round hats, some being turned up on the left side where the black cockade was worn. The hats had a fur crest and were bound in tape, the color determined sublegion. Officers hats did not have the white tape.
The Legion dragoons were similarly uniformed, with shorter coat tails for mounted troops. They wore a jockey-type cavalry helmet also with a fur crest.
The infantry wore gaiter trousers and the cavalry breeches and knee-length boots. The gaiter trousers could be either white or dark blue. Officers wore either the round hat or the cocked hat, with a more 'modern' appearance than that of the Revolution.
Wayne's order of 11 September 1792 should be helpful:
'The officers being arranged into four SubLegions, it now becomes expedient to give those Legions distinctive marks, which are to be as follows-Viz-
The first Sub Legion white binding on their caps, with white plumes and black hair.
The Second Sub Legion red binding to their caps, red plumes, with white hair.
The Third Sub Legion-Yellow binding to their caps-yellow plumes and black hair.
The fourth Sub Legion-green binding to their caps, with green plumes and white hair.'
The order was further amplified on 12 September:
'…The officers will wear plain cocked hats with no other distinctive marks but the plumes of their respective Sub Legions, except in actual service or action, when they will wear the same caps with the non-commissioned officers and privates of the respective legions.'
There is a plate on the Legion in Volume I of Military Uniforms in America:The Era of the American Revolution 1755-1795 edited by John Elting facing page 122.
The artillery assigned to the Legion was generally uniformed as the infantry. Four companies were assigned to the Legion. The cocked hat was usually replaced by a cap similar to that of the Legion cavalry with a bearskin crest. White or dark blue gaiter trousers were worn and the musicians wore reversed colors, red faced dark blue.
The uniform was prescribed on 30 January 1787:
'Hats cocked-yellow trimmings-coats blue scarlet lapels, cuffs and standing cape-length of the coat to reach to the knee, scarlet linings and yellow buttons-vests white with short flaps three buttons on each pocket-overalls-cockades of black leather round with points four inches diameter-shoulder straps-blue edged with red on both shoulders-feathers-black and red tops to rise six inches above the brim of the hat-epaulettes-the officers cold-the major 2 a single row of bullion-capts 1 epaulette on the right shoulder 2 rows of bullion-sergts 2 epaulettes yellow worsted-corporals 1 epaulette right shoulder. Swords-sabre form, yellow mounted-the majors 3 feet & capts & subs 2 1/2 feet.The uniform of the music to be red found with blue.'
Company officers carried the spontoon, though some would be armed with a musket in the artillery companies.
A McBarron plate on the artillery can be found facing page 120 of Volume I of Military Uniforms in America.
The legion never reached its authorized strength of 5,120 officers and other ranks which did not include the Legion's command and staff. The 3d and 4th rifle battalions were never formed, but this shortage was partially overcome by the organization of an elite light infantry company in each infantry battalion. Further, Wayne insisted on individual marksmanship.
The three referenced uniform plates give an excellent picture of what the Legion looked like in garrison and in the field.
Anthony Wayne is pictured in the first referenced uniform plate wearking a cocked hat and a general officer's uniform of dark blue faced buff, similar to that worn by senior officers in the War of the Revolution.
For 1805-era uniforms, after the Legion was unfortunately abolished and the United States Army was reorganized on the traditional regimental system, a good idea can be gathered using Military Uniforms in America: Years of Growth 1796-1851, edited by John Elting. Another excellent reference is A Most Warlike Appearance: Uniforms, Flags and Equipment of the United States in the War of 1812 by Rene Chartrand. The book begins in Chapter I giving an overview of US uniforms from 1779-1812 and is quite useful and highly recommended as is all of Rene Chartrand's work.
Other helpful references are:
-1794: America, Its Army, and the Birth of the Nation by Dave Palmer.
-Bayonets in the Wilderness: Anthony Wayne's Legion in the Old Northwest by Alan Gaff.
-Citizens in Arms: The Army and Militia in American Society to the War of 1812.