Recent Find Were kilts practical uniforms for campaigning?

major bill

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Forum Host
Joined
Aug 25, 2012
Although a unit or two many have worn kilts for dress, I am not sure a single unit wore kilts on campaign or in battle. So I have to wonder if kilts would have made practical campaign or combat items. Would the feileadh mor (big kilt) been more practical or the Philabeg (little kilt) more practical?

If you would like to discuss this in real time I will be in the Chat Room at 9PM EST.
 

Belfoured

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Aug 3, 2019
Although a unit or two many have worn kilts for dress, I am not sure a single unit wore kilts on campaign or in battle. So I have to wonder if kilts would have made practical campaign or combat items. Would the feileadh mor (big kilt) been more practical or the Philabeg (little kilt) more practical?

If you would like to discuss this in real time I will be in the Chat Room at 9PM EST.
In the AWI, even the 42nd Foot/Black Watch went to trousers in combat. If they could ditch the kilts, anybody could.
 

major bill

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Forum Host
Joined
Aug 25, 2012
Yesterday I read The First American Military Highlander: The Tradition, and Wearing of the Breacan (Tartan), written by Michael R. Gadue. In this article Gadue was of the opinion that the kilt was good for campaigning and combat because it was loose and allowed free movement. I took this with a gain of salt.

The article is interesting and has some nice illustrations.
 

nc native

Sergeant
Joined
Aug 30, 2011
Location
NC Piedmont
I could see where kilts would be very practical to wear especially on hot summer days instead of the wool trousers most soldiers wore. Of course, the inverse would be true during the winter months unless some sort of leggings were worn under the kilt. They would enhance mobility and going through open fields and down roads would be very comfortable. However if a unit had to go into heavy woods with thick briars, I could see a problem.

A few years, me and a friend went deer hunting on a warm November day. My friend shot a good sized buck that ran for hundreds of yards into the woods and some of the thickest briars I'd ever seen. He wore shorts hunting that day and it took both of us to drag that deer out of the woods. His legs were a bloody mess and looked like something you would see in a slasher film by the time we got to my pickup truck with that deer. My hunting pants were almost in tatters but I got away with hardly a scratch.
 

7thWisconsin

Sergeant Major
Joined
Nov 21, 2014
In 18th and 19th century North America, no, they were not. Remember the 18th century kilt isn't sewn along the back, meaning that it needs to be painstakingly pleated every time you take it off. Si it's hard to maintain. It offers little to no protection in harsh terrain like the forests of North America. During the French and Indian War, Highland troops wore Indian style leggings under the kilt. The 42nd boxed up their kilts in 1776 and wore trousers for the rest if the Revolution. So did the 79th. In India, the highlanders wore breeches under their kilts. Romantic notions aside, it's really a pretty poor article of military clothing for campaign conditions.
 

Llewellyn

Corporal
Joined
Feb 17, 2020
Location
Britain
In 18th and 19th century North America, no, they were not. Remember the 18th century kilt isn't sewn along the back, meaning that it needs to be painstakingly pleated every time you take it off. Si it's hard to maintain. It offers little to no protection in harsh terrain like the forests of North America. During the French and Indian War, Highland troops wore Indian style leggings under the kilt. The 42nd boxed up their kilts in 1776 and wore trousers for the rest if the Revolution. So did the 79th. In India, the highlanders wore breeches under their kilts. Romantic notions aside, it's really a pretty poor article of military clothing for campaign conditions.
Whilst that is true, Scots have a powerful emotional and patriotic attachment to the kilt, and Scottish regiments continued to wear them in the field, without complaint, long after the impracticality became blindingly obvious. They were retained by "kilted" regiments in WW1 even though the wet and muddy conditions of the trenches must have made them a nightmare. From the Boer War onwards, it was normal for a khaki canvas apron to be worn over them to give some protection.
By WW2 they had been superseded by normal battledress trousers, but individuals still contrived, with or without official permission, to wear the kilt into battle, pipers in particular.

In March 1942 a few Scottish commandos wore the kilt during the great raid on St Nazaire. A German photographer took several photographs of a badly wounded kilted man, and the images were published in the German army magazine Signal ! including the front cover.

1593709184464.png



The soldier in question was called Private Tom McCormack. He died from his wounds about two weeks later
 
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Belfoured

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Aug 3, 2019
In 18th and 19th century North America, no, they were not. Remember the 18th century kilt isn't sewn along the back, meaning that it needs to be painstakingly pleated every time you take it off. Si it's hard to maintain. It offers little to no protection in harsh terrain like the forests of North America. During the French and Indian War, Highland troops wore Indian style leggings under the kilt. The 42nd boxed up their kilts in 1776 and wore trousers for the rest if the Revolution. So did the 79th. In India, the highlanders wore breeches under their kilts. Romantic notions aside, it's really a pretty poor article of military clothing for campaign conditions.
In my post above where I had mentioned the 42nd, I meant to also include the 71st Foot (Fraser's) - I'm pretty certain that they also wore "trews" in the field - at least at some point during the AWI.
 

Rusk County Avengers

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Apr 8, 2018
Location
Coffeeville, TX
Just for the record, to anyone reading here looking into a kilt for reenacting, DON'T YOU DARE!!!!!!

Any example of a Confederate in a kilt known would be a one off in all likelihood! Plus the most famous memoir by a Scot in Confederate ranks by William Watson makes no mention of them or trews from what I can recall, and yet there's folks who will hold him up as an example. The only Federal unit I'm aware of to have kilts were the 79th NY "Highlanders" and they wore trews early in the war in the field, and saved the kilts for dress occasions.

And ditch the "Celtic Confederate" nonsense I suspect born out of either myth or the film Braveheart because the vast majority of Southerners were and are English/Anglo-Saxon decent, and folks of Scottish decent had assimilated almost a century before the war. Heck the Charleston Mercury loved to extol the South's Anglo-Saxon heritage, yet there are a bunch of diehards who insist we're all Scottish because they love it and will hold on to the tiniest bit of evidence without the proper context. Scottish immigrants tended to get off boats up North because those were the closest, and cheapest ports to go to, and popular ones I imagine.

Heck the earliest members of my family to come to America did so before 1700 in the South and last before 1800, again in the South, and I only have a small drop of Scottish blood. All English with a smidgen of German, French, and Scottish, and somehow or other according to a certain big DNA test a smidgen of Russian.

The entire mess of folks coming to reenactments in kilts is something that needs to be nipped in the bud badly. I've also got a friend who wears trews into "battle" at reenactments and we've a lot of arguments on the matter, hence why when I hear about kilts in CW related stuff my blood boils, and my putting out this disclaimer.
 

Llewellyn

Corporal
Joined
Feb 17, 2020
Location
Britain
Somewhere - and I really do not know where - I have seen images of a Union regiment conventionally attired except for headdress. The men were wearing Scottish style Tam o' Shanters, dark blue with a red/white diced headband.
Who would they have been ?
 

7thWisconsin

Sergeant Major
Joined
Nov 21, 2014
Those would be 79th NY. They were resupplied with Glengarry caps from time to time, the last being for their welcome home parade.
I won't argue the emotional, romantic and dare I say the recruitment value of the kilt. (I have 2 and one is a real Black Watch regimental version.) But as a practical uniform it leaves somewhat to be desired. Even those hard headed Romans learned to wear brachae from our Celtic ancestors! (Socks too!)
Units and event staff MUST intervene to keep kilts out. They're wrong. We know it but someone will show up wearing it. Like the Confederate BAGPIPER I saw during a Pickett's Charge, they prove that farbs are not self-policing.
 

Llewellyn

Corporal
Joined
Feb 17, 2020
Location
Britain
Those would be 79th NY. They were resupplied with Glengarry caps from time to time, the last being for their welcome home parade.
I won't argue the emotional, romantic and dare I say the recruitment value of the kilt. (I have 2 and one is a real Black Watch regimental version.) But as a practical uniform it leaves somewhat to be desired. Even those hard headed Romans learned to wear brachae from our Celtic ancestors! (Socks too!)
Units and event staff MUST intervene to keep kilts out. They're wrong. We know it but someone will show up wearing it. Like the Confederate BAGPIPER I saw during a Pickett's Charge, they prove that farbs are not self-policing.
OK, thanks. The people I saw were wearing Tams though, not Glengarries.
 

FedericoFCavada

First Sergeant
Joined
Jan 27, 2015
Location
San Antonio, Texas
In World War I, the Scots kilt had become an industrial item, with the buckles and manufactured pleats and so on. It then acquired a khaki apron to protect the wool tartan material. Leggings were worn over the hose to the boot tops. Wool insulates when wet. Having worn a kilt in sodden, wet climate, it generally remains drier than wool pants, which get very muddy at the base of legs unless something like the leggings or roll puttees are worn, which most people don't, and surely were not by the vast majority of soldiers in the Civil War.

To put the wind up the Germans in WWI, the Scots in the kilt were the ticket.
To put the wind up the Italians in WWI, Bosnian Muslims in fezes were the ticket.

So the kilt, even shorn from its Scottish countryside origins and after the post-Culloden/ post-Jacobite outlawing of it, could be important for reasons of esprit de corps.

For anyone unaccustomed to wearing highland dress, the thick, heavy wool with lots of lanolin left in it can be agonizing after a short time of marching in it. Since no drawers are worn, it can chafe. If anything, a post-1820 industrial-era kilt of the typical thickness would be unbearably hot in the U.S. South. The one I have currently for wearing to social gatherings where dress attire is called for here in Texas is a relatively thin thing, and not what would be worn in Scotland. There is, of course, the present day abomination known as a "utilikilt" made of some sort of hard-wearing denim or whatever, replete with cargo pockets and so forth, but that is not a kilt, but a modern abomination.

The original highland dress doubled as the blanket for sleeping out of doors, or in an improvised shelter, and was therefore a very efficient garment for campaigning. That's why it continued in use for as long as it did, which is to say, until the '45... After that, it was mostly about esprit de corps.

I'd conclude by noting that the lowland Scots, like my late great-grandfather, who were in the Black Watch during WWI had literally never worn the kilt a day in their lives prior to military service.
 

Peace Society

Corporal
Joined
Jun 25, 2019
Location
Ark Mo line
Whilst that is true, Scots have a powerful emotional and patriotic attachment to the kilt, and Scottish regiments continued to wear them in the field, without complaint, long after the impracticality became blindingly obvious. They were retained by "kilted" regiments in WW1 even though the wet and muddy conditions of the trenches must have made them a nightmare. From the Boer War onwards, it was normal for a khaki canvas apron to be worn over them to give some protection.
By WW2 they had been superseded by normal battledress trousers, but individuals still contrived, with or without official permission, to wear the kilt into battle, pipers in particular.
I thought I remembered from WW II the Germans calling a Scots group (don't know who or what size) "The Ladies From Hell" because of their fierce fighting - in kilts.
 

FedericoFCavada

First Sergeant
Joined
Jan 27, 2015
Location
San Antonio, Texas
I thought I remembered from WW II the Germans calling a Scots group (don't know who or what size) "The Ladies From Hell" because of their fierce fighting - in kilts.
World War I. It may have carried over to the Second World War, but recall that the 51st Highland Division had to embark for France in 1939/1940 without the kilt-- not a good garment for expected use of blister agents like mustard gas, etc.--and that 10,000 of the division were captured and made PoWs after the French surrender in June 1940. The Highland Division then had to be reformed later in the war, albeit serving in North Africa, Sicily, the Normandy Campaign, and the Northwest of Europe and Germany.
 

Booner

2nd Lieutenant
Forum Host
Joined
May 4, 2015
Location
Boonville, MO.
@Booner is a kilt wearing expert I beleive
"Expert kilt wearer"? Hardly, "informed kilt wearer," yes.

The first time I wore my kilt was 10-12 years ago at the Estes Park Highland games in Colorado. My clan was there, (the Scottish skirt-wearing type clan, not the sheet wearing clan), and it was a cold, blustery day, and parts of me that had never been that cold before or since, I thought would freeze and fall off.
My kilt is the dress-type, the Philabeg, of pure wool, which surrounds the waist about 1 1/2 times, but weighs around 9 pounds; I can't imagine how much it would weigh it it were wet. I don't know why my clan even wears kilts; we were lowland Scots and border rievers, and would have worn trews (pants), and probably spoke English and not gaelic. But at Highland games, every clan dresses as if they were Highland Scots and in a clan plaid that wasn't even invented until Victorian times.

The first time I put my kilt on I thought I looked like a big hairy Catholic school girl. And most men don't know how to conduct themselves while wearing a skirt. Things like sitting, bending over, or getting out of a car, all have to be done differently, especially if their going "commando". I always wore something under my kilt because I wanted to remain respectable and not scare little children.

But I must say that there is something about wearing a kilt that has a strange effect on women. I was a member of a motorcycle club that was invited to ride in a St. Patrick's Day parade in Denver one year, and since it was a St. Patrick's parade, I wore my kilt on my bike. We rode behind a band, so the pace of the parade was at walking speed, but once some of the woman in the crowd realized I was in a kilt, they ran after me, in some cases a few blocks, just to have their pictures taken with me. This happened 15-20 times that day. When my son was a senior in highschool, his school allowed the seniors to wear whatever they wanted one day just before school ended for the Year. My son wore my kilt, but I warned him about the strange effect wearing a kilt has around females. When he came home that night, he said, "Dad, you were right! Even the stuck up girls talked to me!"
 

7thWisconsin

Sergeant Major
Joined
Nov 21, 2014
In World War I, the Scots kilt had become an industrial item, with the buckles and manufactured pleats and so on. It then acquired a khaki apron to protect the wool tartan material. Leggings were worn over the hose to the boot tops. Wool insulates when wet. Having worn a kilt in sodden, wet climate, it generally remains drier than wool pants, which get very muddy at the base of legs unless something like the leggings or roll puttees are worn, which most people don't, and surely were not by the vast majority of soldiers in the Civil War.

To put the wind up the Germans in WWI, the Scots in the kilt were the ticket.
To put the wind up the Italians in WWI, Bosnian Muslims in fezes were the ticket.

So the kilt, even shorn from its Scottish countryside origins and after the post-Culloden/ post-Jacobite outlawing of it, could be important for reasons of esprit de corps.

For anyone unaccustomed to wearing highland dress, the thick, heavy wool with lots of lanolin left in it can be agonizing after a short time of marching in it. Since no drawers are worn, it can chafe. If anything, a post-1820 industrial-era kilt of the typical thickness would be unbearably hot in the U.S. South. The one I have currently for wearing to social gatherings where dress attire is called for here in Texas is a relatively thin thing, and not what would be worn in Scotland. There is, of course, the present day abomination known as a "utilikilt" made of some sort of hard-wearing denim or whatever, replete with cargo pockets and so forth, but that is not a kilt, but a modern abomination.

The original highland dress doubled as the blanket for sleeping out of doors, or in an improvised shelter, and was therefore a very efficient garment for campaigning. That's why it continued in use for as long as it did, which is to say, until the '45... After that, it was mostly about esprit de corps.

I'd conclude by noting that the lowland Scots, like my late great-grandfather, who were in the Black Watch during WWI had literally never worn the kilt a day in their lives prior to military service.
When Kitchner's Army was being raised and trained, the British Army deliberately used highland dress as a recruiting tool. They rased dozens, if not hundreds really, f battalions that were designated "Scottish" but were composed of men no more Scottisg than the man in the moon. Despite the romance, the kilt hadn't been an everyday garment for a long time by 1915.
 
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