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1/95th Rifle - A Rifleman's Kit

Knapsack (aka "Trotter")

 

The knapsack or envelope pack was introduced to Light Infantry and Rifle regiments in 1805.  It was made of painted canvas with detachable leather shoulder, camp kettle and blanket straps.  For the Rifles the straps were black to blend in with the rest of their equipment.  To keep its smart, squared-off shape the packs were fitted with wooden boards.  These were very uncomfortable and would stick in to the back when on the march.  It is little wonder that the boards would have been the first thing to go onto the camp fire once on the march.  On the back in the centre was painted the regimental number and any other adornment directed within the regiment.

 

The contents were accessed by opening the back flap held in position by four straps (two of which were also the carrying straps) and then the inner flaps with a further four buckled straps, so getting into the pack was not something that could be done quickly.

 

Inside the pack would be the soldiers entire worldly goods such as spare shirts, shoe, cleaning kit, his fatigue dress (a white canvas Jacket and Trousers) as well as his personal effects and any loot he had come by.  The contents of the pack would vary from soldier to soldier as the limited space and added weight made each man think carefully about what he carried.  Strapped to the top would be his great coat and blanket in a neat role. One in four soldiers was issued with a camp kettle, which at this time was a 9 inch frying pan with handles on each side.  This was strapped to the back of the pack and would probably have been passed from man to man within a mess (4 - 6 men).

 

To help the pack sit comfortably the two shoulder straps were connected at the front by a chest strap.  If correctly tensioned this would ease the weight from the shoulders without restricting the soldiers breathing.  A backpack could easily weigh 50 60 pounds, a considerable burden on the march and a great incapacity in battle.  The practice of the day was that packs should be stacked safely before battle was joined thus removing the burden and keeping the soldiers possessions safe under the watchful eye of the Quartermaster.  This was a reasonable idea for line regiments but for the 95th Rifles, who were often thrown into battle with virtually no notice, it was not practical and there are many accounts of Riflemen fighting still in their packs.  This was no small feat when you consider that their style of fighting was a fast moving skirmish well in front of the main line where a man's agility may be the difference between life and death.

 

A Rifleman's Kit

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