Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Royal Regulations of 1772, part 4 – Four more words.


I’m leaving this coming week for a month in England and Iceland during which I hope to be able to post to this blog at least a few times.  Before I go, I’d like to finish explaining my translation of the 1772 Regulations. The next post in this series, which may not appear until at least late October, will begin to look at how these regulations were actually understood, implemented, modified, enforced and sometimes ignored in Spain’s frontier outposts of the American Southwest and California. 
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Returning now to the Royal Regulation of 1772, which contains a description of the first official uniform for all of the presidios, let’s take a moment to review my translation:

1. The clothing of the soldiers of the presidio will be entirely uniform, and consist of a short, sleeved waistcoat of blue wool velvet or cloth, with a small scarlet cuff and collar, breeches of blue wool velvet; wool cape of the same color; cartridge carrier, cuera and bandoleer of buff leather, of the sort that is currently in use, and embroidered on the bandoleer the name of the presidio, by which to distinguish each [presidial company] from the others; black neck stock, hat, shoes and leggings.

And then the original text: 

1. El vestuario de los soldados de presidio ha de ser uniforme en todos, y constará de una chupa corta de tripe, ó paño azul, con una pequeña vuelta y collarin encarnado, calzon de tripe azul, capa de paño del mismo color, cartuchera, cuera y bandolera de gamuza, en la forma que actualmente las usan, y en la bandolera bordado el nombre del presidio, para que distingan unos de otros, corbatin negro, sombrero, zapatos, y botines.[i]

Because they help us understand how the authors of these regulations intended these uniforms to appear, I’ve discussed in previous posts the meaning and context of several key words: chupa corta, tripe, paño and encarnado. In this essay, I’d like to look at four more: cartuchera, bandolera, gamuza and corbatin.


The 1729 Academia Autoridades dictionary defines cartuchera simply as “The pouch or box in which soldiers carry cartridges” [La bolsa ò caxa en que los Soldados trahen los cartúcheros].[ii] Evidently, a cartridge box or pouch worn on a shoulder strap was just as much a cartuchera as one worn on a waist belt.  And as we will see in a future post, the same name was also given to a cartridge belt.

 This is important because the Spanish word bandolera is usually translated as “bandoleer,” which in English can mean a shoulder strap that supports a cartridge carrier.  For example, the Oxford English Dictionary defines “bandoleer” (or bandolier) as “A broad belt, worn over the shoulder and across the breast, by which a wallet might be suspended at the side,” or in this case a cartridge box.[iii]  But I don’t believe that was what was meant by bandolera in these regulations.


The Academia Autoridades 1770 defines the word bandolera as “A leather band carried by cavalry soldiers; it is placed over the left shoulder, crosses the chest and back as far as the right side, to which is hung the carbine.” [Una banda de cuero que traen los soldados de caballería  puesta sobre el hombro izquierdo, la cruza pecho y espalda hasta el lado derecho para colgar la caravina].  It was, in fact, a carbine sling of the kind used by Euro-American cavalrymen in the 18th century, including those of Spain and New Spain.  This also means that the name of the soldier’s presidio was to be embroidered on a carbine sling – or at least, that was the intent of the regulation.


This sling, the cartridge carrier, and also the armor – or cuera – from which these soldiers derived their names, were to be made of gamuza.  Gamuza was originally the skin of European mountain goats. That is, a, “Thin, tanned hide, that serves for waistcoats, breeches and [for] other uses,” [Piel delgada, que adobándola sirve para jubones, calzones y otros usos].  From this description, and based on period European and American garments, gamuza must have been a suede or “buff” leather rather than the kind of “grained” leather used for example, to make harness.  This is also sometimes called “chamois” leather and, in fact, gamuza and chamois both may derive from the Italian word for a wild goat, camozza.[iv]


 Leather making is a complicated and sometimes mysterious process and I know far less about it than I'd like.[v]  But it appears that several different kinds of suede leather were called gamuza.  The bandolera supporting the carbine and the body or covering of the cartuchera holding the ammunition were probably made of different kinds, or at least thicknesses of gamuza.  Then there was the cuera itself.  As we shall see in a later posting on this blog, this armor was usually manufactured at the presidio from local deerskins supplied by neighboring Native Americans.  These deer hides, unlike the buff leather bandoleer and cartuchera, were probably “brain tanned.”


Last of all, I translate corbatin as neck stock, though others have called it a neckerchief.  But, returning again to the 1780 Academia Usual dictionary, corbatin is defined as, “A type of cravat, that passes one time around the neck and is fitted behind with a buckle or clasp,” [Espécie de corbata, que solo da una vuelta al pescuezo, y se ajusta con hevilla, ó broche por detras].


A. I believe that the authors of the 1772 Royal Regulations for the presidios had in mind a uniform for the soldados de cuera very much like this one proposed for New Spain's Regimiento Provincial de Caballeria del Rey, 1771.  Archivo General de las Indias, Madrid. 
B.  Though often used to illustrate the kind of cartridge carriers used in the Spanish Borderlands, this "belly box" is, in fact, from Cuba.  Museum of New Mexico, Santa Fe.  Sketch by Jerry Martin, published in Brinckerhoff and Faulk, 1965, p. 69.
C. Replica 18th century British cartridge pouch and sling made by C.&D. Jarnigan.
D. Carbine slings, like this English example from the 1600s, were used for hundreds of years by European and Colonial Cavalry.  Royal Armouries collection:
E. The Spanish wild goat, or gamuza, is similar to the Alpine chamois, and so is the suede leather made from their hides, etc.  
F. Cuera, Museo del Ejercito, Toledo.
G. Detail of illustration A. above. Notice that the neck stock worn by this Mexican cavalryman is shown as a black band around the throat.
H. Spanish 18th century neck stock buckles re-cast from excavated originals. Military Artifacts of Spanish Florida, 1539-1821; An Internet Museum.


[i] Sidney Brinckerhoff and Odie B. Faulk. Lancers for the King; A Study of the Frontier Military System of Northern New Spain, with a Translation of the Royal Regulations of 1772. Phoenix: Arizona Historical Society, 1965, pp. 18-21.
[ii] The Spanish Royal Academy dictionaries are available online, arranged by date and in searchable, facsimile form, at their website:
[iii] 1989 edition.  Many readers may wish to remind me that the strap on a British cartridge box is properly called a “sling,” not a “bandolier,” which is true.  But the point I’m trying to make here is about a popular understanding of the meaning of “bandolier.”
[v] A useful guide to early types of leather used for military purposes can be found at the C&D Jarnigan Co. website:


  1. As for the bandoleer for a carbine, I agree. But from experience, the use of deer skin or some suede skin for it, the weight of the carbine would stretch and simply couldn't hold it. Like all armies of that period, a white buff leather, tanned in a alum sulphate solution, I think, David jarnagin, more the expert, on it and sells leather articles made of it. Anywho, it's much stronger.

    1. Hi Gregg. I don't believe I wrote that deerskin was used for carbine slings. For that matter, I don't believe I said that carbine slings were used by soldados de cuera, either.

      Best wishes,

  2. And I know your going to shoot this down, but here I go! The box in the LA Museum of Natural was originally a belly box , curved block. It was made for a shoulder sling. It was made for a crown Regt in Mexico City or near. What if converted to a shoulder box, issued to troops going into California to establish presidios. Or did you also say that those troops on the Anza expedition used shoulder boxes with 14 rounds?

    1. One more time, Gregg, until a proper examination of this box and search of the historical records can be made, we really can't know much about it. Family memories are pretty much worth nothing, in my experience of Spanish colonial artifacts. I know the collection and trust me,though it contains many treasures, there's also a lot of misidentified junk. A Californian descendant in 1880 could have picked that box up at a market in Mexico and brought it back, only to die and have his family donate it to the museum as "brought into California by our ancestor, one of Colonel Anza's soldados." I've seen it happen again and again.

  3. But another thing, were cueras, locally made or made in a central location and shipped to the northern presidios?

  4. So if the bandoleer is not a cartridge box strap nor a sling for a carbine what is it according to the regs then?

  5. Hi again, Gregg. What I actually meant was that the 1772 regulations authorized the use of bandoleras - carbine slings - but that they weren't necessarily used by the soldados de cuera. That will be the subject of a future post.