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If you see pictures of Scottish officers in traditional dress, sometimes they are wearing a gold plaque hanging from a chain around their neck. It is usually kind of kidney shaped. Does anyone know what that thing is called? Below is a picture of George Washington wearing one around his neck:

George Washington in 1772

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    First I've heard that George Washington was a Scottish soldier? – Mark C. Wallace Jan 22 '15 at 14:39
  • Hey, I looked for a good picture of a Scottish general, but the Washington picture is the only good one I could find, even though he was English. – Tyler Durden Jan 22 '15 at 21:31
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    @TylerDurden He wasn't English either. He was a Virginian and an American; while he fought for the Kingdom of Great Britain, that doesn't make him English any more than it makes him Scottish. – cpast Jan 28 '15 at 0:27
  • Small tidbit of information: a gorget of this kind was usel as signifying officer of the day The function revolved between different officers at the regiment. Officer of the day was basically responsible for watches and order. This was 1978-1979 as i did compulsory military service in Sweden. – ghellquist Jan 4 at 23:21
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It is called a gorget. In certain military traditions it served as a mark of leadership. I cannot cite my source, but I recall reading a speculation that it may have evolved from the full cuirass that was worn by knights in antiquity. With the advent of gunpowder, such body armor was no longer of practical use, but the gorget served as a reminder of the old time status of the cavalier.

The word is derived from French, and refers to the throat.

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Not so much evolved from the cuirass as it was a piece of medieval armour; the gorget-the piece of armour that protected the neck and came between the helmet and cuirass. As firearms became more prevalent on the battlefield; armour became less and less needed and various items of the medieval suit of armour were discarded, until by the seventeenth century, all that remained was the cuirass, gorget and helmet.

As military uniforms as we know them today began to be used (and firearms became more powerful) during the late 17th to 18th centuries, this became reduced down to just the gorget; which became the distinguishing mark of an officer during the 18th century, and gradually became smaller and smaller until it became the small crescent of metal you usually see in paintings and portraits of the time. Thus, any depiction of a soldier of the time would be depicting an officer.

Gorgets were gradually replaced by rank insignia worn on the shoulders of the uniform (epaulettes), but a vestige still exists in the 'gorget patches' worn by officers of general rank on the collar of their uniforms (and originally worn to hang the gorget from).

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