Military officers in the 18th century usually did not have any cases or boxes. Normal soldiers for example often had cartridge boxes.

I usually hear, that officers had servants/etc to take care of carrying stuff around. This generally makes a lot of sense in the context. For example, officers usually were noble. And the nobility was used to letting servants take care of things.

But I still wonder, if officers never had the need or desire to take some things with them personally and not give them to a servant. For example on a journey (maybe alone), in the field, or on a construction place. Those things could range from a bulk of highly important papers/maps to maybe personal stuff, that they would not want to give out of their hands. I mean carry directly with themselves. Very small amounts could be put in the pockets of the coat, of course. But what about a bulk of maps, or some very costly small instruments?

IF this desire/need existed, the obvious question is: Where did they put it? There were surely some good options to choose from.

Summary of questions:

  1. Did officers ever had the desire/need to carry around some amount of things/papers/instruments/etc directly attached to the person?
  2. If so, what did they use for this?

If the answer to (1) is "definitely no", please try to include some convincing points. For example, that there were always superior options to choose from.

For (2) a small selection of typical options with a small reference would be great. Nobody expects a complete list. If you have some personal favorite, include it, of course.

Background: I have seen some very few (modern) drawings of 18th century officer uniforms with cartridge boxes. But the text for those drawings did not indicate any details.

  • 2
    In which particular military?
    – jamesqf
    May 27, 2019 at 17:39
  • @jamesqf any (western) European that you have information for. Obviously I'd like a "yes"-answer. So I could have rephrased this as "Please name military organizations where the answer is yes" ;) (I would be interested in the spanish military, but really, I am happy with any information.)
    – Elrond
    May 27, 2019 at 18:42
  • 1
    What research have you done?
    – MCW
    Jul 7, 2019 at 14:56

1 Answer 1


The question has been edited since this answer was first posted. Originally, the title question asked specifically about map cases. There will be further updates.

Yes, they did.

One such bag was the Sabretache,

a flat, leather pouch or satchel with long straps traditionally worn by some cavalry and horse artillery officers from the left-hand side of the waist belt near to the officer’s sabre...

Sabretaches ultimately derive from Hungarian haversacks or bags (called tarsoly), which over time became more elaborate. Such bags were used for keeping fire-making tools and other, small essential items. In the eighteenth century, Hungarian Hussar uniforms and accessories (including sabretaches) became the ‘standard’ form worn by certain regiments of cavalry officers, including those of the British, French, Polish and Russian armies.

enter image description here

The Sabretache of Jean-Jacques Desvaux de Saint-Maurice (1775-1815), French general. Attribution: Aclaudon [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]

enter image description here

"Hussar of the Magdeburg Hussar Commando (1763)" Source: Wikipedia

Officers might also have had simple knapsacks such as the one used by Captain Uhl, a militia officer during the American Revolution.

enter image description here

"Knapsack of Captain David Uhl, Dutchess County Militia" Source: scribd, via pinterest

The earliest map case I've been able to find is this French one from the mid 18th century on the Military and Historical Image Bank.

enter image description here

Source: Military and Historical Image Bank

Unfortunately, there is no further information on this item.

Map cases were also used by Pony Express riders; a replica of a brass map case can seen here. It would seem that in both examples the map would be folded before being put in the case.

Maps were at least sometimes folded as the painting below by Édouard Detaille (1848 to 1912) showing Napoleon at the Siege of Toulon (1793) illustrates. Although Detaille was not at Toulon, he was

noted for his precision and realistic detail. He was regarded as the "semi-official artist of the French army"

enter image description here

Source: Napoleon à Toulon par Edouard Detaille

This is all somewhat tenuous of course, and there is no evidence of a map case in the painting; Napoleon may well have kept maps in his pocket.


This would not, of course, be carried around by the officer on his person but it could be within easy reach. In addition to clothes, linen etc., officers could keep papers, maps, instruments in a portmanteau on a horse. The article Portmanteau states that

By the end of the eighteenth century a portmanteau is recommended as standard equipment for an army officer.

The officer would have three horses:

An officer would only have one servant and all his necessities would have to be carried on 3 horses. 2 portmanteaus were recommended. One carried by the servant's horse should contain all the necessary clothes and associated paraphernalia, the other, transported by the pack horse, could contain less essential items such as books, maps, papers etc.

The cavalry horse and his pack, embracing the practical details of cavalry service goes into considerable detail on what an officer might have within easy reach, if not actually on his person.

  • 1
    Very good answer! My question probably was not precise enough: I am mostly interested in containers/bags/knapsack type of things, that people can carry directly with themselves. Campaign trunks look like you usually need someone to help you carry it. The map case is already the right thing!
    – Elrond
    Jul 7, 2019 at 14:50
  • @Elrond Map cases are actually very difficult to google but this is an answer in progress so I'll be updating and improving over the next couple of days. I'm assuming you are primarily interested in officers...(?) Jul 7, 2019 at 15:06
  • Yes, I am primarily interested in officers. I updated the question a bit.
    – Elrond
    Jul 7, 2019 at 15:29

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