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"1859 US Cavalry uniforms" Topic

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Robert Burke03 Mar 2018 7:10 p.m. PST

I know that in the mid 1850s, the US cavalry wore a hat very similar to the Hardee hat. At what point did they switch to the wearing a Kepi? Or was the Kepi always the field hat?

There were some US cavalry stationed in the Washington Territory in 1858 and I'm especially interested in the uniforms they wore, since they might have become invovled in the Pig War (1859) if the Pig War had gone "hot."

Any information would be appreciated.

79thPA Supporting Member of TMP03 Mar 2018 8:05 p.m. PST

The forage cap was authorized on November 30, 1858.

Old Contemptibles Supporting Member of TMP05 Mar 2018 10:37 p.m. PST
Nick Stern Supporting Member of TMP06 Mar 2018 8:46 a.m. PST

From Osprey 168 US Cavalry on the Plains: "Even with revised dress regulations issued in 1857 there was no provision for comfortable field dress. Consequently, it appears that both officers and men improvised when serving on the Plains. A lieutenant describes soldiers, including those of the 1st Dragoons, returning from the 1858 Spokane campaign: "The artillery and infantry wore blue flannel shirts drawn over their uniforms and belted at the waist; the dragoons had a similar dress of grey flannel. The officers adopted the same with slouch hats. The only marks of rank were the shoulder straps sewed onto the flannel."

cplcampisi10 Apr 2018 5:21 p.m. PST

Nick's post is spot on. Many times the Army during the 1850s "improvised" uniforms in the field (and sometimes even in garrison).

Another good book to look for is:

Army Blue: The Uniform of Uncle Sam's Regulars 1848-1873, by John P. Langellier

The problem with the 1850s is that the Army experimented with uniforms, didn't always follow the regulations they set out, and often were lacking in supply. There was also a lag between new regulations being issued, and the new uniforms being supplied to the soldiers in the field. For example, the 1851 uniforms didn't start to reach most soldiers until 1854!

The cavalry regiments weren't raised until the expansion of the Army in 1855. They would have worn the 1854 mounted jacket, which was a dark blue short jacket, with, in the case of cavalry, yellow trim. While there wasn't a specified fatigue coat, by removing the detachable metal shoulder scales the jacket served as a fatigue jacket. Infantry, who were only issued a frock coat, sometimes wore mounted services jackets on campaign.

The trousers were sky blue according to the 1854 and 1855 regulations. The 1858 regulations specified dark blue trousers, but they probably wouldn't have been issued until 1860 or so. Likewise, the 1858 fatigue blouse (i.e. the sack coat) would not have been available until around 1860. In theory, a sky blue jacket was specified in the 1857 regulations (and had been in use before then) -- but it seems to have been rare, and I haven't seen one with cavalry trim.

An early version of the "Hardee Hat" was specified for the cavalry in 1855 -- to my knowledge there was never a cavalry shako. This hat is similar to the Hardee Hat adopted in 1858. Cavalry in 1859 would have had one of those hats (generally speaking, headgear seems to have been issued more quickly than other uniform items). I'm not sure about the fatigue cap though. If they did have them, it may have been the early version with yellow piping around the top -- a feature that was dropped at the outbreak of the civil war.

Note: the fatigue cap, is NOT a kepi. There's a difference to the structure and appearance, although on a miniature, they may look pretty similar.

The other option is a variant of the M1839 fatigue cap. These "wheel hats" were used during the Mexican-American War. They seem to have been available in decent numbers throughout the 1850s. If you opt for that you might be able to use Mexican-American War dragoons for your 1850s cavalry. The 1840s tunic had almost the same cut as the M1854 jacket.

Lion in the Stars16 Apr 2018 7:32 p.m. PST

? A Sack coat was more formal than a tailcoat, why would that be the 'getting sweaty' uniform?

cplcampisi17 Apr 2018 11:50 p.m. PST


I'm not sure I understand. If talking about mid-19th century civilian dress, a sack coat was certainly not more formal than a tailcoat. In fact it was considered less formal than a frock coat. The civilian sack coat of the 1850s was a somewhat baggy coat, with a short skirt, compared to the longer, more fitted frock coat. Over the course of the 19th century, it became more refined and tailored, evolving into the modern suit coat.

The four-button "fatigue blouse" introduced by the army in 1858, bore a resemblance to the civilian sack coat. It had a simple cut and loose fit. It was nicknamed "sack coat". Although I believe it would be incorrect to say that it had the same cut as a civilian sack coat.

The fatigue blouse/sack coat was clearly intended for fatigue. They were to be unlined, ostensibly to make them cooler. New recruits were to be issued a lined fatigue blouse, however. During the Civil War the majority of fatigue blouses produced were actually lined.

Lion in the Stars18 Apr 2018 3:33 a.m. PST

OK, had that backwards. Tail Coat, Frock Coat, Sack coat, in order from most to least formal. (The Sacque/Sack suit is basically the origin of the modern business suit, though the older sacque coats fit far more loosely than a modern business suit)

AICUSV02 Aug 2018 11:19 a.m. PST

At one time I did have a fatigue cap trimmed in orange (dragoons) The piping ran around the crown of the cap. US cavalry was not authorized until 1855. Until then there was the 1st and 2nd Dragoons and the Mounted Rifles (green trim). In 1861 all were renamed cavalry the Dragoons becoming the 1st and 2nd Cav, Rifles the 3rd Cav. and the 3 regiments of cav the 4th, 5th, & 6th.

At one time I thought of doing the Pig War, for the US troops I had figured on using ACW troops, Cav in shell jackets and fatigue caps, while the Inf. would be frock coats and fatigue caps. The issue I had was I had no clue as to what the Brits looked like at the period. Brits would be Royal Marines and Sailors.

I do recall seeing a water color done in 1858 of a US Officer, he was dressed in a junior grade officer's frock coat, dark blue trousers, and black campaign hat. Looked the same as ACW officer.

Good luck with your project.

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