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Reference Items
McDowell Style Officer's Forage Cap

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The cap seen here is in untouched original condition and is a good example of an officer’s grade McDowell type forage cap, typical of those purchased and worn by officers during the Civil War.  Associated with the early portion of the war, McDowell style caps are distinguished by their soft sides, high crown and forward-sloping flat top. The McDowell cap's most recognizable characteristic is its short and downward sloping brim and tall seams, in this case 6¾” at the back with the front standing 5” high when upright.  The flat top is 6” in diameter and shows very slight wear at the front of the crown. Sewn around the circular edge of the flat top is a welt of the same fabric formed by a " diameter reed.  On the face of the cap is an embroidered infantry insignia on a felt backing with the regimental numeral "9” at its center.  The insignia is very fine and shows only slight wear at its top.

Following the design of the French kepi, this forage cap is based on the US Model 1858 pattern and is made of what appears to be a high grade wool/cotton blend fabric, dark blue.  The cap interior and crown are lined with a brown polished cotton cloth with no tears, rips or fraying. The small, curved leather visor is 1¾” deep in front.  The cap retains its original, black leather chinstrap with a brass buckle and two adjusters and measures approximately 11¼" long by ½" wide. The chinstrap is secured with two staff buttons bearing Scovill backmarks.  The original sweatband is 1" wide brown Russian leather showing very slight wear. There is evidence of a maker’s label on the center of the inside crown, now gone.

This cap is the exact specimen pictured in two views on page 107 of the reference work, Army Blue - The Uniform of Uncle Sam’s Regulars by John P. Langellier.  The cap’s interior is pictured on page 109 of the same work.

Member - Mike Sorenson
Item #: CIV-301

Staff Officer's Forage Cap

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Pattern of 1861 staff officer’s forage cap.  This regulation style cap is in near perfect condition.  Its visor and chinstrap are tarred leather, with the visor stitched at the brim.  The chinstrap has a brass buckle and one keeper, and is fastened by two federal eagle staff buttons marked "*D. Evans & Co.* Extra.” 

The cap bears an original and perfect condition regulation size oval staff insignia.  Black velvet cloth features a finely detailed embroidered oak-leaf pattern wreath that encircles two letters "U.S." in old English script. The US-in-wreath insignia is in excellent condition, very tight and strong and exhibits no pulls, fraying or blemishes. A single, twisted bullion wire border encircles the complete outer edge of the oval insignia.  The 1¼” Russian leather sweatband is original and intact, showing minor wear and a winged eagle with "U.S. Army” label is diamond-stitched inside the crown.  The finely woven black cotton liner is a modern replacement.  This cap measures 6” in height at the back seam, and 4” at the front.  There is no visible deterioration to the cap’s exterior.  

Member - Mike Sorenson
Item #: CIV-300

CSA 154th Tennessee Slouch Hat

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To mitigate the hardships of war, soldiers on both sides often relied on their irrepressible humor to see them through difficult times.  This slouch hat illustrates that humor while at the same time demonstrating a soldier’s pride in his unit.

It goes without saying that there were not 154 regiments enlisted from Tennessee. When Southern volunteer units rushed to Tennessee’s standard in April of 1861, each was vying for the honor of being designated the 1st Tennessee.  On April 15th, the men that were to become the 154th Senior arrived at the wharf at Memphis, rendezvousing under Colonel Preston Smith at Fort Randolph, Shelby County Tennessee (Conf. Vet. Vol. X, pg. 259.)  Each hailed from the Tennessee counties of Shelby, Henry, McNairy, Hardeman, and Fayette.  They laid their claim to the prize but were somehow bested by a regiment under George Maney, a politician from Franklin who had arrived at the same time.

Smith’s good natured boys insisted that if they couldn’t be the lowest numbered regiment, they would be the highest and claimed the moniker of the 154th Tennessee, the designation they had once held as a pre-war militia unit.  (Conf. Vet. Vol. XXI, pg.355, Vol. X, pg.259) The Regiment added the appellation "Senior” to confirm their early enlistment.  The 154th went on to have a notable battle record, seeing their first action at Belmont and losing thirteen men.  At Shiloh the 154th was devastated, losing thirty-one percent of those who stepped off with their colors.  They lost an even higher proportion at Murfreesboro, suffering a staggering forty-one percent casualties.  After having fought through the Georgia campaign, the 154th became the first regiment to re-enlist under J. E. Johnston at Dalton, signing on for "ninety-nine years or the war” (Conf. Vet. Vol. IX, pg.53; Vol. XIV, pg.291) and sparking a wave of patriotic enlistments among the dispirited Army of Tennessee.  The Seniors fought through Hood’s disastrous Tennessee campaign, the Carolina’s campaign and by the time of the Army of Tennessee’s surrender on April 26, 1865, their ranks were nearly empty.

The hat’s wearer took a well earned pride in his regiment and his slouch hat.  He fashioned a handmade pewter badge with 154TH TENN and decorative scrollwork cut into its face.  On the underside of the hat’s left brim, which was apparently worn pinned up, the bold designation 154 SENIOR appears above TN Reg’t. The label is encapsulated by scrolls similar to the scrolls that adorn the badge.  This entire script is done in ink and was probably red at the time it was executed.  The hat still retains its original sweatband and unique hatband which is a gold bullion braided officer’s sword knot complete with tassels.  This is the same hat pictured in Collecting the Confederacy by Shannon Pritchard, pages 137-139.

Member - Mike Sorenson
Item #: CIV-296

Early Officer's Forage Cap

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This forage cap is one of the earliest known examples of a Model 1858 officer’s forage cap. It has every desirable nuance for such an early piece of headgear – dark blue broadcloth, deep thin ⅛” tarred visor, widow’s peak body band, narrow crown disk and chinstrap with its tightener adjuster.

The crown measures 3½” high front by 5⅜” to the rear seam. The crown is 5” in diameter and stiffened with its original poster board backing. The lining is embossed with the maker’s name and address: John A. Baker – 162 – Fulton St – New York. The reference work Military Goods Dealers & Makers 1785-1915 by Bazelon & MicGuinn lists Baker as present at this address from 1853-1858; the firm later became Baker & McKenny.

The sweatband is 1¾” wide, dark brown leather and overlaps an interior pasteboard band. The interior is lined with black silk which is broad stitched to the pasteboard interior lining. The loose end of the silk lining is gathered at the top by a string and is sewn. A decorative woven cotton cord circumvents the top of the sweatband. The chinstrap is held to the cap by two staff eagle cuff buttons whose maker’s marks are not visible. The buttons are fastened to the cap’s interior with coiled brass lock rings.

The simulated embroidered wreath is stamped brass and mirrors bullion embroidered examples in configuration. It also matches relevant line drawings and engravings showing similar wreaths from the Civil War period and earlier. This unusual wreath device is perhaps unique to this cap. Absent the "US” insignia, this style wreath was worn by hospital stewards. Within are the German silvered letters "US” in old English script. This is the classic Civil War cap after which later forage caps were patterned.

Member - John Beckendorf
Item #: CIV-235

Cavalry Officer's Slouch Hat

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This beautiful slouch hat was examined by Les Jensen, current president of the Company of Military Historians and a curator at the West Point museum. His examination will provide a detailed description of this original Civil War period cavalry officer’s hat, whose condition is "extraordinarily good”.

Description: Hat, black fur felt with added fibers. The crown has been tucked in around all the edges. Currently the crown as tucked in, measures 4” high at the front. On the sides it measures 5” high. The top, which is oval, is 3¾” X 7½”. The brim is 3¼” wide. Around the base of the crown is a black silk ribbon, plain weave, ⅜” wide with the loop and knot at the rear of the hat. The edge of the brim is bound with a black (now brownish) gros grain ribbon, 1¼” wide, machine stitched in place so that ½” shows on the top of the brim and 11/16” shows on the bottom. The hat is lined in the crown with a medium blue silk. This lining is an extension of the sweatband, and is glued to it. About 2⅜” of the silk is exposed with the loose end gathered around a cord in the crown. The sweatband is made of black glazed leather, 2¾” wide. A pink ribbon tie is at the loose ends of the sweatband where it joins at the top. The stitching of the sweatband to the hat appears original to it. A pair of embroidered metallic thread officer’s crossed sabers on a black velvet oval patch, 1½” X 2⅛” is sewed on the front. The insignia is stiff, with a brown cotton backing, and is likely on either pasteboard or tin. Around the base of the crown is an officer’s pattern hat cord in black and gold, sewn into place. There is no plume.

Member - John Beckendorf
Item #: CIV-228

Officer's Chasseur Cap - Ordnance Department

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Union forage cap in a chasseur style officer's pattern. The fabric is dark blue wool broadcloth in a fine twill weave. The crown stands 4" high at the front, 6¼" at the rear seam and the top is 4⅝" in diameter, stiffened with a pasteboard beneath the lining. The body of the cap meets a band of slightly darker material seamed only at the back and stiffened with leather. The cap's interior is lined with dark brown glazed cotton, sewn over padding made of cotton waste; the top is unmarked and has double lines of stitching in a diamond pattern. The black leather sweatband is 1⅜" wide, the loose edge having been folded over and stitched by machine. 

The flat visor is original to the hat, and composed of black patent leather. It is edged with oilcloth that is machine stitched in place. The ⅜" wide chinstrap is also patent leather and of two-piece construction. There are two Ordnance Department buttons, backmarked "D. EVANS & CO EXTRA." 

On the front of the cap is an embroidered Ordnance Department insignia, a flaming bomb on a 1" X 2" black patch. Its sewn construction of dead bullion and sequins is similar to the pattern in the Horstman edition of the 1851 U.S. Army uniform regulations. The bomb is somewhat crudely sewn into place with thread, now aged brown and original to the hat.

This is a good example of Civil War headgear from a branch of the Union service not commonly seen.

Member - Mike Sorenson
Item #: CIV-220

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