[Captain OSCAR F. LONG, A. Q. M., U.S. A.]
(Note: This is a 38 page booklet published by the U.S. Army Quartermaster’s Department in 1895 that gives an excellent overview of uniform changes since the American Revolution. The author, Captain Long, was a distinguished Quartermaster who had earned the Medal of Honor as an Infantry officer during the Indian Wars in 1877 and designed the Quartermaster branch insignia which was approved in 1896.)
WITHIN THE PAST YEAR OR TWO the uniform of the Army has been a subject for unusual discussion not only in the service generally, but among many alleged reformers outside of the Army. Lately it has been brought into special prominence by the advocates of a new cap and change in blouse for the service; and the subject is of unusual interest to the Army and to all those who desire to see our military establishment, although a small one, not only maintained on correct principles and kept to a high standard of efficiency, but uniformed properly and clothed in a manner which will reflect credit upon the designers and those in authority responsible for its adoption. The ideal uniform should be of such character as to cause the officer and soldier who wears it to be proud of it for itself, aside from that which it typifies.
Its utility should be unquestioned in order that it may fully satisfy every purpose for which intended. A uniform such as this should be subject to little change in a republic like ours.
The evolution of the soldier’s dress from the early days when our forefathers were minute men to the present day of the professional soldier is interesting, because unique. Its vagaries are many, and appear to us inexplicable, for in the very early days there were no regulations particularly describing the dress, except as to color.
During the Colonial wars the North American provinces, which were then British and numbered 13, raised many volunteer regiments and employed them against the public enemy-the French and Indians. These were the troops of the provinces, the provincial troops of the time. The British Government furnished many with the red coats of the British Army, while others wore plain clothes. The red coats were worn at the siege of Louisburg. The blue was selected for others by the provincial authorities, except for those serving as riflemen and rangers. Under Peter Schuyler, in 1755, the Jersey Blues, an infantry regiment, famed for its achievements in the operations against Fort Niagara, had the blue uniform faced with red, and gray stockings were worn with buckskin breeches. Colonel George Washington’s Virginia foot regiments, which fought in the wars from 1756 to 1763, wore blue and buff. In New York City, in 1724, the trooper’s coat was scarlet, trimmed with silver lace, and 15 years after the color of the coat was changed to blue; still later, the coat and breeches were blue, with gilt or brass buttons, scarlet waistcoats and hats trimmed with gilt or silver lace. In 1772 the uniform of the Independent Foot Companies of New York were, for the Grenadiers, blue, with red facings; for the Fusileers, the same with bearskin caps. The Forresters and the Rangers wore short green coats with buff or crimson facings. The dark blue with red facings was worn by the artillery as early as 1772. The Government Foot Guards of Connecticut about this time wore a uniform of scarlet coats, turned up with black, the waistcoats and breeches being buff cassimere and bearskin hats. The celebrated First Troop, Philadelphia City Light-Horse, of 1774, wore dark brown short coats faced and lined with white, with white breeches and vest, high-top boots and round black hats ornamented with a silver cord and buck’s tail. Their housings were of the same color as their coats and trimmed with white. The Light Infantry of Pennsylvania were uniformed in light blue and buff. Not long after the commencement of the Revolutionary War and the organization of the American Army, blue became the prescribed color for coats. The reason assigned for the adoption of this color is that it had always been the insignia of the Whigs, the Covenanters having adopted that color from the history of the ancient Israelites, who were enjoined to put upon the fringe of their garments a ribbon of blue. The term “Whig” is of Scotch origin, and was given to those English politicians who manifested opposition to the Court. Orange or buff and dark blue were also the insignia of Holland, and the particular shade of dark blue which was prescribed as the regulation color for coats of the American Army was called “Dutch Blue.”
At Lexington, as well as at Concord, the provincials were without uniform. This we see in the old prints and glean from narratives and contemporary reports. It has been stated with authority that at Bunker Hill “not an officer or soldier of the Continental troops engaged was in uniform, but were in the plain and ordinary dress of citizens.” In 1775 we read of the first Virginia regiment of infantry being uniformed at their own expense in hunting shirts and leggings with white binding on their hats. The Second Continental Congress organized in Philadelphia May 10, 1775, and discussed the affairs of Lexington and Concord. A short time later Washington was elected General and Commander-in-Chief of the American Army, and arrived at Cambridge July 2, 1775. His dress at that time was blue coat with buff-colored facings. The Commander-in-Chief was distinguished by a light blue ribband worn across the breast between coat and waistcoat; majors and brigadiers, by a pink ribband, and aides-de-camp by a green ribband worn in the same manner. A short time after, the following order was issued.
“As the Continental Army have unfortunately no uniforms, and consequently many inconveniences must arise from not being able always to distinguish the commissioned officer from the non-commissioned, and the noncommissioned from the privates, it is desired that some badges of distinction may be immediately provided. For instance, that the field officers may have red or pink-colored cockades in their hats, the captains yellow or buff and the subalterns green. They are to furnish themselves accordingly. The sergeants may be distinguished by an epaulette or stripe of red cloth sewed upon their right shoulder; the corporals by one of green.”
In November, 1775, Congress resolved that the clothing for the Army should be paid for by stoppages from the men’s pay. “That it be dyed brown and the distinctions of regiments made in the facings.” In 1775, four New York infantry regiments were uniformed in short coats of blue, light brown, grey, and dark brown, respectively. In 1776 an artillery company was raised, and shortly afterwards the New York Provincial Congress ordered it to be furnished sufficient coarse blue cloth to make a coat for each man. It is probable that the facings were red. There was great scarcity, however, in New York of the proper cloth from which to make uniforms, and the State commissary who then furnished them was directed by the New York Committee of Safety to provide frocks of the most proper cloth he might be able to procure. He was enabled to secure a sufficient quantity of woollen cloth, blue, gray and brown in color, to clothe several regiments. Later in the same year (July) General Washington encouraged for those who would have been unprovided with uniforms the use of hunting shirts, with long breeches made of the same cloth, gaiter fashion about the legs. From this time dates the modern trouser or pantaloon for troops. Aside from its convenience, he urged that it might be justly supposed to carry no small terror to the enemy, who would think every such person a complete marksman. It is said that the British, seeing the advantage of this garment, adopted it for their service. In fact, one of their officers who was afterwards taken prisoner stated that he saw our men, some of whom wore “hunting shirts, the mortal aversion of a red-coat.”
Within the period of the Revolutionary War there seems to have been but little uniformity in the clothing, and none whatever in the colors of facings. Blue, brown, buff, white, green and scarlet facings were indiscriminately worn at pleasure, and without designation; black, white, yellow, green and blue hunting shirts were used. During the retreat of the American Army across New Jersey in 1776 the need of clothing became so great and the Army suffered so much from lack of clothing that charitably disposed citizens were requested to furnish their old and cast-off garments for the Army, and Washington distributed it before the battle of Trenton. It was impossible to import material for clothing from the mother country, and little but any, except the homespun, had been made in the Colonies. Old and cast-off clothing became, therefore, a necessity. This lack of clothing strictly uniform was not, however, so much of a hardship as would appear, for it was not a custom much at variance with the habits of life of the Continental soldiers of that time, although the conditions of actual civilized warfare were new to them. Previous to this their warfare as colonists had been principally with the Indians, and they impressed the foe not by gaudy uniforms, but by the bravery which always characterized them in their guerrilla warfare.
By an act of the Provincial Congress, in 1775, the celebrated Green Mountain Boys were requested to purchase green cloth for their coats and red cloth sufficient to face them. Another resolution of the same year provided that the colonels “settle” with the Quartermaster General the uniforms of their respective regiments.
During the Revolutionary War Congress passed many resolutions, the object of which was to obtain for the troops proper uniform suits of different colors which had been previously used by troops independently. The colors of the uniforms were as numerous as the varied tints of the rainbow, but they were most effective in their selection and arrangement, and even to this day it is doubted by many if the uniforms of the Revolutionary period have been improved upon. Even at the present day, whenever the Continental uniform appears as it too seldom does on parade, it is cheered to the echo, not only for the glorious memories it revives, but for its inherent beauty as a uniform.
April 15, 1777, it was “Resolved” by Congress “that the Appellations, ‘Congress’ own,’ ‘Washington Life Guards,’ etc., are improper and ought not to be kept up; but that all troops should be on the same footing.”
Referring to the uniforms of the American Army at Valley Forge in the winter of 1777-78, the Inspector General at the time, Baron de Steuben, stated that he “saw officers at the grand parade at Valley Forge mounting guard in a sort of dressing gown, made of an old blanket or woollen bed-cover.” The officers had coats of “every color and make” and some of the men were “literally naked.” The Inspector of the Rhode Island Continental Infantry reported that “the naked situation of the troops, when observed parading for duty, is sufficient to extort the tears of compassion from every human being. There are not two in five who have a shoe, stocking or so much as breeches to render them decent.”
It was not until a resolution passed by Congress early in 1779 that a uniformity of clothing was decided upon for the troops. In this resolution Congress “authorized and directed the Commander-in-Chief, according to circumstances of supplies of clothing, to fix and prescribe the uniform as well with regard to color and facings as the cut or fashion of the clothes to be worn by the troops of the respective States and regiments, woollen overalls for winter and linen for summer to be substituted for the breeches.” General Washington, in accordance with this resolution, promulgated a general order prescribing the uniform in general terms, to be furnished as soon as the state of public supplies would permit. This general order (2d October, 1779), however, seems peculiar to us at this day, for, while it prescribed blue as the color for the uniform (coats), it indicated specifically that the facings for the certain States should be of certain colors, viz: White facings for New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut; buff for New York and New Jersey; red for Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia; while North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia had facings of blue; to the artillery scarlet facings were allotted, and to light dragoons, white. The uniforms of blue coats, waistcoats and breeches, which the Marquis of Lafayette, about this time, supplied the officers of his light division, cost about four guineas, not including the small sword which he presented them. Shortly afterwards, in 1780, an order prescribing for the first time uniforms of the general and staff officers was issued by General Washington, having in view the distinguishing of the various military ranks from each other. The number of stars for general officers was therein mentioned. In July he forbade his officers to make any alterations in the prescribed uniform. He recommended white and black cockades to the officers, a black ground with a white relief, which was intended to be emblematic of the expected union of the American and French armies. The cockades were small rosettes of leather or silk worn on the hat. The chapeau worn by general and staff officers of the present day still has the black cockade, but without the white, for the white of the Revolutionary time was the color of the uniform of the French infantry.
Officers at this time wore the ruffled shirts, the red sash and the worsted gloves. A worsted sash distinguished the sergeants, and shoulder knots the corporals. Afterwards, sergeants had shoulder knots on each shoulder, and corporals wore them on the right only. A badge of office of company officers was the espontoon or half pike, about six feet long. The knapsacks and haversacks of the soldiers were made of linen and duck and the canteens of oak wood, painted. General Lafayette’s light infantry wore leather helmets with crests of horse hair, instead of black felt cocked hats. In 1782 the custom of rewarding faithful service was inaugurated by authorizing a “service stripe to be worn on the arm, of the same color as the facings of the soldier’s corps in which he served the enlistment, and a like additional stripe for each succeeding period of service.” It was stated that “during the period of the confederation the troops retained substantially the Revolutionary uniform. The cavalry had brass helmets with white horsehair;” they had ‘long horseman’s sword, steel mounted.”
In 1792 both infantry and artillery officers had swords of saber form, yellow and steel mounted, respectively, but with the peculiarity that while the company officer’s sword was 2 ½ feet in length, that of the field officer was 3 feet. The shoulder strap dates from the 30th of January, 1787, and was then described as a “shoulder strap of dark blue, edged with red.” In 1791, the bearskin and hair knapsacks were issued in lieu of the linen before used.
The white plume was prescribed for the infantry in 1799, and it is not many years since that a similar plume was discarded by the infantry. In 1799 green coats with white facings were prescribed for the cavalry, and blue coats with red facings for the infantry and artillery. A year later the facings for the cavalry were changed to black with white vests and breeches, top boots, leather helmet, with black horse plume for soldiers and green for officers. Red silk sashes for commissioned officers and worsted for non-commissioned officers were prescribed. Colonels and general officers above the rank of colonel were distinguished by two epaulettes; each major wore one on the right shoulder and a strap on the left. Captains were distinguished by an epaulette on the right shoulder, lieutenants by one on the left. Cadets were entitled to a strap on the right shoulder. The epaulettes and straps of regimental officers were of silver, while the epaulettes of general officers were of gold. In this general order prescribing the uniforms the regiments were distinguished from each other numerically; the number of each regiment being indicated on the button.
In General Howe’s orders for the Massachusetts line, dated Jan. 5, 1781, mention is made of “a fashionable military cocked hat with a silver button loop and a small button with the number of the regiment.” This is the first known reference in general orders to the cocked hat, so familiar to us in connection with the Continental uniform, and is the first order recorded which describes in definite and particular terms the Continental uniform of the period.
In 1802 the uniform coat of the line was dark blue, reaching to the knee, of Revolutionary cut, with scarlet lapels and cuffs; the vest was white, single breasted, having for the infantry white linings, white buttons and white skirt facings, while for the artillery the latter was of scarlet. White cross belts were worn. Enlisted men had round hats with brims three inches wide and a strip of bearskin across the crown. The pantaloons were dark blue for winter; for summer, white. In 1810 single breasted coats without facings, ornamented with silver lace about the button holes, came into fashion, and the silk hat also came into use. Previous to this (1802) standing collars of what seems to us now ridiculous proportions, were prescribed, of a height not less than 3 inches, nor more than 3/2 inches, and in 1812 the extreme was reached when the collar was required “to reach the tip of the ear, and in front as high as the chin would permit in turning the head.”
It might be interesting to submit in this connection a brief statement of the number of troops furnished by the States for the support of the war known as the War of the Revolution. These troops were divided at that time into two classes, Continentals and Militia. The number of troops furnished by the thirteen original States, as taken from the actual returns of the Army for the year 1776, was: Continentals, 46,891; Militia, 26,060; total, 72,951. In addition to the above the conjectural estimate of the Militia employed was 89,651. During the year 1776 Congress fixed quotas to be furnished by the thirteen States for three years or during the war. These numbers varied during the years as the war progressed from 75,760 in the year 1777 (of which quota 44,920 Militia and Continentals were furnished) to the year 1783, when the quota required the reduced number of 33,408, and the Continentals and Militia furnished was 13,476. By the 15th of November, 1783, the Army in both the Northern and Southern Departments was discharged. In 1789 the pay of a captain was $30 per month and three rations per day. A sergeant received $5, a corporal $4, and a private $3 per month. Officers could receive money in lieu of their rations, the price of a ration being estimated at about 20 cents. From the pay of each enlisted man, 10 cents per month was deducted for hospital stores, and from a sergeant’s pay $1.40; from a corporal’s $1.15 and from a private’s, 90 cents per month, for clothing. In 1796 the pay of a captain was increased to $40, of a sergeant, to $7; of a corporal, to $6, and of a private, to $4 per month. During the war of 1812, while the captain’s pay remained the same, the sergeant’s was increased to $11 and the private’s to $8 per month. Each enlisted man received only a certain specified clothing, which usually consisted of one suit with additional shoes and shirts. The prices for the clothing during the Revolutionary War are not obtainable, but a comparison oft he prices of clothing for the Army of the United States in the year 1816 (which were about the same as the prices during the War of 1812), as compared with those which are now given in the clothing price-lists of the Army may be of interest. A few items will suffice to show the difference indicated by years:
1812 to 1816. 1895.
Cap, complete $2.50½ $2.72
Flannel shirt 1.68 2.10
Cotton shirt 1.08 .25
Shoes 1.40 1.79
stockings .49 .25
Blanket 2.75 2.63
Coat (Light Artillery) 6.97 5.27
(The cap of 1812 corresponds with the helmet of today.)
In those early years they had no increase of pay for reenlistment, and $8 per month was the maximum at that time for a private, even though he had served many years before. When the average pay of a private, which amounts to about $16 at the present time, is considered in connection with the $8 war-pay of 1812; and when from the foregoing table the price of clothing, and, doubtless, of other necessities proportionately high at that time, is considered, in comparison with those of the present day, it would seem that the man who now enlists in our Army is far better provided for and has less cause for complaint than those heroes of early days, who enlisted and fought through purely patriotic motives that their homes and firesides might be protected from a foreign foe.
The different epochs which marked the various changes in the uniforms of our Army from the beginning of the century to the present time are not numerous, but the changes have been quite marked and sufficiently distinctive to merit a more extended reference than can here be well given. However, a brief recital of these changes may be of interest.
In the war with Great Britain in 1812, the rifles were clad in uniforms made entirely of gray cloth, and for nine years thereafter this continued to be the distinguishing color for that arm of the service, and although dispensed with for a time for the regiments which were first raised for the war with Mexico, gray was prescribed for the uniforms of the foot riflemen. This was doubtless due to the fact that embargoes and blockades of our coast line prevented the importation of the cloth of the color which had become dear to the American’s heart from Revolutionary times, the blue, and compelled the Government to put its troops in the gray which is now known as “cadet gray.” In 1816 the Corps of Cadets were put in uniforms of this color, which is still worn by them. Gray vests with bullet buttons, the Jefferson shoe rising above the ankle; the black silk stock and the common round hat shaped like the present civilian silk hats only smaller with cockade of black silk with yellow eagle to be worn at all times, and sword yellow mounted with black gripe on the frog belt of black morocco and worn over the coat were prescribed. This was supposed to be in honor of the battles won by our troops during the year 1814.
In 1812 the changes made in the uniform were marked. Officers of the general staff wore cocked hats without feathers) single breasted coats embroidered in front reaching to the waist, with long tails and ornamented with yellow buttons, high military boots, gilt spurs and waist belts of black leather. No sashes were worn at this time. White or buff breeches were prescribed, with four buttons on the knee and gilt knee buckles. These breeches were similar to the trousers now used by gentlemen for riding.
Gold epaulettes were worn according to rank. Jackets were prescribed for the rank and file, and leather caps with white pompons replaced the felt hat.
For line officers the coat and breeches of the artillery and infantry were of the same general description as those of the staff, with the exception that the buttons and metal trimmings of the uniform of the artillery were yellow while those of the infantry were silver. The light dragoons had “boots with tops to cover the knees, and the artillery was provided with hussar boots, the holsters of the general officer were covered with leopard skin and of a mounted officer of the line with bear skin.”
After the war an order was published which stated that “the uniform established during the war will be adhered to by the officers of the peace establishment, and fancy dresses resembling the military not conforming to the regulations, will not be worn by officers of the army.” If this order in effect could be republished today, and our officers and soldiers made to strictly adhere to the regulations in all that pertains to their uniform, they would present a better appearance and give less annoyance to their military tailors.
In 1816 the uniform became more simple as regards trimmings and consequently less attractive in appearance in comparison to those that had preceded it. It was stated that “the coat of the infantry and artillery shall be uniformly blue. No red collars or cuffs and no lace shall be worn by any grade excepting aiguillettes and sword knots.” All officers’ coats were of the length of those worn by field officers. The cap of the line was black, seven inches in height, the crown eight and one-half inches in diameter, the visor two and one half inches broad, lined with stiff leather, with a band and tassel falling from the crown of the cap on the right side, and a white plume six inches in length. In 1821 dark blue was declared by Army Regulations to be the national color. “When a different one is not expressly prescribed, all uniform coats, whether for officers or enlisted men, will be of that color.” The only exception was scarlet for the Coats of musicians, and gray for the Corps of Cadets. The chapeaux de bras remained practically the same for officers of the general staff. The headgear for company officers, however, consisted of leather caps with bell crowns, gilt scales, yellow eagle in front (with the number of the regiment cut in the shield) and black leather cockade. For enlisted men they were of leather of the same form as those prescribed for officers. Plumes or pompons were not allowed to be worn upon the chapeau. The artillery had yellow pompons, the infantry white, the rifle companies green. The general officers and officers of the general staff had gilt epaulettes, as also did the field officers of the engineers, artillery and rifles, while the field officers of infantry wore silver epaulettes. Chevrons were used to designate rank. A captain wore one on each arm above the elbow, a subaltern one on each arm below the elbow. The angle of the chevron, which was of gold or silver lace) pointed up-ward. Adjutants were designated by an arc of gold or silver fringe.
Red net silk sashes were worn by all regimental officers on duty, and were tied with a knot in front on the right hip, the ends falling upon the right side. Mounted officers wore high military boots, while other officers had the short boots. Bootees were worn by the enlisted men of all corps, “under the pantaloons, laced, extending four inches above the ankle joint.” The buttons for the artillery and infantry then received the devices still used. The order stated that “The button of the artillery will be of yellow metal, cupped in form, 3/4 of an inch in diameter, with an eagle impressed on it and the letter “A” in the shield thereof. * * * The button of the infantry will be like that of the artillery, except that it will be of white metal and shall bear the letter “I” instead of “A.” Officers doing duty as, aides-de-camp were allowed to wear staff uniforms and epaulettes according to their rank. It was stated that on unofficial occasions and in private societies all officers of the Army were permitted to wear, with long coats, white pantaloons or breeches with white silk stockings and shoes. The breeches to have knee buckles and buttons of the same color as the buttons of the corps to which the officer belonged. Officers in uniform were required at all times to wear swords. In the general rules of this order it was stated that “Chaplains, judge advocates, commissaries of purchase, storekeepers and paymasters have no uniform.” In 1832 the uniform was again materially changed by President Jackson, but the national color, blue, was generally retained. The chapeaux were ornamented and the cockade retained, but there was added a plume of yellow swan feathers, “drooping from an upright stem, feathered to the length of eight inches.” The colors of these plumes were as the hues of the rainbow, from the yellow of the major general commanding to the characteristic colors of the red-cock feathers of the artillery and the white of the infantry. Russian leather was used for the sword belt of general officers and officers of the general staff, and the red sash was retained, while the sword knot of gold cord was introduced. The uniforms of the staff department were particularly described in this order, and for the first time aiguillettes were introduced in orders as follows: “Staff officers, general as well as regimental, except the topographical engineers, will be distinguished by aiguillettes.” They were of twisted gold cord with gilt engraved tags worn on the right shoulder under the epaulette.
The General Staff included the Adjutant General, the Inspector General, the aides-de-camp, the officers of the Quartermaster’s, Subsistence, Pay and Medical Departments and the Commissary General of Purchases. For the regimental staff officers the aiguillette was of twisted gold and silver cord with gilt tags. Facings were again introduced for the coat, and for the line edgings on the collars and cuffs of the color of their arm of service. Horse furniture, such as housings for general officers, surcingles, saddlecloth for staff officers, bridle, collar, holsters and stirrups were particularly described. In this uniform order, it was stated that “mustachios, long whiskers or beards are not to be worn. The hair to be cut short, or what is generally termed cropped, the whiskers not to extend below the tip of the ear.” What we term a “hat” was in those days called a “cap.” Vests were allowed to be worn, but were not a part of the military dress. Short shell or stable jackets were worn on stable duty, marches or active service. Great coats of blue gray mixture with capes were worn by officers and men.
The uniform prescribed in 1836 made no decided changes in that heretofore described. The colors for the different arms of the service were retained in edgings, stripes and pompons. For staff officers the plumes of swan and cock feathers of various colors were still used. Double-breasted coats were allowed the major and brigadier generals, single-breasted coats designating the officers of the general staff below the rank of general officers. For the line officers the dress coat for the artillery, dragoons and infantry was double-breasted. The number of buttons or their arrangement in groups generally designated the rank. The cloak (probably our cape) was prescribed; for staff officers, with buff lining; for the engineers, blue; for the artillery, scarlet, and for the infantry, white. The aiguilettes were retained as specifically indicated heretofore and the epaulettes for field officers, but captains and lieutenants at this time wore plain lace straps and solid crescent bullion, with the regimental number in gold or silver, embroidered on the strap. Shoulder straps similar to those now worn were prescribed for the frock coats. The artillery officers wore a sash of crimson silk net and the dragoons one of deep orange. At this time the insignia of the artillery was a shell and flame, gold embroidered, while that of the Ordnance Department was crossed cannon and bomb-shell. The standing collar of the cadet was trimmed with black silk lace and the coat had three rows of gilt bullet buttons. The buttons of their surtout (great coat) were stamped “cadet” and their gray trousers had a black velvet stripe down the outer seam. The artillery officers were provided with a red stripe on their “trousers,” welted at the edge, the infantry with a white stripe, and the dragoons with two yellow stripes, each, ¾ of an inch wide, “leaving a light between.” By the way of mention it may be stated as a matter of interest, that this is the first time that trousers have been mentioned in general orders, or in the articles prescribing uniforms. Heretofore the words breeches and pantaloons seem to have been the terms employed, the breeches reaching to the knee, while pantaloons and trousers were doubtless intended to be used synonymously, for the longer nether garment. In the 1836 order a blue and gray mixture “producing the effect of a sky-blue” was first brought into use, the coat still being of dark-blue cloth.
The dress of the chaplain was specified simply as “black button of the corps, round hat and cockade and eagle.” Only a couple of years ago the chaplains petitioned the War Department for a change in their uniform for a less severe garment with some change in the decorations. The only change made was the privilege of wearing a plain single or double-breasted frock coat with standing or falling collar and one or two rows of plain silk buttons, respectively. For undress, either the black frock or plain black sack coat. This is their present dress. During the Revolution the prescribed dress for chaplains was black.
In 1839 the officers of the general staff were permitted to line their cloaks with buff or blue, and their plumes of swan feathers were of colors to designate the department of the staff. The sash was red silk network and belt of Russia leather with two stripes of gold embroidery. The plume (same as worn by the generals) was the distinctive mark of the aides-de-camp, they being permitted to wear at their option either the uniform of the general staff or that of their corps. Officers of the artillery were allowed to wear a red horsehair plume instead of a cock feather; the dragoons had a drooping white horsehair pompon, and wore ankle boots; the infantry retained the white cock feather plume. The Commissary General of Purchases, Military and Ordnance Storekeepers were designated the “civil staff, with uniform of blue and round hat with black cockade and yellow eagle. The aiguillettes and shoulder straps were continued as heretofore, the embroidery of the strap generally to correspond in color to the button of the coat. The forage cap to be worn with the frock coat, while the silk sash was in use by both staff and line officers. Regimental officers were required to provide themselves for summer wear with a white cotton or linen shell jacket. The cocked hats were still used, but were allowed to be either open or formed so as to shut like the chapeaux de bras previously worn. Dark-blue single-breasted coats (conforming to the pattern of officers’ coats) were worn by the men, and worsted sashes and epaulettes were allowed the non-commissioned officers. A band was uniformed like its regiment or corps and the commanding officer was allowed to make additions in ornaments. The order of 1841 made few alterations in the uniform, and it was not until 1847 that a decided change was made for the regiments raised and equipped for service during the Mexican War. The uniform for general officers and officers of the general staff was similar in many respects to that which is worn at the present day. For the general officer the coat was dark-blue, double breasted; for officers of the general staff, single-breasted. For full dress, the cocked hat, epaulettes, the plume and the sash were worn. Trousers were of dark-blue cloth with buff or gold-lace stripe for winter, and for summer, white linen or cotton. The undress coat was plain dark-blue, the trousers without the stripes. The forage cap was described “according to pattern in clothing bureau.” This pattern, from the sketches, shows a most comfortable cap, similar to that recently adopted by the service, but with a higher crown of much greater diameter, and a sloping visor larger than that of the present cap. The dress coats for he artillery, dragoons and infantry were of dark blue cloth the ornamentations red, yellow, and white, respectively. The trousers were of a blue-gray mixture with stripes. With undress, sashes were worn, and also the forage cap, with suitable ornamentation. For officers of the general staff a black belt instead of Russia leather was prescribed, embroidered in two stripes of gold. The regiment of infantry, under the Act approved February 11, 1847, was equipped as was the regiment of Voltigeurs or foot riflemen. The frock coat was of dark blue-gray cloth, single-breasted. Scales or counter straps for the shoulders were worn in lieu of the epaulettes, with the usual insignia designating the rank of the officer. Trousers were of dark-blue cloth with a stripe of the same color down the outer seam, edged with a yellow cord. As a badge of distinction, non-commissioned officers were permitted to wear upon the sleeves of their undress jackets chevrons of lace. These chevrons were the same in shape as those of the present time.
The pictures of uniforms of the period of the Mexican War show that while not particularly graceful in outline, They were easy, comfortable, and, above all, when the short shell-jacket was worn on campaign, particularly adapted to the purpose for which used.
The general order of 1851 directed a radical change in the uniforms of the period, being for commissioned officers a frock coat of dark-blue cloth, the skirts to extend from two-thirds to three-fourths of the distance from the waist to the knee, single-breasted for captains and lieutenants, double-breasted for all other grades.
For enlisted men the uniform coat was a single-breasted frock of dark-blue cloth, the skirt extending one-half the distance between the waist and the knee. The uniform trousers for officers and enlisted men were of cloth of sky blue mixture, to be worn throughout the year, “made loose and to spread well over the boots.” For enlisted mounted men they were reinforced; for the first time this was prescribed. Dark-blue cloth was worn by the general officers and the general staff. The general staff and staff corps had a small buff welt; the regimental officers a small welt laid into the outer seam of the colors of the arms of the service. This also obtained for the enlisted men.
In the cap for all officers and enlisted men a most decided change was made, being prescribed of dark-blue cloth, the crown of four upright pieces, height in front about six inches and behind about seven and one-half inches. The visor was horizontal, made of neats leather two and one-fourth inches wide at the middle. The strap was of strong black leather, passing under the chin by a yellow metal buckle. There was a band about the lower edge of the cap pointed in front. For the general and general staff officers an embroidered wreath in front encircling the letters “U. S.” in old English letters in silver; the artillery crossed cannon; the infantry, the bugle; and for officers of dragoon, crossed sabers. For enlisted men, at the bottom of the cap bands of scarlet, light blue and orange-colored cloth were used for the artillery, infantry and dragoons, respectively. The pompon for general officers was an acorn, embroidered, three inches long; for all other officers and enlisted men, spherical, two and one-fourth inches in diameter, made of worsted of the colors which had been adopted for the department and the arms of the service. The color of the infantry feather was changed from white to light or Saxon blue. Brass shoulder knots instead of the worsted were prescribed for the dragoons and artillery. In this order rights and lefts were prescribed for boots (ankle or Jefferson). For all mounted officers and for mounted enlisted men yellow metal spurs were prescribed. The sash was still used, and the sword belt was of Russian leather for general officers and plain black leather for all other officers. The swordbelt plate worn at this time is particularly described and is the pattern now used. The epaulettes were worn by all officers as badges to distinguish rank. There were introduced for the different departments the letters in old English characters which were used by the department until a recent date, when replaced by the insignia at present worn. The shoulder strap was prescribed to be worn whenever the epaulette was not. The chevrons denoted the rank of non-commissioned officers. For commissioned officers a “cloak coat” was prescribed. It was closed by means of four frog buttons of black silk and loops of black silk cord down the breast, and at the throat a long loop-a-echelle. Around the edges there was a flat braid of black silk, and around each frog button a knot several inches in diameter of black silk cord. The rank was indicated on both sleeves by silk braid. This was the first time that the number of braids was prescribed for indicating the rank of the officer. The enlisted man’s overcoat was of blue gray mixture. This was the first general order which prescribed in definite term the horse furniture to be used, specifying particularly that of commissioned officers of dragoons. In this order it was prescribed that “mustaches are not to be worn, except by cavalry regiments, by officers or men under any pretense whatever.” Among the amendments made to the regulations of 1851 was that prescribing a “caduceus” for the coat of the hospital steward and crossed hatchets for the pioneers. Sky-blue was substituted for Saxon-blue for all trimmings for the infantry. Metallic scales were issued to all arms in lieu of epaulettes. The cord or welt of the prescribed color was substituted for the cap-band and coat facing. The cord on the trousers was dispensed with. The same button was prescribed for all corps, namely, that used by the infantry, omitting the “I” on the shield. A jacket was prescribed for all mounted men in lieu of the frock coat, and letters and numbers on horse equipments were dispensed with. For the first time (1855) the word cavalry” was used for dragoons, and the trimmings of cap and coat were prescribed yellow instead of orange. Bugles instead of drums were given the infantry (riflemen). The pattern of the coat and trousers for all foot troops was prescribed as that of the uniform of the French Chasseurs-a-pied.
For the two regiments of cavalry, the First and the Second, was prescribed a most jaunty hat, and this word “hat” was used for the first time. This hat was of black felt, trimmed with gold cord looped up on the right side and fastened with an eagle, the eagle being attached to its side. The number of the regiment was in front. For the field officers three black feathers were on the left side, for other officers two. The enlisted man had a worsted instead of a gold cord, the letter of the company being substituted for the number of the regiment, and one black feather was allowed. The dragoons retained their old uniform. The general order of 1857 prescribing the uniform dress of the Army made no particular change except as regards the hat for officers and enlisted men. This was to be of best black felt; the dimensions, width of brim three and one-fourth inches, height of crown six and one-fourth inches. For officers it was bound with black silk, and for enlisted men stitched. The trimmings for general officers were the gold cord with acorn-shaped ends, eagle and three black ostrich feathers. A gold-embroidered wreath in front with the English characters “U. S.” in silver. For officers of the general staff it was the same, except the cord was of black silk and gold, and below the rank of field officers two ostrich feathers were allowed. The enlisted men were still allowed to have one feather. Their cord was of worsted, the badges of yellow metal. The uniform trousers of officers and enlisted men were of dark-blue cloth, made without plaits. A gold cord one-eighth of an inch in diameter, instead of a buff welt, was prescribed, to be worn by officers of the general staff and staff corps, a sky-blue welt for officers of infantry, and for other corps the welt then worn. Sergeants were allowed a stripe one and one-half inches wide, corporals a stripe half an inch wide, of the color of the facings of the corps. The uniform coats were made without plaits and the number of the regiment omitted from the collar. In 1858 an order was issued which permitted all officers of the general staff and staff corps to wear at their option “a light French chapeau, either stiff crown or fiat, according to the pattern deposited.” In 1860 there was prescribed for the artillery a round jacket of dark-blue cloth, trimmed with scarlet, with a Russian shoulder-knot. The prescribed insignias of rank were worked in silver in the center of the knot, to be worn on undress duty. Officers of light artillery were allowed to wear the old pattern of uniform cap with red horse-hair plume, cord and tassel, and the old pattern sky-blue trousers.
This brings us to the time of the Civil War, and with the uniforms of that period we are almost as familiar as with those of the present time, for the changes comparatively have been few. The coat remained practically the same for officers, as heretofore mentioned, and for officers and enlisted men the trousers were of dark-blue cloth, except for companies of light artillery, which were of sky blue. The enlisted men of the cavalry and light artillery were allowed a uniform jacket of dark-blue cloth with standing collar, and for the first time there was mentioned a sack coat of dark. blue flannel for fatigue purposes, extending half way down the thigh, made loose, with four coat buttons down the front. This sack coat evidently is the one which we have seen in pictures of uniforms of enlisted men for campaign purposes. For officers and enlisted men the black felt hat was retained, but the trimmings were slightly altered. The epaulettes were retained, as were the shoulder-knots and chevrons. The overcoat for officers was of dark blue, and for enlisted men of sky-blue cloth.
The knapsack, haversack and canteens were of the familiar patterns and were issued by the Quartermaster’s Department. The orders of this time prescribed “the hair to be short; the beard to be worn at the pleasure of the individual; but when worn, to be kept short and neatly trimmed.” This obtains today. It was not until 1863 that a change was made in the uniform trousers of the regimental officers and enlisted men, as follows: “The cloth to be of sky blue mixture, the welt for officers and stripes for non-commissioned officers of infantry to be of dark blue.” The chaplains of the Army at this time were recognized, for it was prescribed, that “The uniforms for chaplains of the Army will be plain black frock coat with standing collar and one row of nine black buttons; plain black pantaloons; black felt hat or Army forage cap without ornament. On occasions of ceremony the plain chapeau de bras may be worn.” A little later this was permitted to be ornamented with the herring bone of black braid around the button holes. Chaplains were allowed to wear “a gold-embroidered wreath in front on black velvet ground, encircling the letters ‘U S.’ in silver old English characters.”
Brevet second lieutenants and medical cadets were prescribed uniforms differing not materially from those of the officers of junior rank. The forage cap which we have so often seen pictured in illustrations of the war was prescribed of “dark-blue cloth with a welt of the same around the crown, and yellow metal letters to designate companies.” Commissioned officers were allowed to wear these forage caps with the distinctive ornament of their corps and regiment in front. The officers and men of the acting Signal Corps wore the crossed flags. Non-commissioned officers wore the flags above the chevron. Their clothing was that of the cavalry. Aides-de-camp were allowed to wear the buttons of the general staff, or of the regimental corps, at their option. The sash was required to be worn on all occasions of duty of every description, except stable and fatigue. The officer of the day wore the sash across the body, scarf fashion, from the right shoulder to the left side, instead of around the waist, tying it behind the left hip as prescribed. For the cavalry a gutta percha talma or cloak extending to the knee with long sleeves was prescribed.
An invalid corps was established and uniformed. The trousers were of sky blue, and the frock coat for officers and jacket for enlisted men the same color, and for the former dark-blue velvet collars and cuffs. The cap, regulation.
September 5, 1866, the uniforms for the General and Lieutenant General were prescribed. The former was allowed two rows of twelve buttons in groups of four on the coat, and four silver stars on the shoulder straps and epaulettes. The Lieutenant General had the same uniform as the Major General, except that three silver stars were prescribed. In 1871 leather stocks were dispensed with and in 1872 the uniform was further modified by regulations, but the changes were not radical. The double-breasted frock coat was retained for officers, and a single-breasted dark-blue basque was prescribed for enlisted men. The facings and pipings were of the color prescribed for the corps of arms of service. The service-in-war chevron was prescribed.
The storekeepers were finally recognized by a single-breasted coat, “as lately worn by captains of the staff, with staff shoulder-straps to indicate rank;” the general staff button was worn; their trousers were of dark-blue cloth with black stripe one and one-half inches wide. For all officers black cravats were de riguer and it was directed that boots for enlisted men of the cavalry and light artillery should come “above the swell of the calf of the leg.” For general officers and officers of the general staff the chapeau was prescribed; for storekeepers, the forage cap. For all officers and enlisted men the dark-blue cloth dress-hat, ornamented with plume of cock feathers and gold braid for officers, and for the enlisted men with pear-shaped pompon and mohair braid, the color of their arm of service. The chasseur pattern of forage cap was prescribed. For officers and enlisted men a “fatigue hat” of black felt to be worn only on fatigue duty and on marches and campaigns. The cavalry and light artillery were accorded the black felt helmet, with cords and tassels of gold for the officers and of mohair (yellow or red) for the enlisted men. The horsehair plume surmounted it. The silk sash was retained only for the general officers. Non-commissioned officers were no longer entitled to wear those of worsted. The gold belt worn at the present time was prescribed for the other officers. The epaulettes were retained for the general officers, but for all other officers the shoulder knot of gold cord, Russian pattern (such as is now worn), was prescribed. In this order it was stated that “for officers of the Adjutant and Inspector General’s Departments and for aides-de-camp to general officers *** an aiguillette of gold cord to be worn with the right shoulder-knot and permanently attached thereto according to pattern. For officers of other staff corps: Same as above described, without the aiguillette.” Regimental adjutants were also allowed the aiguillette. The Chief Signal Officer was allowed the same uniform as for the Adjutant General’s Department, but without the aiguillette, and a uniform, the same as the cavalry, except with orange trimmings and facings. Aides-de-camp and the military secretary who had increased rank were also allowed to wear the aiguillette with the uniform of the general staff. It would thus appear that in 1832 the aiguillette was allowed to the officers of the entire general staff (except the Engineers and Ordnance). That for seven years (1832-39) the dragoons were allowed to wear the aiguillette. That the general staff as indicated above were allowed to wear the aiguillette until the year 1851, when the order prescribing the uniform for the Army makes no mention of the aiguillette and it was not worn by either the staff or line until 1872, when the uniform order prescribed the aiguillette for officers of the Adjutant and Inspector General’s Department, the Chief Signal Officer, the aides-de-camp, the military secretary and the regimental adjutants. This order distinctly stated that the shoulder knot of the staff corps should not have the attached aiguillette. And so it remains to-day.
The aiguillette has been worn from time to time as a badge of distinction since 1832. For 19 years by every department of the general staff, then for 21 years it was discarded; then the Adjutant General’s Department renewed it as an ornament and prescribed that (excepting the Inspector General’s Department) it should not be worn by any other staff department. It was not an original discovery, and each department or corps is equally entitled to it. The nickel-plated and brown scabbards for straight swords were prescribed. The shield, the castle and the shell and flame were substituted on the shoulder knots for “A. D.,” “E. C.” and “O. D.” of the Adjutant General’s Department, the Corps of Engineers and the Ordnance Department. The crimson facings, stripes, pompon and chevron of the commissary sergeant were replaced by those of cadet-gray color. Service chevrons were prescribed, of the color of the arm of service, and the corps badge for the infantry was crossed-rifle without the bayonet. The undress sack coats for officers was the same pattern as then (1872) worn, without the black braid, and with no slashes at the hips. In 1877 general officers above the grade of brigadier general were allowed at their option to wear the silk sash across the body from left shoulder to the right side.
In 1878 military storekeepers in the Quartermaster’s Department, holding the rank of captain, were directed to wear the uniform prescribed for captains and assistant quartermasters, and candidates for promotion among the meritorious non-commissioned officers were entitled to wear a single stripe of gold lace on each sleeve. For officers of the Signal Corps there was prescribed the same uniform as that for the Chief Signal Officer, the usual distinction being made for grades. In 1879 fur coats, overshoes and canvas overcoats were prescribed for service in extreme latitudes, and in 1880 the shoulder strap with shepherd’s crook was allowed chaplains. In 1881 the dress helmet at present worn was prescribed for foot troops and the office’s’ summer helmet for all troops. Judge advocates and professors at the Military Academy were authorized to wear the plain dark-blue body-coat with staff buttons, and the plain dark-blue sack coat for officers’ undress replaced the sack coat with black braid. In 1882 the campaign chevron, a trifle narrower than the war chevron, was prescribed for enlisted men, the service-in-war and campaign chevrons to conform in color to the facings of the arm of the service when earned. In 1883 a plain black leather belt was prescribed for officers for undress duty, and on marches and campaigns. In 1884 the rank of non-commissioned officers on the uniform dress coat was marked by chevrons of gold lace, and in 1885 the officer’s overcoat with hood of the present time was introduced. White facings and stripes were established for the infantry in 1888, and in 1890 the present top boot, French pattern, was prescribed for mounted officers. The braided undress coat for officers, with standing collars, replaced the plain undress coat with falling collars and brass buttons, in 1892, and the year previous (1891) the trimmings, facings, plume, etc., of the Signal Corps were changed from orange to black. With the change to the present dress coat and more decided change to the present forage cap made this year (1895) we are familiar.
From the earliest Revolutionary days until about the beginning of the present century the troops wore their hair clubbed or (cued) and powdered, and their faces were clean shaven. This was required by orders. General Washington directed “That at general inspections and reviews two pounds of flour and one-half pound of rendered tallow per one hundred men should be used in dressing the hair.” One order stated that the men “will not be allowed to appear with their hair down their backs (loose) and over their foreheads and down their chins at the sides, which make them appear more like wild beasts than soldiers. * * * Any soldier who comes on the parade with beard or hair uncombed shall be dry shaved immediately and have his hair dressed on parade.”
The plait or cue, about ten inches in length, was bound with a rosette, black silk for officers and leather for the men. In 1801 an order was issued by the then General-in-Chief, which prescribed that the hair be cropped, and that the general would give the example. Also that “whiskers and short hair illy accord; they will not, therefore, be permitted to extend below the bottom of the ear. The less hair about the soldier’s head the neater and cleaner will he be.”
In 1853 the order regarding whiskers was rescinded, and in the service now the beard may be worn at the pleasure of the individual, but to be kept short and neatly trimmed. It was asserted in the early days that the cut of the hair was as essentially a part of the military uniform as the cut of the coat or the color of the facings.
There is doubtless some room for improvement not only in the uniform of the line and the staff-for the commissioned officer as well as the enlisted man-but in the insignia at present used as typical of the corps and departments there is lack of uniformity. Many of the designs have existed for years, and are as intimately connected with the dress of the service as is the War of the Revolution with our National Independence. In these progressive days, however, sentiment is subordinated to comfort and style to utility. Our Army partakes in a measure of the business and practical characteristics of our people, whence it springs, upon whom it depends and at all times protects. It wants the best of everything, else it would not be truly American, and when it gets it, is reasonably desirous that it should be as nearly perfect as possible. The devise or design should have some unmistakable meaning. When we compare the insignia of our different departments with each other it is found that there is no agreement, no consonance, no conforming to one rule or mode. A device should be typical and appropriate, and when once seen on the uniform will ever thereafter be associated with the department it represents or symbolizes, as it were, requiring no particular exercise of discernment to recognize, of memory to recall or of patience to decipher.
It is a peculiarity that the designs in the devices of the same departments differ for the officers and the enlisted men of that department, and it is somewhat difficult to understand that a difference in rank or condition should thereby be recognized, for, whatever the rank, the department should be supreme and easily recognized by its device, whether it be on the arm of an enlisted man or upon the shoulder of an officer. And a distinctive insignia once adopted, why should it not be worn on the cap, the chapeau, the shoulder-knot or epaulette, the housing or saddle cloth and brass buttons? In the armies of other countries the methods in vogue to indicate rank and department are too varied, and the staff particularly is too dissimilar to ours to admit of fair comparison, and it is a mistake to engraft foreign ideas into our own, so unfitted to receive them.
In no other service, however, is there a similar lack of consonance, and it sometimes puzzles a layman to discover the corps or department an officer represents from the insignia or device he wears. The line, on the contrary, is easily distinguished by its colors, red, yellow and white. The distinctions, whatever they may be, should be of a simple pattern, easily recognized by the citizen as well as the soldier, and should mark the rank, as well as the corps, department or arm of service. To show the duties performed is partly the object of a uniform, whether for officer or enlisted man, whether in staff or line. The field dress of the soldier during the Civil War denoted his corps, by the particular pattern of badge worn, and the color of this badge indicated his division. These badges were not the metal ornaments, easily broken and lost, but were of cloth and sewed on.
It is not probable that our Army will ever campaign or fight in the full dress, and were it taken on campaign it would doubtless be left by the roadside as unnecessary, as it was found to be by experience and frequently abandoned in the Civil War.
Our present undress uniform for field service answers nearly the same purpose as regards comfort and utility as did the “hunting shirt, with long breeches made of the same cloth, gaiter fashion about the legs,” prescribed by General Washington for his Continentals in July, 1776-the present legging being similar to the “gaiter” then worn.
The chances are, however, that the full-dress uniform will be retained for many years. It may be that the undress will some time in the future be considered sufficient, with – additional ornamentation, for full-dress purposes. While many would hail such decided innovation with pleasure, the majority of the officers and men would undeniably oppose the change. The full-dress uniform should be retained, for it serves an admirable purpose in enhancing the pride of a soldier, while increasing his self-respect, and it should be made attractive, comfortable, brilliant if necessary, in order to be effective.
The Navy is much better provided with uniforms to meet every official and social exigency of the service; they rejoice in the social full dress, the full dress, the dress, the undress and the service dress. The President of the United States prescribes the uniform or any changes therein in general orders through his representatives, the Secretary of War and the Commanding General of the Army. The latter promulgates the order.
The Quartermaster’s Department furnishes the patterns only, for file, for reference and for comparison. In the matter of style, design or model, whatever it may be termed, the Commanding General of the Army under the present system usually originates or passes upon those originated by others and submitted to him for critical action.
An officer should be proud of his profession and of the uniform he wears, which is typical of the noblest government on earth, the most progressive, appreciative and liberal. The more tasteful the uniform, the better pleased is the officer and the soldier. The Government liberally pays the officer for his services and sufficiently so for him to properly represent it, officially, in uniform.
It has been said that “there are many things which a soldier will do in his plain clothes which he scorns to do in his uniform.” The profession of a soldier adds to his dignity, and frequently to his importance, and it is of advantage to him to represent the service officially, wherever necessary, properly uniformed.
Comparison with other services is always highly favorable to our own in every respect, and that our Army is the most comfortably housed, clothed and the best supplied of any in the world admits of no question. We get the best of everything, the most approved, regardless of price. In a few details of uniform, or of devices changed with a view to improvement would seem desirable, and doubtless will some time be made to remedy minor defects where observed and accomplished changes where found necessary.
To secure a uniform which will satisfy even a majority is an impossibility, for nature has not endowed all with equally good taste. Where this is deficient the utility of the uniform should be considered, and good sense is an element in such a consideration. The simpler the uniform within reason, and to answer the purposes for which it is designed, the better it is for both the service and the soldier.
In orders or regulations affecting the uniform it should be specifically described in explicit, not general, terms. This causes less confusion in the minds of military tailors who make them and no annoyance to the officer who receives and wears them. In every uniform order issued there should be left no doubt as to an interpretation of its language.
Even when our dress is made uniform by order, frequently not made distinctive or in conformity with pattern, depending often upon the erratic interpretation of the tailor or upon the defective taste of the officer him who assumes to violate orders by effecting changes it uniform contrary to that prescribed by the regulation. Now that the uniform of an officer and enlisted man be particularly and accurately described, perhaps pictured by illustrations in the new book of uniform regulations, which it is asserted the Department will issue an early day, there should be no misinterpretation of, or departure from, the correct uniform and dress. It will remain only for the inspectors general to note and report departure therefrom.
The expense attending the simplest change in uniform is a matter for serious consideration. Take the change recently made in the adoption of the new cap, which affects the National Guard equally with the Army.
There are 2,145 commissioned officers in the Army 9,278 in the National Guard, a total of 11,423. If average price of a cap is assumed to be $5, this change for officers alone entails a cost of $57,115.
In the Army there are 25,000 enlisted men; in the National Guard, 102,912 (from latest reports received total of 127,912. The contract price for the new cap for soldiers is 66¼ cents each, complete. The cost there for supplying the enlisted men with the new cap will be $84,741.70.
The total cost for the recent change in the cap is, therefore, in the aggregate, $141,285.
No better equipped Army exists today than ours. The soldier is better clothed, fed, housed, paid, more comfortable and happier. This is the consensus of general opinion. Our staff is competent, and our system, idea, inventions and method are being sought after and studied with profit by the governments of the Old World, for they send their officers here to study them, with benefit to themselves. A few changes might improve or complete the uniform and equipment and make it better serve its purpose, while adding to its appearance and utility.
For instance, officers of the staff are mounted and are authorized to wear top boots and spurs, yet they must, by order, wear the small straight sword of a dismounted officer, instead of the saber and scabbard of an officer of artillery or cavalry. This is inconsistent.
The severity of the trousers of staff officers might be relieved by a cord or welt of suitable color. There is no reason apparent why officers of the staff generally should not be authorized, as they were in the early days, to wear the aiguillette to relieve their plain uniform. At present the officers of the Adjutant General’s, Inspector General’s Department and the colonel and chief of the War Record and Pension Office, wear it by order, but without apparent reason for distinction.
A return to the old sash worn in the early days of the Civil War-silk for officers and worsted for non-commissioned officers-would be welcomed by many, and would give a touch of color which would heighten the general effect.
A slicker for the cavalry would be welcomed; it is not a thing of beauty, but is dear to the heart of a cavalry-man, where rough service and exposure to the elements is the rule and not the exception. For officers generally, a cap made of canvas for summer wear, in pattern like the new regulation cap, and similar to that at present allowed the artillery at Fort Monroe, is desirable. This would relegate the straw hat now permitted to be worn in hot climates, and which in pattern is as varied as are commanding officers who authorize it-numerous.
General officers have a housing prescribed, but for field service there is no saddle cloth or similar equipment mentioned.
For officers, the entire horse equipment in detail might be prescribed with advantage, as it was many years ago specifically designated for cavalry officers. The housings, saddle cloth, saddle and bit are now prescribed, but all other articles of horse furniture are omitted. As a consequence, there is lack of uniformity. Why not prescribe the girths, surciugles, stirrups, stirrup leathers, breast strap and plate, crupper, holsters (if necessary), with covers, bridle, collar, a valise or saddle bags, etc.?
If the dress uniform is to be continued, and as at present worn on dress occasions, why not make it more dressy, tasteful and attractive? Discard the unpopular shoulder knot and replace it with the epaulette for all officers, thereby satisfying taste as well as sentiment and brightening an otherwise somber uniform. The officers of the Navy wear the epaulette irrespective of rank.
The welts at the top and bottom of the band on the new cap might be velvet for the staff, red for artillery, yellow for cavalry and white for infantry. It would give an effective touch of color, apparently relieve its height, and would assuredly add to its beauty.
The greatest diversity of opinion expressed whenever a change in uniform is contemplated is a positive indication of the fact that it is no easy matter to decide what will meet with universal commendation.
Whatever changes may be made in our uniforms should be made without precipitation and with good reason for each change decided upon, however simple, and good sense and taste should always direct.
The Army is infinitely better provided to-day with uniform and equipment than ever before in its history. The uniform is neat, comfortable and attractive, and it has the merit of great utility, but severe simplicity. There being a frugality of ornamentation, its beauty is not particularly apparent. It is not distinguished by qualities which excite the admiration or a brilliancy which dazzles with its splendor, by comparison, as did the uniforms of Revolutionary and later periods in our history, excellent representations of which were exhibited by the Quartermaster’s Department in the War Department exhibit at the World’s Fair, in Chicago.[In the foregoing compilation, the interesting sketch of Prof. A. B.Gardiner, LL.D. (Major, U.S.A.), on “The Uniforms of the American Army,” as well as the publication by the Quartermaster’s Department on the “Uniform of the Army of the United States,” have been drawn upon.]
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Glossary of terms used in the article
cassimere A plain or twilled woolen cloth used for suits.
chasseur Any of certain light cavalry or infantry troops trained for rapid maneuvers.
cockade An ornament, such as a rosette or knot of ribbon, usually worn on the hat as a badge.
gaiter A heavy cloth or leather covering for the legs extending from the instep to the ankle or knee.
gilt A thin layer of gold or something simulating gold that is applied in gilding.
haversack A bag carried over one shoulder to transport supplies.
herringbone A pattern consisting of rows of short, slanted parallel lines with the direction of the slant alternating row by row and used in masonry, parquetry, embroidery, and weaving. A twilled fabric woven in this pattern.
line Soldiers assigned duty as Infantry, Field Artillery and Cavalry, serving in “line units” or “front line units”.
pantaloon Men’s wide breeches extending from waist to ankle, worn especially in England in the late 17th century. Often used in the plural. Tight trousers extending from waist to ankle with straps passing under the instep, worn especially in the 19th century. Often used in the plural.
plume A large feather or cluster of feathers worn as an ornament or symbol of rank, as on a helmet. A token of honor or achievement.
pom·pon or pom-pon also pom-pom or pom·pom A tuft or ball of wool, feathers, or other material used as a decoration, especially on shoes, caps, and curtains.
rosette An ornament or a badge made of ribbon or silk that is pleated or gathered to resemble a rose and is used to decorate clothing or is worn in the buttonhole of civilian dress to indicate the possession of certain medals or honors.
sash A band or ribbon worn about the waist, as for ornament, or over the shoulder as a symbol of rank.
subaltern Holding a military rank just below that of captain. A lieutenant.
undress Informal attire or uniform.
valise A small piece of hand luggage.