Jump to content
  • advertisement_alt
  • advertisement_alt
  • advertisement_alt

What hats did Custer's 7th Cavalry typically wear in June of 1876?


Recommended Posts

I thought this might be a simple question, but I haven't found an answer yet. Some sources say the troopers wore whatever they could find or buy, wide brimmed cowboy hats being common. The standard issue forage cap at the time was the M-1872, a more compact version of the Civil War M-1858. I read the notes of one Custer artist who said, "The issue headgear, a bizarre black hat that could be rigged up to present a Napoleonic appearance, was described by one officer as "the most useless, uncouth rag ever put on a man's head." Troops often bought civilian hats, black or gray, of felt or straw, found on the march from traders."

From: https://www.friendslittlebighorn.com/Smithsoniancoverage.htm

 

So what is 'most correct'?

M-1858 forage cap with cavalry insignia on top?

M-1872 forage cap with smaller cav insignia on the front?

The folding M-1872 campaign hat referenced above?

Civilian type cowboy hat?

 

post-32676-0-48994200-1577134354_thumb.jpg

Sold by IMA-USA: https://www.ima-usa.com/products/original-u-s-7th-cavalry-regiment-indian-wars-chasseur-pattern-kepi-george-armstrong-custer-command?variant=31053805256773

 

post-32676-0-39710700-1577134385.jpg

7th CAV forage cap from the Kansas Historical Society: https://www.kshs.org/kansapedia/seventh-u-s-cavalry-objects/10255

donation2011.gifdonation2012.gifdonation2013.gif


donation2014.gifdonation2015.gifdonation2016.gif


donation2017.gifdonation2018.gifdonation2019.gif

Link to post
Share on other sites

1875 Campaign hat would be typical I believe or a private purchase brim hat. I don't think the 1872 cap was was very popular with the troops. If you look at the Native American depictions of the battle they show the cavalry troops wearing brim caps.

 

Best,

 

Bill K.

WTB USMC NAMED GROUPINGS, WWI, WWII (ESPECIALLY 4TH MARINE DIVISION ITEMS) AND UNIS MARKED ITEMS, NAMED INFANTRY DIVISION 4 POCKET CLASS A JACKETS, ESPECIALLY 34th ID AND NAMED GROUPINGS, FIRST SPECIAL SERVICE FORCE ITEMS



donation2015.gifdonation2016.gifdonation2017.gifdonation2018.gifdonation2019.gif


Link to post
Share on other sites

Ha! Love John Ford and John Wayne but I don't know how about those hats...

 

I also read that every depiction of the troopers dying with their sabers on is false as they had left those behind at the Powder River depot when they rode into the Montana territory. https://truewestmagazine.com/did-the-7th-cavalry-carry-sabers-at-the-battle-of-the-little-big-horn/

donation2011.gifdonation2012.gifdonation2013.gif


donation2014.gifdonation2015.gifdonation2016.gif


donation2017.gifdonation2018.gifdonation2019.gif

Link to post
Share on other sites

Also, the legendary Custer's personal battle flag wasn't present at the LBH, it would seem... although countless images, paintings and movie renditions duly show the blue/red (+ crossed sabers) flag well poked into the ground among a cluster of dying and wounded soldiers, it actually had been kept back at Ft. Lincoln (whatever the reasons, much likely we never know why) and didn't took part in the expedition. This could sound weird, but is reality.

 

A very interesting detail is, that one was Custer's fourth personal guidon, almost identical to three earlier examples. Made in double layer of silk (bound with a coarse woven cord) by wife Elisabeth herself and measuring 68" x 36", the flag has been delivered to George Custer on March 31st 1865 and still saw some action in the final week of Civil War.

Even though in not perfect condition, it is the only one surviving of his 4 battle guidons respectively being carried in battle by him from mid-July 1863 through April 1865 - in June 2007 had been sold at an auction for $896,200.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Also, the legendary Custer's personal battle flag wasn't present at the LBH, it would seem... although countless images, paintings and movie renditions duly show the blue/red (+ crossed sabers) flag well poked into the ground among a cluster of dying and wounded soldiers, it actually had been kept back at Ft. Lincoln and didn't took part in the expedition.

 

A very interesting detail is, that one was Custer's fourth personal guidon, almost identical to three earlier examples. Made in silk by Elisabeth herself, the flag has been delivered to George Custer on March 31st 1865 and still saw some action in the very last days of Civil War. It is the only one surviving of his 4 battle guidons, and does exist today - in June 2007 had been sold at auction for $896,200.

 

Wow, very interesting! I had to look it up, here's a photo from the 2007 auction:

post-32676-0-88725300-1577206666.jpg

donation2011.gifdonation2012.gifdonation2013.gif


donation2014.gifdonation2015.gifdonation2016.gif


donation2017.gifdonation2018.gifdonation2019.gif

Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes, that very one. Also it's interesting to see the actual ratio, 'swallow tail's length vs. the whole dimension - it really would seem, post-battle renditions of all kinds depict it as a long and much narrower guidon, in some instances almost nearing sort of a ribbon...

Link to post
Share on other sites

I had found 36" x 68" in an outstandingly detailed article about Custer's guidons, really well-made and full of details pertaining the making of each of the four specimens.

 

Perhaps the only error could be the dimensions: looking at the shape of the surviving one, ratio looks like almost exactly 1 : 2 and that does deny both 36" x 68" and 36" x 78". Even allowing for some shrinking of fabric, it looks to be too much difference (just a my thought).

Link to post
Share on other sites

The long term consensus is that most enlisted men at the battle wore the 1872 pattern folding campaign hat or a private purchase brimmed hat. Battle historian James Hutchins did a pretty thorough analysis of this, which were published from the 1950s-70's. There is some archaeological evidence - albeit slight - to back this up too, as several metal hook & eyes have been excavated of the type used on the folding hat. These fasteners were also used on pre-1874 blouses or tunics however. Contemporaneous pictures of troops in the field durng the 1876-77 period also support this. The private purchase hats were clearly more popular but the bottom line is that the folding hat was 'the hat' issued to enlisted men. That, combined with the fact that field service was an opportunity to use up no-longer-regulation and less desirable garb, presents the liklihood of a good number of the issue folding hats on the heads of troopers. A small size general service eagle button excavated at the battlefield also suggests that one or more men may have worn a regulation forage cap. But again, the button is the same type used on the pre-1872 shell jacket, a few of which in modified form were probably there, and the same button sometimes added to the cuffs of sack coats. But given the number of troops in the 7th on the campaign, odds are that a few forage caps were probably being worn.

Link to post
Share on other sites

The long term consensus is that most enlisted men at the battle wore the 1872 pattern folding campaign hat or a private purchase brimmed hat. Battle historian James Hutchins did a pretty thorough analysis of this, which were published from the 1950s-70's. There is some archaeological evidence - albeit slight - to back this up too, as several metal hook & eyes have been excavated of the type used on the folding hat. These fasteners were also used on pre-1874 blouses or tunics however. Contemporaneous pictures of troops in the field durng the 1876-77 period also support this. The private purchase hats were clearly more popular but the bottom line is that the folding hat was 'the hat' issued to enlisted men. That, combined with the fact that field service was an opportunity to use up no-longer-regulation and less desirable garb, presents the liklihood of a good number of the issue folding hats on the heads of troopers. A small size general service eagle button excavated at the battlefield also suggests that one or more men may have worn a regulation forage cap. But again, the button is the same type used on the pre-1872 shell jacket, a few of which in modified form were probably there, and the same button sometimes added to the cuffs of sack coats. But given the number of troops in the 7th on the campaign, odds are that a few forage caps were probably being worn.

 

Thanks for that! Of all the hat choices, that one has to be my least favorite.

donation2011.gifdonation2012.gifdonation2013.gif


donation2014.gifdonation2015.gifdonation2016.gif


donation2017.gifdonation2018.gifdonation2019.gif

Link to post
Share on other sites

I had found 36" x 68" in an outstandingly detailed article about Custer's guidons, really well-made and full of details pertaining the making of each of the four specimens.

 

Perhaps the only error could be the dimensions: looking at the shape of the surviving one, ratio looks like almost exactly 1 : 2 and that does deny both 36" x 68" and 36" x 78". Even allowing for some shrinking of fabric, it looks to be too much difference (just a my thought).

 

I saw that too, maybe there was a typo involved as 10" seems to be a pretty big difference. [https://www.crwflags.com/fotw/flags/us%5Ecstr.html]

donation2011.gifdonation2012.gifdonation2013.gif


donation2014.gifdonation2015.gifdonation2016.gif


donation2017.gifdonation2018.gifdonation2019.gif

Link to post
Share on other sites

In my continuing 'research' into Custer, I watched "Custer of the West" from 1967 with Robert Shaw as the lead character. The movie bore little resemblance to history as near as I can tell.

 

Robert Shaw, who 2 years prior played a German tank commander, and 2 years after played a RAF squadron commander, was an odd choice to play Custer I thought.

donation2011.gifdonation2012.gifdonation2013.gif


donation2014.gifdonation2015.gifdonation2016.gif


donation2017.gifdonation2018.gifdonation2019.gif

Link to post
Share on other sites

In my continuing 'research' into Custer, I watched "Custer of the West" from 1967 with Robert Shaw as the lead character. The movie bore little resemblance to history as near as I can tell.

 

Robert Shaw, who 2 years prior played a German tank commander, and 2 years after played a RAF squadron commander, was an odd choice to play Custer I thought.

:lol:I actually saw that in the theater when it came out, my Dad took me sometime into 1968 when it was still in theaters :)

Link to post
Share on other sites

It looks like Sargeant O Rourke and Corporal Agarn of F Troop with their hats made an Arrow escape in battle. LOL.

 

Bob

"No bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor, dumb, bastard die for his country" George Pattons speech to the Third Army.

 

donation2008.gif

Link to post
Share on other sites

The Battle at LBH has always been fascinating to me. While not specific to the question regarding the hats worn at the battle, there is an interesting article that sheds some light and may pertain to the question at hand. I thought I would post the link to the article for those interested.

 

https://www.gunpowdermagazine.com/guns-and-bravery-is-this-what-really-happened-at-the-little-bighorn/

 

 

 

TH1

Collector of WWI US Navy "Donald Duck" Caps and Hat Tallies - Looking for Tallies from the USS Carp & USS Chauncey

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 3 weeks later...

The Battle at LBH has always been fascinating to me. While not specific to the question regarding the hats worn at the battle, there is an interesting article that sheds some light and may pertain to the question at hand. I thought I would post the link to the article for those interested.

 

https://www.gunpowdermagazine.com/guns-and-bravery-is-this-what-really-happened-at-the-little-bighorn/

 

 

 

TH1

 

Just had time to go back and read that article. Very informative and does a lot to dispel the Custer (George and not Tom evidently) myth, thanks for posting.

donation2011.gifdonation2012.gifdonation2013.gif


donation2014.gifdonation2015.gifdonation2016.gif


donation2017.gifdonation2018.gifdonation2019.gif

Link to post
Share on other sites

I very much enjoyed the article. I strongly recommend Philbrook’s book mentioned in it. I am a bit perplexed that the author of the article is so quick to say that Custer was wounded/killed in the water because of the description of his horse, but then pretty quickly draws the conclusion that Tom Custer was on George’s horse on Last Stand Hill because it was again described by the Indians involved in that location. I dont know, I suppose it is possible, but why in the heat of battle would Tom Custer give up his own mount and ride his brothers? Even more troubling (to me anyway) is the description by the author that Keough was not mutilated because of the courage he had shown in the battle, yet Tom Custer is said to have shown the same level of courage, but by all historical accounts, his body was mutilated beyond recognition and he was later identified only by a tattoo and his ring.

 

I am finishing a 33 year career in law enforcement, and can assure you eye witness accounts are the least relatable of all evidence. Two weeks ago we responded to an armed man in a large apartment complex. The primary witness described him as Caucasian, and two secondary witnesses later described him as African American (they were right) even though the first witness was closest and had direct contact with the suspect. Surveillance cameras and a subsequent arrest proved the secondary witness to be right once again. Imagine the inaccuracies in witness statements that must occur by those actively engaged in the “fog” battle.

 

Great article all the same, just not too sure about all of the conclusions.

I am eagerly collecting Pre-WWII USMC material. Any Marine Corps Span Am era, WWI, Banana Wars, or China Marine related material is especially sought after.

donation2015.gifdonation2016.gifdonation2019.gif

 

 

Link to post
Share on other sites

@warguy, yes same doubts for me too.

And I'd wish adding, who does know wich the thoughts were when the witnesses on Indian side gave the white reporters their truth about the battle? were they having any particular considerations about possibly 'delicated' things (and the way those had to be told)?

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use.