Did the chin straps on Civil War caps fit under the chin?

Banjo Pete

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Apologies again. The white hat threw me off a bit. My dad was an MP in occupied Japan during the Korean War and I have a photo of him in similar headgear to yours although in sepia it's difficult to tell what color it was.

At any rate, the chin strap on the ACW kepis/caps work (or don't) the same way.
 

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Banjo Pete

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And thanks for your service, BTW ! Insert crossed pistols emoji HERE !

I have what's left of my Dad's "Ike" jacket after the moths got done with it. He had been to Korea itself with the First Cav but came down with hemorrhagic fever. When he recovered he spent the rest of the war as an MP in Japan.
 

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cash

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They look more like windstraps that are being worn in the wrong location. A windstrap is worn down and behind the head and is designed to keep the hat on in windy conditions.
 

byron ed

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I've been told by more than one fellow that the "purpose" of the chin strap was for you to be able to use the kepi as an improvised bucket. While I'm not sure that was the purpose I don't doubt that it happened.
It was the forage cap that was intended as an improvised bucket. The kepi is not nearly as deep as the forage cap. Though the construction is similar in that they both have adjustable chin straps and a hard disk on the top, the forage cap is much deeper and floppier and more field-practical persay. The shorter stiffer kepi (often with a shorter brim) was a knock-off of the French pattern cap of that name, more snappy in appearance (think dress parade) but used in the field nonetheless. Both types supplanted the regular army issue full-up dress shako for campaign deployment. I'm not sure many volunteer units were ever issued a shako, which was a kind of a holdover from Mexican war uniform by CW's start.

btw, unit designation brass symbols, letters and numbers were initially issued with the shako, only finding their way onto kepis as men went into campaign. Less so on forage caps and even less on slouch hats.

Today there's nothing more "farby" looking to authentic-striving reenactors than to see a slouch hat loaded up with the full cluster of brass. It's like "give it a rest." Look at period images and typically you'll see that even kepis have less that a whole cluster of brass, much less forage caps and even less slouch hats. (We reenactors commonly see a full brass cluster on a "wavy-rolly" slouch hat brim with the knot dripping off the front edge of the brim, not unusually accompanied by big glasses and wrist watches !).
 
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I always wondered what good may come from a chin strap if it is not worn under the chin. But look at these Welsh Guards, both officer and NCO wear their heavy bearskin hats with the chin strap above the chin. Which means that they have to balance all the weight on their heads with the neck muscles. One day in their shoes, and I would go mad with headaches from my neck!!

Guards.JPG


https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Bearskin&oldid=853315156
 

Mrs. V

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I’ve always wondered about the chin strap. I can’t imagine they added anything to the comfort level of wearing a wool hat in the summer heat and humidity. Not to mention the pasteboard keeps heat from escaping.
 

Package4

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It was the forage cap that was intended as an improvised bucket. The kepi is not nearly as deep as the forage cap. Though the construction is similar in that they both have adjustable chin straps and a hard disk on the top, the forage cap is much deeper and floppier and more field-practical persay. The shorter stiffer kepi (often with a shorter brim) was a knock-off of the French pattern cap of that name, more snappy in appearance (think dress parade) but used in the field nonetheless. Both types supplanted the regular army issue full-up dress shako for campaign deployment. I'm not sure many volunteer units were ever issued a shako, which was a kind of a holdover from Mexican war uniform by CW's start.

btw, unit designation brass symbols, letters and numbers were initially issued with the shako, only finding their way onto kepis as men went into campaign. Less so on forage caps and even less on slouch hats.

Today there's nothing more "farby" looking to authentic-striving reenactors than to see a slouch hat loaded up with the full cluster of brass. It's like "give it a rest." Look at period images and typically you'll see that even kepis have less that a whole cluster of brass, much less forage caps and even less slouch hats. (We reenactors commonly see a full brass cluster on a "wavy-rolly" slouch hat brim with the knot dripping off the front edge of the brim, not unusually accompanied by big glasses and wrist watches !).
The idea that the M1858 Forage cap was to be used as a bucket or even for forage is mainly a re-enactorism. Forage and fatigue were used interchangeably in the military and as such there were "forage" caps going back to the inception of the US Military. The M1858 forage cap was the idea of Major William H French who at the time was the artillery officer in command of Fort McHenry. During this period the M1839 forage cap (wheel cap) had been discontinued and the only real forage/fatigue cap the men had were either the M1851 or M1854 shako. The men, for comfort sake removed the stiffening of the shakos "to wear them on fatigue", this was not uncommon, the Utah Expedition photographs show most of the soldiers had done the same to their mixture of shakos.

French found this incredibly unsightly and looked for an alternative, many of his peers requested going back to the M1839 cap, while McClellan upon observing the Crimean War postulated:
"....a police cap, without visor and of such nature that it can be folded up and carried in the pouch, or wherever is convenient; the Scotch bonnet, Turkish fez, a Greek cap of knit or woven wool, a flexible cap of the shape of the old forage cap---any of these would answer." Report of the Secretary of War, Communicating the Report of Captain George B McClellan.

Due to the above, French advocated for a "light, comfortable, military" cap that was also cheap to produce. He had 4 samples made, one for artillery, cavalry, infantry and staff, with the appropriate color trim. He did not go through proper military channels, but when the samples reached the secretary of war, were approved and forwarded to the quartermaster general. General Order No 13, War Department, November 30, 1858:

"For fatigue purposes, Forage caps, of the pattern in the Quartermaster General's Office, will be issued, in addition to hats, at the rate of one per year. Dark blue cloth, with a cord or welt around the crown of the colors used to distinguish the several branches, and yellow metal letters in front to designate companies. For unassigned recruits dark blue cord or welt around the crown and without distinctive badge."

If soldiers were to truly forage in the field, the haversack holds 4 times the amount of a forage cap, in addition, the chinstrap would not hold much in regards to weight before either the strap or button thread would part. The forage cap chin strap is a two piece adjusting strap with loosely sewn leather guides and a strap buckle that would not bear much weight.

One could see a soldier stuffing eggs in the cap for a short trip back to camp, but this was not its designed purpose or intent, it was for the comfort of the soldier on fatigue or field duty. Below is a shako of the 6th Massachusetts, Co G and a very early M1858 Forage cap of a soldier in the 9th PA Co E, as you can see the M1858 has the regulation brass in the correct positioning of an early war regiment.
IMG_0286 (2).JPG
 

Package4

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I think the point here is that just about every reenactor at some juncture was told the myth of the forage cap, just because of its name. I can remember hearing the myth back when I started, by some very knowledgeable individuals. "The forage cap was designed for foraging, thus the bucket shape", when in fact it was just a more comfortable version of the shako.

Doesn't mean they do not exist, but I have yet to read where the soldier used the cap for that purpose, just heard it passed down. I have read where soldiers in both world wars used helmets for all kinds of duties, but doesn't mean that was what they were created for.
 

Package4

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Civil War caps and kepis had chin straps, but did the actually fit under the chin? There are few photographs where the chin straps were worn under the chin and in most cases they did not seem to properly fit under the chin. I will use this image of the University of Michigan militia to illustrate this.
View attachment 199884

In this image it does not appear any of the chin straps could go under the chin. So what percentage of the chin straps would actually fit under the chin? It almost seems like the chin straps were for decoration and not really functional. If this is true, could have both sides saved money and time by making caps without chin straps?
Yes, the chin strap was able to expand to double the width of the area between the attaching buttons which would be able to encompass the chin of most soldiers. I have seen pictures of mounted utilizing the chinstrap in this manner, but not infantry in the field. There is a picture of a cap with the dead along the Hagerstown Pike that shows the chin strap being totally removed, this could have been the result of button plundering by a Louisiana soldier earlier in the day.
 

major bill

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This "myth" that the forage cap was designed so soldiers could carry forage in it is widely repeated. Yet I have found no proof the cap was designed to do such. It would also make a very poor bucket for carrying water. The US Army use of the term "forage cap" goes back decades before the Civil War and seems to go back even farther in the British Army.

I do suspect that soldiers sometimes used the forage cap for purposes for which it was not designed such as mounted men using it to feed oats to their horses. Still the Army did not design the forage cap as an oat bag, water bucket, or tote bag.
 


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