Headgear Decorations

Legion Para

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#1
When it comes to headgear decorations/unit identifiers many reeanctors believe less is more. Is this really historically accurate based on surviving headgear and wartime photographs? Less might be more for front line units, but what about support troops, garrison troops and new regiments on there way to war?

Headgear decorations may have been more common in 1861-1862 than in 1864-1865. Headgear decorations may have been more common in the Union Army than the Confederate Army. Less is more might not be historically accurate depending on your impression.


http://howardlanham.tripod.com/linkgr5/link208.html

California Battalion, 2nd Massachusetts Cavalry


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Joseph H. Burke in Mounted Man's Jacket
(Courtesy: Mike Sorenson)


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Details of Burke's Kepi
(Courtesy: Mike Sorenson)


link208a.jpg

James N. Eby in Mounted Man's Jacket
(Courtesy: Mike Sorenson)


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Details of Eby's Kepi
(Courtesy: Mike Sorenson)
 

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#7
When it comes to headgear decorations/unit identifiers many reeanctors believe less is more. Is this really historically accurate based on surviving headgear and wartime photographs? Less might be more for front line units, but what about support troops, garrison troops and new regiments on there way to war?


http://howardlanham.tripod.com/linkgr5/link208.html

California Battalion, 2nd Massachusetts Cavalry


link208c.jpg

Joseph H. Burke in Mounted Man's Jacket
(Courtesy: Mike Sorenson)


link208d.jpg

Details of Burke's Kepi
(Courtesy: Mike Sorenson)


link208a.jpg

James N. Eby in Mounted Man's Jacket
(Courtesy: Mike Sorenson)


link208b.jpg

Details of Eby's Kepi
(Courtesy: Mike Sorenson)
It’s the “campaigner” branch of the hobby that beats the drum about not wearing hat brass. There are plenty of pictures showing that they did wear hat brass. Not all of them all the time, but I suspect that it was much more prevalent, esp. on the Union troops, than some of them maintain.
 

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AUG

Brigadier General
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#10
These photos of the 1st Texas Infantry in winter quarters at Camp Quantico near Dumfries, Va. during the winter of 1861-62 show them wearing forage caps with brass letters designating their company and regiment, similar to that worn by Lt. Eli H. Baxter, Jr. Looks like some may also be decorated with Texas stars.

1st-Texas-Camp-Quantico.jpg


1st-Texas-Camp-Quantico-3.jpg


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7thWisconsin

First Sergeant
Joined
Nov 21, 2014
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1,040
#12
Like so many things concerning uniform and appearance, it depends on the unit, place and time. What brass is fairly flimsy and breaks easily. A regiment at a place and time where it's in camp, experiencing frequent inspections and reviews will be pretty well kitted out. One during a period of continuous movement would be less so. It's not necessarily an issue of early war/late war, though. The 7th Wisconsin was getting hat decoration replacements right through the end of the war, including issues of hat cords and ostrich feathers. Yet Frederick Ray was wearing a civilian black hat that he bought in Philadelphia decorated only with a regimental number in 1864.
Reenactors frequently brigade together (creating a composite company or battalion from a number of small units) and portray other units on the field than our home units. For those times, less hat brass is better. Headgear tends to fade around the decoration locations, so taking brass on and off a lot is impractical. So less is more helps here, too. For instance, I wear a bugle, eagle, feather and cord on my dress hat, but no company or regiment brass. There's none on my forage cap. I can blend in pretty easily with any Federal unit.
Reenactors can get pretty tribal, too. We're all fairly certain ours was the best regiment in the army, perhaps in the whole war. (Well, that just happens to be true in the Iron Brigade's instance. :smile:) Our hat brass can take on mythic, tribal significance, like wearing an NFL jersey to watch the Super Bowl, even if your team isn't playing. No hat brass tends to keep it in check. Unless you end up in the "no hat brass" tribe... :smile:
 
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#13
Reenactors frequently brigade together (creating a composite company or battalion from a number of small units) and portray other units on the field than our home units. For those times, less hat brass is better. Headgear tends to fade around the decoration locations, so taking brass on and off a lot is impractical. So less is more helps here, too. For instance, I wear a bugle, eagle, feather and cord on my dress hat, but no company or regiment brass. There's none on my forage cap. I can blend in pretty easily with any Federal unit.
Notice in my forum profile picture, I'm wearing a forage cap with no brass for those very reasons--I routinely fall in with different units, and having no brass really simplifies things. However, my Hardee hat, which I only wear with my primary unit, which portrays US Regulars, has brass insignia for infantry, regiment, and company, as well as blue cord and black ostrich feather. (We are often mistaken for the Iron Brigade.) Also, as part of my US Marine musician dress uniform, my shako has brass of course, but my US Marine forage cap only has the Marine insignia on the front.

So, it's not really a matter of all or nothing being "correct," but what's appropriate for the circumstances.
 

Poor Private

First Sergeant
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Sep 6, 2009
Messages
1,420
#14
I agree with 7th Wis., as a reenactor less is more. But I have different hats to wear also. Our unit cross dresses. We go both ways. So I have a hardy hat with all the brass on it, I have a forage cap with all the brass and corps badge, and unit designation. But I also have a plain kepi (both sides). but what I wear the most, and what I am known for is my derby . I have several from beat all to heck to dress. None of them has any brass other than a fancy Sterling Silver infantry horn on my beat up battle derby..
 
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3,108
#16
When it comes to headgear decorations/unit identifiers many reeanctors believe less is more. Is this really historically accurate based on surviving headgear and wartime photographs? Less might be more for front line units, but what about support troops, garrison troops and new regiments on there way to war?

Headgear decorations may have been more common in 1861-1862 than in 1864-1865. Headgear decorations may have been more common in the Union Army than the Confederate Army. Less is more might not be historically accurate depending on your impression.


http://howardlanham.tripod.com/linkgr5/link208.html

California Battalion, 2nd Massachusetts Cavalry


link208c.jpg

Joseph H. Burke in Mounted Man's Jacket
(Courtesy: Mike Sorenson)


link208d.jpg

Details of Burke's Kepi
(Courtesy: Mike Sorenson)


link208a.jpg

James N. Eby in Mounted Man's Jacket
(Courtesy: Mike Sorenson)


link208b.jpg

Details of Eby's Kepi
(Courtesy: Mike Sorenson)
Less really is more, there is no doubt that these troopers left California with the non regulation brass affixed to their headgear, but when they entered the theater in the east were told by their Col to take it off.

"Members of these California units had among the most interesting forage cap (kepi) decoration in the Union Army. The colonel at some point ordered that these letters be removed as they did not contribute to cohesiveness between the California and Massachusetts troopers in the regiment. The letters appear to be of the "Zouave" style and could be privately purchased from sutlers."

Early war headgear is ripe with dead animal parts, excess brass and other adornment, but these were from militia and as they were assimilated into their respective regular roles and became veterans the extras seem to fade away.

I would also proffer that the issuance of new uniforms/headgear made it a pain to transfer the adornments.

Having over 65 identified pieces of headgear, from early to late, the most adornment I have are the NHV forage caps. The preponderance of evidence in pictures shows that the majority did not have more than the regulation prescribed Co letter, horn/sabers/cannons and Regimental number. Southern pieces even less as brass was utilized for more important accouterments.

The majority of brass adorned headgear is from very early war and many of those pieces that survived did so because they were sent home upon issuance of regular uniforms.

Also as stated a few times in this thread, reenacting is a shrinking hobby and units will fall in with others, the less brass the easier it is to assimilate, much like the Californians and the Mass troopers in the ACW.
 

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