What to Look for in Original ACW Union Forage Caps

Joined
Jul 28, 2015
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2,765
#1
A very brief primer in what to look for in authenticating an American Civil War Union Forage Cap. The idea actually came to me from one of our extremely knowledgeable forum members @Ralph Heinz, who emailed me about a bogus cap on EBay that is now up to $240.00.

  • Material should be of high quality wool, very similar to an officers frock, but not quite a broadcloth
  • The circumference of the crown should be enclosed with a welted reed of the same color as the rest of the cap
  • Height of crown from brim should be 4-3/8 inches in front and 5 inches in rear
  • The body should be stiffened with a piece of buckram 2-1/2 inches wide and sewn with a single row of machine stiches 16 to the inch, commencing in a point 1-1/2 inches below front crown
  • The crown to be stiffened by a stout piece of pasteboard
  • The lining should be of black Silesia (polished cotton); most will appear brown
  • A sweatband of morocco goatskin 2 inches wide (tanned and black with a crosshatch pattern)
  • A visor of stiff glazed leather in the form of a crescent 13 inches long, 9 inches on the interior edge, 2" wide in the middle. These will sometimes vary.
  • Chinstrap of black glazed leather composed of two pieces 5/8 inches wide each piece 9-1/2 inches long, with two leather loops of same material. Ends to be sewn directly to the cap with vest buttons at the extreme points of the visor. Brass slide of sheet brass for strap adjustment.
There is much more and there were also slight variations depending upon contractor, but very slight. Also keep in mind that this is for enlisted issue forage caps and that private purchase caps did conform largely to spec but there were also differences.

Now look at the cap in question on EBay and let me know your thoughts:

https://www.ebay.com/itm/RARE-CIVIL...144187?hash=item590c75ec7b:g:zqsAAOSwI4xa96Zm

Added photos for more clarity on what to look for:
 

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#3
Wow, the ebay cap isn't even a good reproduction. I'm guessing it was new when it was stuffed with a 1962 newspaper. A bad centennial reproduction? Hope nobody spends a bunch of money on that.
I hope someone informs the seller it's bogus! Defiantly old
 

WJC

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#4
Thanks for the primer!
My question about the EBay offering is, "What is it?"
Counterfeit CW article? Something old from a later period?
At any rate, I'll keep my credit card safely secured in my pocket on this one....
 
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#5
Thanks for the primer!
My question about the EBay offering is, "What is it?"
Counterfeit CW article? Something old from a later period?
At any rate, I'll keep my credit card safely secured in my pocket on this one....
Most likely a GAR or reunion piece, the brim and chinstrap are correct and would be great for parting out to resurrect a damaged piece.
 

WJC

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#6
Most likely a GAR or reunion piece, the brim and chinstrap are correct and would be great for parting out to resurrect a damaged piece.
Thanks for your response.
GAR makes sense, and using it for 'parts' to restore a real forage cap would be a good reason to buy... at the right price.
 

ucvrelics

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#8
@Package4 Bravo on your thread to not only let people know about this ebay item but the education for folks to know what to look for. My hats off to you.:rofl:
 

Mrs. V

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#9
Most people, unless they sew and maybe not even then will never have seen a piece of “buckram”..It’s a cloth stiffened with starch, either of cotton, linen or horsehair. Very distinctive semi open weave, that has had a stiffener added to fill the weave. In hat making the starch allowed the fabric to be wetted and fitted around a hat form..and it came in weights. From very fine to quite coarse. Many ladies bonnets owe their nice stiff brims to buckram. It kind of looks like screening..in that the warp and weft define very square structures. (Fabric geek here!)
 

Mrs. V

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#11
A very brief primer in what to look for in authenticating an American Civil War Union Forage Cap. The idea actually came to me from one of our extremely knowledgeable forum members @Ralph Heinz, who emailed me about a bogus cap on EBay that is now up to $240.00.

  • Material should be of high quality wool, very similar to an officers frock, but not quite a broadcloth
  • The circumference of the crown should be enclosed with a welted reed of the same color as the rest of the cap
  • Height of crown from brim should be 4-3/8 inches in front and 5 inches in rear
  • The body should be stiffened with a piece of buckram 2-1/2 inches wide and sewn with a single row of machine stiches 16 to the inch, commencing in a point 1-1/2 inches below front crown
  • The crown to be stiffened by a stout piece of pasteboard
  • The lining should be of black Silesia (polished cotton); most will appear brown
  • A sweatband of morocco goatskin 2 inches wide (tanned and black with a crosshatch pattern)
  • A visor of stiff glazed leather in the form of a crescent 13 inches long, 9 inches on the interior edge, 2" wide in the middle. These will sometimes vary.
  • Chinstrap of black glazed leather composed of two pieces 5/8 inches wide each piece 9-1/2 inches long, with two leather loops of same material. Ends to be sewn directly to the cap with vest buttons at the extreme points of the visor. Brass slide of sheet brass for strap adjustment.
There is much more and there were also slight variations depending upon contractor, but very slight. Also keep in mind that this is for enlisted issue forage caps and that private purchase caps did conform largely to spec but there were also differences.

Now look at the cap in question on EBay and let me know your thoughts:

https://www.ebay.com/itm/RARE-CIVIL...144187?hash=item590c75ec7b:g:zqsAAOSwI4xa96Zm

Added photos for more clarity on what to look for:
Nice points. Kind of reminds me of when I first began collecting depression glass...lots of fakes out there! Best source I had showed all the fake marks being used. I learned what to look for. (Other than chips that could be felt by feeling up the glassware
 
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#12
Most people, unless they sew and maybe not even then will never have seen a piece of “buckram”..It’s a cloth stiffened with starch, either of cotton, linen or horsehair. Very distinctive semi open weave, that has had a stiffener added to fill the weave. In hat making the starch allowed the fabric to be wetted and fitted around a hat form..and it came in weights. From very fine to quite coarse. Many ladies bonnets owe their nice stiff brims to buckram. It kind of looks like screening..in that the warp and weft define very square structures. (Fabric geek here!)
I've noticed that period buckram is much more like a stiffened burlap than today's version. Any thoughts on replicating this, @Mrs. V? I've starched the Hades out of fine weave burlap, to no avail. I'm going to try a thinned wallpaper sizing next.
 
Joined
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2,765
#13
I've noticed that period buckram is much more like a stiffened burlap than today's version. Any thoughts on replicating this, @Mrs. V? I've starched the Hades out of fine weave burlap, to no avail. I'm going to try a thinned wallpaper sizing next.
Yes period buckram is no longer available and @Tailor Pete is correct that the closest we have today is burlap.
 
Joined
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Messages
2,765
#14
A very brief primer in what to look for in authenticating an American Civil War Union Forage Cap. The idea actually came to me from one of our extremely knowledgeable forum members @Ralph Heinz, who emailed me about a bogus cap on EBay that is now up to $240.00.

  • Material should be of high quality wool, very similar to an officers frock, but not quite a broadcloth
  • The circumference of the crown should be enclosed with a welted reed of the same color as the rest of the cap
  • Height of crown from brim should be 4-3/8 inches in front and 5 inches in rear
  • The body should be stiffened with a piece of buckram 2-1/2 inches wide and sewn with a single row of machine stiches 16 to the inch, commencing in a point 1-1/2 inches below front crown
  • The crown to be stiffened by a stout piece of pasteboard
  • The lining should be of black Silesia (polished cotton); most will appear brown
  • A sweatband of morocco goatskin 2 inches wide (tanned and black with a crosshatch pattern)
  • A visor of stiff glazed leather in the form of a crescent 13 inches long, 9 inches on the interior edge, 2" wide in the middle. These will sometimes vary.
  • Chinstrap of black glazed leather composed of two pieces 5/8 inches wide each piece 9-1/2 inches long, with two leather loops of same material. Ends to be sewn directly to the cap with vest buttons at the extreme points of the visor. Brass slide of sheet brass for strap adjustment.
There is much more and there were also slight variations depending upon contractor, but very slight. Also keep in mind that this is for enlisted issue forage caps and that private purchase caps did conform largely to spec but there were also differences.

Now look at the cap in question on EBay and let me know your thoughts:

https://www.ebay.com/itm/RARE-CIVIL...144187?hash=item590c75ec7b:g:zqsAAOSwI4xa96Zm

Added photos for more clarity on what to look for:
The following is the interior of Charles Wells' 1864 issued Forage Cap. Charles was a member of Co E 14th West Virginia and was wounded in the head at Berryville, VA. I seriously doubt that this was the cap he was wearing, since he was hit above the left ear on that September 3rd day of 1864. He was admitted to the hospital in Frederick, MD on September 17th and had approximately a third of a Gardner Minnie ball removed from his skull. He improved to the point of assisting on the ward October 10th. On November 2nd, he was transferred to the hospital in Grafton, WV, but died soon after arrival.
Post mortem found the other 2/3s of the missile that originally had felled him.

I assume he lost the cap he was wearing when wounded and was subsequently reissued a new uniform upon his "recovery". The cap is incredible and in like new condition, considering the soldier most likely wore it for less than a month and not on campaign.

The cap came out of the family in West Virginia and the medical history of the wounding can be found in Medical Surgical History of the War Records "Balls Lodged in the Cranium" section on page 199. (attached)
 

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Mrs. V

First Sergeant
Joined
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Messages
1,125
#16
I've noticed that period buckram is much more like a stiffened burlap than today's version. Any thoughts on replicating this, @Mrs. V? I've starched the Hades out of fine weave burlap, to no avail. I'm going to try a thinned wallpaper sizing next.
Are you using the spray starch or the real stuff? All I can think of would be to use elmers white glue and water, soak your fabric and form it on a wax covered surface. Won’t be “period” in terms of the stiffening agent, but it also won’t flatten with moisture.
 

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