|Description and Photograph||
The forage cap was in widespread use in 1861. It had been popular since the Mexican War; however it had undergone some changes since that war. Namely, the crown had gotten smaller and stiffer, and the visor had gotten longer and stiffer. Stonewall Jackson continued to wear the earlier style, but by and large the Confederate States copied the U.S. Model 1858 forage cap of the Chasseur pattern. The Chasseur pattern became very popular among Confederate officers in the War Between the States. This style generally had a sunken crown and four rows of vertical braid and braid around the band which corresponded with the officer’s rank. For example the lieutenant had one band, the captain two, the colonel three and the general four. The demand for caps and the wide number of makers in the South resulted in many variant interpretations of the regulations. In most cases the makers simply copied what they had seen without understanding the finer details. More braid looked better and consequently they probably sold better or for more than there lesser braided counterparts or they could be specifically designed by the purchaser, who knew no more than the haberdasher in those early months.
The forage cap shown here is one of those early variants. It has five bands of braid around its circumference, or general plus one, which of course means nothing. The vertical braid and foil on the crown utilizes three rows of braid, which would be correct for a Confederate Colonel. The cap is made of the finest broadcloth and is lined with silk. The liner has an adjustable drawstring. The dark band appears almost black, but is likely Prussian blue. I have not analyzed the dye in order to be certain, but I have often tested what appeared to be black material and it came back as Prussian blue that had turned darker with time. The dark blue band would indicate that the owner was an infantry officer, and the original script eye buttons confirm that. The buttons are too tight to the cap to allow me to read the backmarks. The buttons and the chinstrap appear to be original to the cap. The original pressed leather headband is completely intact and retains its original stitching. The only restoration to the cap that I can see consisted of darning five small moth holes which can hardly be seen with the naked eye. All in all this is one of the most attractive and well preserved examples of this rare cap to have come to market in many years.