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The Myth and Reality of the US Cavalry Stetson

Updated on September 20, 2016

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The Current Story of the US Cavalry Stetson

The US Cavalry Hat, often referred to by soldiers as a "Stetson", is sort of an American military tradition on par with the feathered hats of the Italian Bersaglieri or the tall bearskin caps of Britain's Grenadier Guards.

Although not an official part of the US Army uniform, members of any US military unit with a cavalry designation may privately purchase a black, wide-brimmed hat in a shape often associated with cowboys on the American Great Plains. Cords, insignias, and unit badges are added. These hats are typically worn with the army uniform at special events (or on Fridays). They can be worn with any uniform at the commanding officer's discretion. The purpose of this hat tradition is to generate esprit de corps among cavalry troopers who hope to distinguish themselves in some way in their respective brigades and divisions. If you have seen the film, Apocalypse Now!, you will remember Robert Duvall as the commander of an "air cavalry" squadron wearing a "Cav Hat" in combat.

But the question I'm hoping to answer in this essay is how much tradition is really tucked away in this historic headgear of the US Cavalry? The Grenadier Guards and other European units that are steeped in tradition typically have not changed their uniforms at all since those units were first created. US Cavalry leaders seem to make a similar claim regarding their hats. The lore purported by cavalrymen is that the Stetson's tradition began with US Cavalry regiments wearing these hats since the 1700s. The wearing of the hats disappeared with the extinction of horse cavalry in the 1920s, but was later revived. Obviously, there are some missing details to this vague lineage that I think we should look into. We should ask the questions: When did the "cavalry" hat originate? Who wore it? What did it look like? When did soldiers stop wearing it? When and why did they start wearing it again?

The Stetson Legacy

I guess the first point worth making is that the Cavalry "Stetson" is a misnomer in many cases. A Stetson is not a type of hat. It's a brand name in reference to the Stetson Manufacturing Company. The name stuck in army culture because the Stetson Manufacturing Company made many of the first custom cavalry hats ordered by Army officers in the mid 20th Century. Today, few cavalry hats are manufactured by Stetson and Stetson's primary lines are of civilian headgear. Stetson’s
iconic Boss of the Plains Hat was introduced for wear in the western US territories in 1865. But there is no evidence that Stetson hats were purchased by US Cavalrymen or that Stetson had any contract to provide hats to US Cavalrymen in those days. It seems that the Stetson hats came to be purchased by Cavalrymen in the revival period of the cavalry hat.

Top Hats

From the 1790s to the 1810s, the official headgear of the US Army was a top hat adorned with plumage. Mounted men more often wore helmets.
From the 1790s to the 1810s, the official headgear of the US Army was a top hat adorned with plumage. Mounted men more often wore helmets.

Dragoon Helmet

US Light Dragoons were our only "cavalry" arm until 1855. Prior to being dissolved the 1830s, they wore leather helmets.
US Light Dragoons were our only "cavalry" arm until 1855. Prior to being dissolved the 1830s, they wore leather helmets.

Irregular Headgear

Yes, it's true that mounted troops did often wear top hats and slouch hats while on campaign. But infantrymen did the same.
Yes, it's true that mounted troops did often wear top hats and slouch hats while on campaign. But infantrymen did the same.

Reality of the Early US Cavalry

The reality of the situation is that, first, the US Cavalry did not properly exist until 1855. Prior to that, there were dragoon regiments and a regiment of mounted riflemen. Dragoons were considered to be infantrymen who travelled on horseback and sometimes fought on horseback. The War Department was always careful to add the prefix light at the beginning of each dragoon regiment's official name in order to underscore the fact that these men were to be infantrymen first. It was implied on all cases that one day they might or might not receive funds for horses. Mounted riflemen were just that: infantrymen equipped with rifles instead of muskets who traveled on horses provided by the War Department. These units were not permanent establishments until the 1830s. Since the foundation of the US republic, mounted units were raised by Congress and then discharged on several occasions. From 1812 to 1815 the Regiment of Mounted Rangers existed. Although professional soldiers, they fought as irregular troops with an assortment of their own weapons and equipment. The rangers had no prescribed uniforms, but their civilian headgear consisted typically of top hats, slouch hats, coonskin caps, or bandannas. By the 1820s, all mounted units were dissolved to save money. Prior to the re-establishment of the dragoons in 1833, US mounted units had been equipped with leather riding helmets--not hats.

The purpose of wearing any wide-brimmed hat would have been to keep the rain and sun off one's face. Prior to 1841 and the end of those Indian Wars taking place east of the Mississippi River, the US Army did its fighting in the dense forests of Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Michigan. Sun was not a problem and so no wide-brimmed hats were ever officially authorized by the War Department. However, infantrymen, dragoons, and artillerymen often purchased civilian slouch hats or top hats for fatigue wear or while on a campaign in search of Creek warriors. But this practice was certainly not exclusive to the mounted units. Mounted volunteer units and militia were known for riding with top hats into combat and this practice was most likely emulated by the regular troops. Again, however, top hats were not exclusive to the mounted volunteers.

Hot-Weather Fighting

In 1847, the US Government conquered a desert. Pictured is the scruffy Gen. Zach Taylor wearing a civilian hat on campaign in the sun. The need for these hats was so common that even sticklers like Winfield Scott often wore a planter's hat in the war
In 1847, the US Government conquered a desert. Pictured is the scruffy Gen. Zach Taylor wearing a civilian hat on campaign in the sun. The need for these hats was so common that even sticklers like Winfield Scott often wore a planter's hat in the war

Andrews Hat

This (slightly modified) hat of the 1850s was authorized for all units, but saw little distribution outside of the dragoon regiments
This (slightly modified) hat of the 1850s was authorized for all units, but saw little distribution outside of the dragoon regiments

1855 Cavalry Hat

This is the only hat ever worn exclusively by US Cavalrymen. It lasted for three years.
This is the only hat ever worn exclusively by US Cavalrymen. It lasted for three years.

Hardee Hat

This hat became the official dress headgear of the US Army in 1858 and remained so, though was seldom worn, throughout the Civil War
This hat became the official dress headgear of the US Army in 1858 and remained so, though was seldom worn, throughout the Civil War

Better Hats for the Army of the Deserts and Plains

In the 1840s, the War Department shifted its focus to the treeless prairies and deserts west of the Mississippi. Here, wide-brimmed hats were often privately purchased from local Mexicans during the 1846-1848 Mexican-American War. Again, this practice was common to all units--mounted or not. The official hat worn by soldiers up to this time was a felt, visor campaign cap. Though soldiers during the war preferred their own civilian hats, this is never depicted in artist's renderings of the Mexican-American War. In 1851, the War Department finally authorized a hat deemed more practical for fighting Comanche, Apache, and Lakota Tribes in open terrain. The hat was known as the "Andrews Hat". More closely resembling a 17th-Century Massachusetts Pilgrim's hat than a Stetson, it saw almost no distribution to the units posted on the distant frontiers. Incidentally, the US Dragoons stationed in Texas were the first to receive the hat to any degree of regularity or quantity.

In 1855, Congress created the 1st and 2nd US Cavalry Regiments. These were units equipped with horses who were expected to fight and travel on horseback to cover the great expanse of the American steppes. They were equipped with a unique form of headgear, closely resembling the Andrews Hat, though one side of the brim was pinned up into place with a gold-colored eagle and black ostrich feathers adorned the other side. The two cavalry regiments wore their specialized headgear until 1858, when the entire US Army was issued a similar hat with a few minor changes. This hat, known as the "Hardee Hat" was very unpopular to the preferred forage cap of the kepi style (iconic to the American Civil War).

In 1861, both of our dragoon regiments and our mounted rifle regiment were re-equipped and re-designated as cavalry regiments. A sixth cavalry regiment was also added, thus marking the beginning of the cavalry age of the US Army. Headgear across the army was universal with only minor decorative differences between infantry and cavalry. In the Civil War, Union generals most often had custom wide-brimmed hats made for themselves. Soldiers sometimes purchased and wore back civilian slouch hats instead of wearing the forage caps. This was most common with units fighting the Apache and Sioux west of the Mississippi River.

At the end of the Civil War in 1865, general officers serving in the volunteers reverted to their pre-war lower officer ranks within the US Army. Although they were now colonels, majors, and captains, they were reluctant to give up their custom hats they had proudly worn as generals. Soon, field-grade and company-grade officers out west were wearing their non-regulation headgear as the normal practice. Their enlisted soldiers, in an attempt to beat the harsh elements followed suit by still purchasing newer and better civilian slouch hats. As always, this practice was universal and was not only done by US Cavalry regiments.

Civil War Hats

After the Civil War, men who served as generals were unwilling to give up their distinctive headgear when they reverted to being colonels and majors
After the Civil War, men who served as generals were unwilling to give up their distinctive headgear when they reverted to being colonels and majors

1872 Campaign Hat

This was the War Department's first attempt at an official wide-brimmed campaign hat for the US Army. It was deemed too wide and flimsey.
This was the War Department's first attempt at an official wide-brimmed campaign hat for the US Army. It was deemed too wide and flimsey.

1876 Campaign Hat

The Army officially adopted this hat for campaigns in 1876 and it is what cavalry soldiers  looked to for inspiration in headgear. It was available in drab and dark blue (drab more prevalent among enlisted men). It lasted about 10 years.
The Army officially adopted this hat for campaigns in 1876 and it is what cavalry soldiers looked to for inspiration in headgear. It was available in drab and dark blue (drab more prevalent among enlisted men). It lasted about 10 years.

1883 Campaign Hat

This was the most common hat worn on the plains even before the 1880s. Officers often continued to wear dark blue hats, while the rank and file in the Army all wore this color and style of hat until the 1900s.
This was the most common hat worn on the plains even before the 1880s. Officers often continued to wear dark blue hats, while the rank and file in the Army all wore this color and style of hat until the 1900s.

Campaign Hat of the 20th Century

This latest hat was adopted in the early 1900s and was worn to varying degrees by all ranks and all branches of the Army up until 1942.
This latest hat was adopted in the early 1900s and was worn to varying degrees by all ranks and all branches of the Army up until 1942.

The Evolution of the Model 1876 "Cavalry" Hat

From 1864 to 1869, Ulysses Grant, possibly the shabbiest-dressed military officer in service (since his emulated hero Zachary Taylor) served as the Commanding General of the US Army. Naturally, his example created a brief era of non-conformity in the rank and file in terms of uniforms and headgear. All regiments stationed in forts on the distant frontiers remained in a state of undress with odd assortments of headgear when not dressed for inspections. While on campaign, they often wore no prescribed uniform at all. Field grade officers, like George Custer, were even designing their own non-regulation uniforms.

With the Indian Wars in the west reaching a peak, the Congress of 1866 created a whopping four new cavalry regiments--two of them comprised of only African Americans. Although there were now ten US Cavalry Regiments on the frontiers, there were still a total of twenty five infantry regiments. Thus, the cavalry were not doing all of the Indian fighting out west.

After Grant became President in 1869, General of the Army William Sherman became the Army's Commanding General. He and the War Department tried to bring some semblance of order to the swagger toward regulations occurring out west. He moved his headquarters from Washington to St. Louis. In 1872 a new campaign and garrison uniform was introduced and was distributed by the War Department. It was a simple short blue blouse or "sack coat". It would be worn with an official wide-brimmed campaign slouch hat of the same color. This hat was issued to all types of units; cavalry, infantry, or others. The Army's campaign hat design was tweaked slightly for a new 1876 Model that most-closely resembles the "Cav Hats" worn by soldiers today. This hat was dark blue, but drab (an olive color that looks tan) was authorized as well and came to see wider distribution than the blue hats.

After General Sherman's retirement in 1883 when the Indian Wars were drawing to a close, Philip Sheridan became the Army's next Commanding General. With soldiers still looking for cooler and more casual options for clothes on campaign, the War Department authorized a blue long-sleeved shirt for campaign or field service. The sack coat became a standard garrison service uniform that was now to be worn with a new visored cap. Plumed helmets were worn with full-dress uniforms. The campaign hat was retained and was paired with the new blue "overshirt" and the color of the hat was officially switched blue to drab. Thus, blue wide-brimmed hats were gone. With this new assortment of uniforms for many occasions, the practice of donning civilian gear on campaign slowly died away and discipline became more strict with regards to uniform enforcement.

Interestingly, the drab campaign hat remained the army's standard campaign hat for all combat units (including cavalry) from the 1880s until US entry into World War I in 1917. After the US conquered the Philippines, Hawaii, Guam, Cuba, and Puerto Rico, a sturdy cotton uniform became more desirable than traditional blue wool. In 1902, the blue overshirt was officially replaced with an olive-drab service uniform that was to be worn with the matching campaign hat. The Service Uniform (or Class-A uniform) was a lightweight tunic intended for campaign or combat use, particularly in the jungles of East Asia and Latin America. The blue sack coat was promoted to the level of a "dress" uniform. Meanwhile, the Civil War era "full dress" frock coat was worn only on the most formal or ceremonial occasions. The drab campaign hat itself went though a few cosmetic changes of its own. The crown was pulled up into a point to allow tropical rainwater to more easily pour off. It now more closely resembled a rough-looking park ranger hat.

During World War I, the US Army briefly discarded the campaign hat for little caps and steel helmets provided by the British. The Army Campaign Hat was again distributed after the war, though a new visored cap came to be more prevalent with the service uniform (now made of wool again). The campaign hat became more of a field service hat. The hat went virtually extinct in 1942 and stopped being issued to the new troops in World War II. However, old Army officers and sergeants would still wore the Army's campaign hat as a mark of experience. Drill Sergeants wore the hats while training raw recruits to show that they were senior soldiers who were in the military prior to US entry into World War II. In fact, the old campaign hat is still in use today by US Army Drill Sergeants at training installations. This is a long-lost nod at a tradition dating back to the Second World War. So, in truth, the old campaign hats of the plains never went away. They merely evolved until they became the headgear of drill sergeants.

Today's US Army Campaign Hat

The Model-1872 Campaign Hat worn by all soldiers in the US Army evolved in its shape and color over the decades. Today, this is what it looks like. The wearing of incorrect replicas of Model-1876 Campaign Hats in cavalry units is arbitrary.
The Model-1872 Campaign Hat worn by all soldiers in the US Army evolved in its shape and color over the decades. Today, this is what it looks like. The wearing of incorrect replicas of Model-1876 Campaign Hats in cavalry units is arbitrary.

Poster of a Cavalry War Film

US Army officers, who get most of their historical information from movies, were inspired by the adventure and heroism of cavalrymen on the frontiers wearing their campaign hats,
US Army officers, who get most of their historical information from movies, were inspired by the adventure and heroism of cavalrymen on the frontiers wearing their campaign hats,

Origins of the Cavalry Hat Tradition

The current tradition of US cavalrymen wearing "cavalry hats" dates back to the Vietnam War. Horse cavalry had been extinct in the US Army since the 1920s. Horses were replaced by armored tank units. In World War II, the defunct regimental system of the US Army also fell apart. In place of the large and unwieldy regiments, independent battalions and squadrons that had only historic affiliations with the old regiments became the standard. With the army's adoption of the troop-carrying UH-1 Iroquois Helicopter in the 1960s, Air Mobile (Air Assault) Squadrons were created that were given a historic affiliation with the US Cavalry regiments that no longer existed. These were new crack units where excited squadron commanders generated new ways to express esprit de corps.

The impetus for the first squadron commander and others to don the old Model-1876 Campaign Hat was derived from the explosion of Cavalry War films of the 1950s and 1960s. These Indian War films were sub-genres of the popular westerns and war movies that dominated action films in those days. Between 1950 and 1970, I count about 44 of these films being made--not including the hit TV show F Troop. That is an average of over two per year hitting theaters. The actors portraying officers leading the cavalrymen in these films all wore blue campaign hats, while the enlisted men usually wore drab hats. Army morale in the early and mid-1960s was low. Since 1942, its ranks had been filled of unwilling and disinterested conscripts. Compared to the Air Force and Navy, the Army was losing funding battles in Congress for new weapons. The Army had been humiliated in Korea. The Navy, Air Forces, and Marines had taken credit for defeating Japan, while victory over Germany had to be shared with the Soviet Union, Western Europe, and the US Army Air Forces (now an independent force). World War I was not solely a US Army victory, nor was the Spanish-American War thanks to the Navy. In fact, the last time the US Army ever really succeeded in a war on its own two feet had been against the Plains Indians in the 19th Century. That seemed to be a "Golden Age". The Army had to admit that the Vietnam War was not going so well by 1968. But a few years before that time, certain commanding officers were buying replicas of Model-1876 Army Campaign Hats and wearing them for fun. The hat-wearing was contagious and soon all ranks were purchasing them to celebrate a cavalry "tradition" that never really existed. Enlisted men bought the same color hats as their officers, who themselves were incorrectly buying black hats instead of dark blue ones. Thus, another American tradition was founded on myth, Hollywood, and false assumptions.

To this day, it is all but mandatory that a US Army officer or senior-level sergeant serving in a Cavalry Unit purchase and wear a "Cavalry" Hat--usually erroneously referred to as a "Stetson". But while they think they are carrying on a revived tradition, they have actually just invented one. Meanwhile the true Army Campaign Hat still lives on in the form of a drill sergeant's hat.

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    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 3 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Well researched and well written. In ways it is like the Green Beret which was a symbol of the special forces evolved to berets for all troops. sharing.

    • Reizach profile image

      Reizach 3 years ago from Phoenix

      I really like the twists and turns in the legacy of cavalry headgear, and I always suspected (Being former Army Artillery myself) that the hats worn by the Drill Sergeants were a nod to the 'roughneck' tradition and history. As far as providing Esprit D'Corps, I am all for it if it works, and tradition has to start somewhere. A fighter pilot once wrote that if you find yourself in a vehicle where the wings are traveling faster than the fuselage, then you must be in a helicopter and therefore in great danger. The Army was wise to pin the heritage of these new maverick helicopter troops to the dashing cavalry of yore. And these mavericks are very likely to play dress up.

      On a side note this reminds me of an article I once read years ago comparing US Naval Aviators to Air Forces pilots, and all the fus about the scarf.

      Nice post I had fun learning from it!

    • Daverakk187 3 years ago

      It amazes me how you go into such detail over the Stetsons and completely trash the US Army's combat record? The US Army won the war in Northern Africa and Western Europe in major victories at Normandy, Hurtgen Forrest and the Battle of the Buldge.

      Then you go on and tell us that only the Navy, Marines and Air Force won the War in the Pacific. The Air Force was the Army Air Corp at the time. The vast majority of fighting Divisions were Army. Campaigns in New Guinea and the Philippines were the largest land campaigns. The US Army had a 20 to 1 kill ratio in the Philippines alone.

      As for Korea the US Army not the Air Force, Navy or Marines were the main contributers in pushing back the China and North Korean Forces.

    • Dan 2 years ago

      Thanks so much for stomping on a military tradition. Your investigative reporting and wordsmithmanship earns you a special reward. Please take your right hand, place it over your left shoulder, and pat yourself on the back three times. This can be a new tradition that you can practice every time you write a new post. Go back and re-read your essay on WHY the tradition was started. Esprit de Corps. Pride in one's organization. How dare they not wear the correct color or style! Again, good job, Hat Police.

    • Last Gunpilot 2 years ago

      While the start of your essay has fact. The end is just opinionated. Like most people, it sounds like jealousy. The Air Cav pilots were the ones to bring back the Stetson due the fact that they were cavalier and felt they were riding the new horse of the army. And while it wasn't something started from years ago like the foreigners. Traditions gotta start somewhere, sometime. And seeing as how helicopters were a newer young concept. These Air Cav pilots were pioneers in a dangerous unforgiving game. Of which we still follow some of their lessons learned. So we honor these pioneers and what's left of our cavalier heritage in this cover your ass political personal agenda world by donning our Stetsons at functions and occasions as we see fit. So next time you write opinionated jealousy. Check with the folks who live the legend.

    • Edward J. Palumbo profile image

      Edward J. Palumbo 2 years ago from Tualatin, OR

      My compliments on an interesting and apparently well-researched topic. Well done!

    • RonElFran profile image

      Ronald E. Franklin 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA

      Great job. I never knew anything about army hats until reading this, and I found your description of the hats and the traditions (or lack thereof) behind them fascinating.

    • Melvin Graham Beasley 2 years ago

      I object to the British bearskin (Which the Guards took from the defeated French) being referred to as looking stupid.

    • HorsePower 16 months ago

      Sorry....

      But the horse cavalry was alive, training and well....

      Late into 1940 and beyond......

      At this time... Units were re-aligned to more "modern" war fare

      units...i.e....Field Artillery, Coastal Artillery, Infantry, and various types

      of motorized units.....

      Early cannon fodder....against the Japanese... We're often former horse

      cavalry and other national guard folks...

    • SC 14 months ago

      its a hat..

    • Ben 14 months ago

      The Hardee hat was a lot more common than you state. If you'd researched better, you'd see a very common trend, especially amongst Western Federal troops, of every form of the M-1858 Dress hat.

    • SFC Blizz 14 months ago

      Haters going to hate..... If you ain't Cav, you ain't shit.

      Scouts Out!

    • Michael 14 months ago

      How about fixing your grammer mistakes? "These were units equipped with horses who were expected to fight and travel on horseback." I have never seen a horse travel on horseback. How is it done? There are a couple of other smaller issues that need to be fixed as well. Did no one proof read this article?

    • Thomas Campbell 14 months ago

      A tradition has to start somewhere. I'm unsure of why newer traditions are considered silly. I wore my Stetson with pride, knowing that fellow cavalrymen who had given the ultimate sacrifice had worn the same headgear in Vietnam and in preparation for the invasions of Iraq. Everyday in my unit, while in garrison preparing for our own deployments , I had the opportunity to view pictures of past heroes who had very recently fallen in battle. The Stetson tied us together and inspired me to live up to the lofty examples of courage, skill, and professionalism they had displayed. I appreciate the amount of historical research you presented, but strongly disagree and take offense to your "a little silly" conclusion. There isn't and never has been anything silly about the pride that my fallen bretheren had in their love of the US Calvary.

      "If you ain't Cav, you ain't *%#t!"

    • Wes 14 months ago

      Overall, a well written and factual article, but as others have mentioned, I think you expose your research bias toward the end. Though it may be true that the majority of current cavalry Soldiers have a skewed understanding of the origin of the "Stetson", it seems like you are nitpicking a unit specific tradition in the name of history. US military uniforms change on a regular basis (3 times during my service, alone), a fact that you pointed out quite succinctly. To say that the current black or buckskin hat (which the 11th ACR has adopted) is historically inaccurate is like criticizing the Marines for issuing a "Mameluke" pattern scimitar with no edge, or the infantry for their blue fourragere (which only dates back to the Korean War). I would say that with 55 years of history, the "Stetson" has done much to qualify itself as both a tradition and a symbol of the U.S. Cavalry. To describe totems like these as silly is to ignore what they have come to represent, such as esprit d'corps, rites of passage, and unit identity.

    • CW4 14 months ago

      Old-Empresario

      You should keep to writing articles and avoid getting into arguments with your critics. I like you much, much less after reading your sarcastic, mightier-than-thou retorts.

      ...Don't become "the story".

    • John 14 months ago

      You said.

      The Army got rid of the hosrses in the 20's.

      The last Cavalry Charge in the US Army was conducted by the 11th Cavalry against the Japanese in the Philipeans durin WW2.

      The 2nd Cavalry was sent to patrol the Mexican border after Pear Harbor... ON HORSES!

      You said, there are no Cavalry Regiments left in the US Army. I'm sure members of the 2nd (Which I served in), 3rd and 11th CAVALRY REGIMENTS may take ecception to.

      You said, Stetson does not make Cavalry hats. Hummmm... Just so happens, my "Stetson" is made by.... "STETSON"!!!!

    • Bill 14 months ago

      I just got back from a deployment in the Middle East where all the cavalry guys were wearing the Stetson.

    • Bill Carter 14 months ago

      I really enjoyed the article. I could have done without the opinions but you must have had your reason for trashing the "Cav Hat". I personally like the "Traditions of the Cav", Cav Hat included. I find no problem with reaching back in time and pulling its traditions forward even if the line has been broken along the way. Many a tradition has been lost and revived. Although the Cavalry is no longer on horseback. The tradition of Cavalry lives on in the hearts of Tankers, Pilots, and Scouts. It sounds like you have or had a problem in your Cav days. I get it. Not every man was created to enjoy traditions even if they have been modified to keep up with the times. As for me. As I type this I can glance on my mantel and see my 1/9th Cavalry hat. I bought it with my own money and was proud to wear it. Veterans Day is about two weeks away. I will enjoy wearing it again. Mine is over 40 years old. Old but still a sterling example of a time when the men of the First Cavalry did what the Cavalry has always done. Defended the U.S. with honor.

    • sherman 14 months ago

      sabers. i tried to buy a saber U.S.Cav. dated 1862 a friend found in a building that was on the home he got

    • Jim 14 months ago

      So, based on your snarky attitude toward the Army and your absolute disdain for Cavalry, any reasonable person must conclude your wife found her salf a real man, aka, a Cavalryman!

    • Olbrisch 14 months ago

      A few small points. 1 the 3D is cavalry regiment is one of the few cavalry units that has been in active service since its inseption as the regiment of mounted riflemen and even to this day continues to operate as an independent regiment reporting directly to III corps. 2 armored crewmen were wearing black berets back in the 40s all the way to the late 1970s when the Rangers stole it from them. Other than that great write up

      Former cavalryman.

    • Mark Wiedenhoff 14 months ago

      A good article, enjoyed reading the history of the hat. I have parts before about the orgin of the Campaign hat. Yes, there are variations thoughout history. Which version you choose to believe in is on you. I am a former cavalryman and also a current Cavalry Civil War reenactor. I chose the 1876 model during my Cav time because it was the most relevant to the history of the Cav. I still wear it with pride with only the yellow cord and the crossed sabers decorating it. The 'head strap' is a thick leather one tied in knot at the end. It is capable of being also being a chin strap as well. My hat has had beer drunk from it, and my horse has also drank from it. The Cav hat is and will be a solitary symbol of a great military organization, the US Cavalry.

    • Jonathan holstein 14 months ago

      Stay tuned for his next article. "Jody wore a stetson". Sorry buddy but you ain't cav.

    • Trevor Smith 14 months ago

      It LOOKS like this is a well researched article, however it only looks that way because you have not listed any of your sources or provided references of any kind. It is hard for anybody to verify your claims without them. We can't tell if you were able to corroborate your evidence across multiple sources or if you're simply taking one source and calling it fact. We also can't tell how you're contextualizing your sources as you're drawing your conclusions based on the evidence you found.

    • old albion profile image

      Graham Lee 14 months ago from Lancashire. England.

      Hi O-E. Brilliant and absorbing. Your research is first class and you presentation tip top. I never dreamed the hat was so intrinsic to the military. Well done.

      Graham.

    • Ruppert Baird 14 months ago

      When I served in the Cav in 1983-86, the army was in the throes of an effort to eliminate all distinctive unit headgear. As I understand, the then-previous CoS was a 'leg' infantryman and had a hard-on for the airborne troops and their maroon beret. He ordered all distinctive headgear eliminated. This meant the airborne lost their berets, as well as everyone else. SF ignored it, but we cavalrymen, whose headgear was never authorized anyway, were not allowed to wear it, much to my disappointment. When the beret was finally reauthorized, it was only for airborne, SF and Ranger troops. The most recent wars gave the impetus for Cav troops to ignore the regs and to begin to wear the Stetson once more.

    • SSG John Atkinson 14 months ago

      As a trooper in the 3d Cavalry Regiment, your assertions regarding how the custom is commonly understood in Cavalry regiments are flatly wrong.

      A few seconds research (google: blood steel 3cr) will provide Blood and Steel, which includes a detailed and accurate regimental history, beginning with our roots as Mounted Riflemen. The discussion of the Stetson places the roots of that tradition in the 11th Airborne Division (Air Assault) in the 1960s. It is specifically referred to as an 1876-pattern campaign hat. "Stetson" is correctly noted as a colloquialism.

      In short, while your discussion of the varying uniforms and headgear worn by U.S. mounted Soldiers is more or less accurate, your discussion of the modern Cavalry Hat tradition is bogus. Simply because the tradition originates within living memory does not make it less a tradition.

      Now, I've never been assigned on the Other Side of Fort Hood, so I don't know what ignorant jackassery happens in the 1st Cav Division or elsewhere. I can, however, say with confidence that any Soldier who has attended, or plans on attending a board in the 3d Cavalry Regiment has his or her head screwed on straight about his Cav Hat.

      And frankly, the only people whose opinions on the topic really matter are 76 and XXI. :)

    • Robert Stowe 14 months ago

      Not one source!! Am I to assume that you have all this knowledge as first hand? So, if you can't give credit to your sources, then you plagiarized your entire essay. Site your sources, or it's a bogus claim made by some disgruntled non CAV. Besides, who cares!!

    • Rich Morholt 14 months ago

      Navy Veteran here Vietnam War, this article was a nice attempt in addressing Hats re: history and uniform code. Your history is not complete and inaccurate. Your opinion of US Army's war performance since the Indian Wars is way,way off and inaccurate. Various branches during all wars since "The Indian Wars", were assigned to missions that fit there core training. The evolution of all branches historically came from the US Army, including the Navy, Whitehall,NY first naval base near Lake Champlain was manned by Army Personnel who manned the boats.

      WWII saw an expansion of the US Marines role fighting in the Pacific as they were amphibious trained and tasked to take on the Japanese based on islands. Marines landed first the Army followed to hold the island after they fought along side the Marines to take that island.

      In Europe , it was a land war with tanks and infantry, plus the Army Air Corps.

      BTW, its "Battle of the Bulge". My Father fought in that battle through the harsh war wearing a summer uniform. Don't try to compare that battle with the Eastern Front. The Russians lost a lot of men due to their out of date tactics to obtain victory. They sacrifice could never be matched nor deminished in honor to win the war against the Nazis.

    • Howard 14 months ago

      The Calvary wasn't dismounted until 1942. It happened at Fort Bliss, Texas.

    • RedElf profile image

      RedElf 14 months ago from Canada

      My grandpa wore a Stetson that looked a lot like the 1872 Campaign Hat pictured above - though much cleaner (LOL). He was in the Mounted Light Infantry in WW1, and you could certainly see he was a died-in-the-wool cavalry man by the way he sat his horse even in his later years - he never lost that ramrod straight posture.

      Thanks for this interesting article.

    • Sahith Naidu 14 months ago

      Wonderful article, thank you for the detailed description. I am a blogger at http://www.thenextyoutube.com I would like to write such detailed articles on my blog, however I m so lazy to write such a detailed writings, very much inspired by you.

    • 19D / 95b 14 months ago

      First off in general it's worth the read. Now for some facts. Each and every unit in the military has it's own "tradition", and flare. For the M.P.s it's the green scarf, white helmets and dress white gloves. The Engr's has it's red scarfs. For those who wear the Blackhorse on thier shoulder it's a tradition that was long established that We who rode the horse stand out and stand proud in deep seeded traditons and history. From the Vietnam Vets, to the Cold War vets who stood watch on the German boarders we earned that right to be called Cav troopers. We knew that our lives could be lost first that why we say SCOUT OUT - we're the marines of the army. First in, first to die so you who follow have a safe path to follow. Pride for the unit is only half of what that stetson represents, it's pride in ourselves and who we are and what our jobs entail. When you hear the line "If you ain't cav, you just ain't" its our way of saying - son you have no clue what you are talking about. We earned that right, we gave our souls to the job, our heart to our country, and have lived to talk about it. That "hat" is a symbol of our strength and dedication that our fellow troopers all know and share with pride. It's not just handed out to the soldier, it's right of passage of a job well done you've made the grade to be called a trooper.

      1/11 acr BLACKHORSE - Freedom's Guardian 83-86 Fulda Germany I earned that title and dam proud of it! May we all meet at fiddlers green and share the memories.

    • Dutch Von henry 14 months ago

      We wore berets in Germany with the 11th cav on border duty

    • Sgt Prepper profile image

      Gunny Cracker 14 months ago from Elkhorn, WI

      Everybody in the Army is jealous of the Stetson & spurs even if they've never ridden a horse. Everybody in the Army and Marines thinks Infantrymen are stupid. The Infantrymen think everybody else is a pussy. The black berets remind me of Monica Lewinsky and the green berets of the girlscouts. Berets don't shield your eyes from the sun or have earflaps for warmth. Many soldiers cut into those goofy looking berets when they shave the fuzz off. General Shineski should be court-martialed for authorizing them. The new dark blues Class-A Army uniform looks impressive, like the Marine dress-blues, especially with the Stetson.

      Anyone interested in the pre-WW2 Cavalry should watch Son Johnson in the best movie he ever made "Pursuit of Honor".

    • Sgt Prepper profile image

      Gunny Cracker 14 months ago from Elkhorn, WI

      Everybody in the Army is jealous of the Stetson & spurs even if they've never ridden a horse. Everybody in the Army and Marines thinks Infantrymen are stupid. The Infantrymen think everybody else is a pussy. The black berets remind me of Monica Lewinsky and the green berets of the girlscouts. Berets don't shield your eyes from the sun or have earflaps for warmth. Many soldiers cut into those goofy looking berets when they shave the fuzz off. General Shineski should be court-martialed for authorizing them. The new dark blues Class-A Army uniform looks impressive, like the Marine dress-blues, especially with the Stetson.

      Anyone interested in the pre-WW2 Cavalry should watch Don Johnson in the best movie he ever made "Pursuit of Honor".

    • MSG Sligar 14 months ago

      What a nothead or should I say shave tail.

      Texas National Guard 124 CAV was the last Cav Unit to turn in their Horses after WWII at Fort Riley Kansas and I do believe the last to have a mounted charge against the Japanese.

      Texas National Guard has 2 designated Cav Units the 112 and the 124

      Spurs and Stetson are highly coveted by Cav Troopers.....dont believe, me than just try and reach for either.

      For further research read the 4 volume set by the late Randy Stephen. Details on Cav Uniforms and equipment

      By the way....ask yhe Special Forces Units in Afghanistan that are using horses in the mountains what type of equipment they are using.

      Old Cav still lives

      "Sabers Made of Steel"

      Scouts Out

    • Sgt Prepper profile image

      Gunny Cracker 14 months ago from Elkhorn, WI

      Having served in the Marine Corps during Vietnam, Active Duty with the Nat'l Guard during Desert Storm and with the Army Infantry at OIF I still think the most ridiculous rank & emblem for rank is Specialist. At least an Airman and a Seaman get a stripe.

    • Robert E. Hays 14 months ago

      What's wrong with this sentence? "In 1855, Congress created the 1st and 2nd US Cavalry Regiments. These were units equipped with horses who were expected to fight and travel on horseback to cover the great expanse of the American steppes."

    • esatchel profile image

      PDGreenwell 14 months ago from Kentucky

      Very thorough and well researched.

      I imagine, however, that ALL traditions have similar origin stories - we feel strongly about a group we identify with and seek ways to make the 'individuality' of the group readily and visually obvious.

      When you state "Thus, another American tradition was founded on myth, Hollywood, and false assumptions." I believe you are actually slamming something that personally irks you.

      The truth is, all 'traditions' start somewhere where a "reason" must be established to make that tradition reason enough, in this case to wear the Cav hat.

      Why is the Pope's hat the Pope's Hat? Why purple at Easter, Red and Green at Christmas? Why do nurses wear white? And traditionally, little white hats that identify, by design, the school you graduated from, as do nursing pins?

      Traditions ALL begin at ground zero where those who identify with the new identity create the traditions.

    • CavScout 14 months ago

      Sir, I wear my Stetson and Golden spurs (Combat) with pride. I served with A Co. 228th ASHB, 1st Cavalry Division (AM) in Vietnam in '68 - '69. I also served as a Armored Cavalry Scout (19D30) with F Troop, 2/116th ACR I enlisted Dec 20, 1963 into the Army and retired Apr 1, 1992 from the Id. Air Nat'l Guard.

    • scoutsout 14 months ago

      The first cavalry unit is the 4th Cav. When the Army changed all mounted units to Cav, the 1st and 2nd light dragoons were made the 1st and 2nd cav. 1st mounted rifles became the 3rd cav (Brave Rifles ), and 1st cav became the 4th cav.

    • Stetson 7 14 months ago

      As a former Spurs Master in the 2nd ACR, and having also served in the 7th Cavalry and 3rd ACR, I can say with historical accuracy that NCOs during the plains & Indian wars typically worse a gray or "silverbelly" hat, which helped troops distinguish between officers and NCOs during the dusty, hectic fighting that often took place. The Silverbelly was and historically remains the proper color of NCOs, even though todays Cavalry remians mostly unaware of this fact. Further proof is often found in artwork, such as that depicted by Don Stivers. Although it was never a "regulatory" requirement, true Cavalry history shows this to be accurate beyond argument.

    • Pops 14 months ago

      I served in 1st Squadron (Air), 17th Cavalry, 82nd Airborne Division - 1983-1986. Although we never dare wear anything other than the maroon beret for normal day-to-day operations in garrison - we proudly wore a Stetson-produced cavalry headgear for formal/informal social gatherings.

    • Gpmcdoodle 10 months ago

      Go have a look at the marsmem in Burma and have a nice bean day

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 10 months ago from Northeast Ohio

      In spite of the grammar issues, this was a real good read to learn about the military hats that the cavalry wore in the war. Thanks for sharing.

    • Jay C OBrien profile image

      Jay C OBrien 10 months ago from Houston, TX USA

      From article:

      "The current tradition of US cavalrymen wearing "cavalry hats" dates back to the Vietnam War. Horse cavalry had been extinct in the US Army since the 1920s. Horses were replaced by armored tank units. In World War II, the defunct regimental system of the US Army also fell apart."

      What have we learned from the Vietnam War?

      We should Not have been there, nor Korea, nor in Europe in WWI. They were foolish wars even by modern military standards.

      As you have pointed out, the military changes. We should stop fighting overseas. It is foolish to travel over oceans in order to enter a blood feud. No one wins, not the Hatfields or the McCoys. We entered Iraq on the incorrect intelligence of weapons of mass destruction. There were no WMD. It was another Vietnam war. Soldiers have needlessly suffered from PTSD. Bring our soldiers home.

    • Val Valentine 10 months ago

      My father served with the 24th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron in World War II. The transition from Horse Cavalry to Mechanized occurred in January, 1941, not the twenties.

      Othewise this is a well researched article. Happy to see the connection of horse cavarly to my father to me as I wore a Campaign Hat as a Drill Sergeant, 1967-68

    • Stetson7 10 months ago

      As a former Spurs Master & Cavalry historian, I'll agree to much of the author's research about uniforms & headgear. But I'll point out that the difference in "Cav" hats was simply that officers did in fact wear a dark blue version & enlisteds wore a tan or drab color. But NCOs, especially senior NCOs, wore what was commonly known as a "silverbelly", or light grey color during the plains & Indian wars. The different color allowed troops to identify officers &NCOs during the limited visibility & confusion offer associated with battles. Drivers, Remington & other artists have used photos from the era to accurately depict such tradition. That all Cavalry troops today wear black is historically inaccurate, but traditions of espre are still needed today.

    • Vance 10 months ago

      I trained às a Calvary Scout at Ft. Knox, Ky. in 1977.

    • Charles R Batchelor 10 months ago

      My answer is so what, I like new traditions and would love to see this hat made official wear for Cav.

    • jupiter justice profile image

      Asher Socrates 10 months ago from Los Angeles, CA

      A very deep insight and informative history lesson for the masses and current gens. Although many different opinions and details regarding those facts are questioned here. That's for each and every person to decide and do their own research to dicover the truths. A great discussion here about the facts and opinions of the past. Looking at the quality of the writing and the details and design in place here. I tip my hat, for your hard work and time spent bringing this all together. Accomplishing the goals you set out to do. Job well done!!

    • Jay C OBrien profile image

      Jay C OBrien 10 months ago from Houston, TX USA

      Let us raise our thinking. Instead of concerning ourselves with the color and contour of hats, let us ask why we fight wars. How many wars were really needed? Was there an alternative to fighting? May an individual decide to move rather that fight? How many soldiers suffer from PTSD?

    • greg.westen@yahoo.com 9 months ago

      My father was a Medical Doctor with the U.S. 9th Cavalry circa 1942-1944. He wore a Montana Peak Stetson campaign hat. He was with the U.S. 2nd CAVALRY DIVISION at Fort Clark, Texas.

    • Abn Ranger profile image

      Abn Ranger 6 months ago

      From my book: Military True Stories, Free @ Amazon.

      The current favored Cav Hat is the Stetson Company's Cavalry model the current price is $204.00. The Cav Hat has been popular since the TV show "F Troop". CPT Parmenter wore this hat. The actor Robert Duval also wore this hat in the movie "Apocalypse Now"

    • Engineered 6 months ago

      Silly army babies whinging about their silly hats. Try winning a war; maybe then you'll have something to brag about.

    • Diogenes 5 months ago

      @ Michael How about checking your spelling? Grammar, not grammer.

    • RRassendyll 3 months ago

      This is a very nice summary, and the comments + photo of the Andrews hat particularly illuminating. You may ignore the negative remarks of the Cav enthusiasts; they are a very strange lot. One imagines spurs would be at least inconvenient if not actually dangerous in most combat vehicles (as they were in aircraft; early pilots had to be admonished to remove spurs before entering the cockpit, I recall). Anent an earlier comment on the perdurance of mounted troops, I believe the ad quem date is somewhere in 1942. The influence remained; one perceives carryover in armored evolutions in the field? And the tanker's field boots, with their wraparound strap is strongly reminiscent of the M1911 gaiter; Dehner, I believe, offers a combat-high boot in a three-strap model (both black and rough-out tan) clearly derived from knee-high three-strap boots worn as private purchase items by both U.S. and U.K. officers, and a version of which was eventually issued to U.S. enlisted ranks (along with rather posh elastique britches). One can argue, then: It is the discipline required for cavalry evolutions, and some very practical uniform design elements that constitute the cavalry legacy -- not black hats or spurs. On the other hand, a smart cavalry unit might actually do well with the 1876 drab hat (should look good with the current field uniform) and some horsemanship exercise....

    • Hallelujah 6 weeks ago

      Thank you for the written article.Well done, indeed.Very informative.I found that the US Army Montana peak was from the Choseon or Joseon of Korea.These guys were wearing the hat since 1500 well before the US Army used it in the early 1900s.

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