Model 1858 Cavalry Hardee Hat
Model 1858 Cavalry Hardee Hat – The Hardee hat, also known as the Model 1858 Dress Hat and sometimes nicknamed the “Jeff Davis“, was the regulation dress hat for enlisted men in the Union Army, during the American Civil War. Most soldiers found the black felt hat to be too hot and heavy and greatly preferred the forage cap, kepi or slouch hat. During the Civil War, the Union Army members of the “Iron Brigade” became the most prominent wearers of the Hardee hat, thereby often being referred to as the Black-Hats. Additionally, some unadorned, plain and often field-modified Hardee hats were worn by Union troops, especially in the Western theater.
The hat was seemingly named after William J. Hardee, a career officer in the U.S. Army, from 1838 until resigning his commission on January 31, 1861. Hardee was Commandant of Cadets at West Point, from 1856 to 1860, and was a lieutenant colonel of the 1st U.S. Cavalry, until just before the war. In 1855, he published Rifle and Light Infantry Tactics for the Exercise and Manoeuvres of Troops When Acting as Light Infantry or Riflemen, popularly known as Hardee’s Tactics. This well-known tactics manual would become the best-known drill manual for both Northern and Southern commanders. Hardee joined the Confederate States Army in March 1861, eventually becoming a lieutenant general and corps commander.
U.S. Army regulations specified that the hat should be adorned with a brass hat device and a wool hat cord, in a color denoting the branch of service of the wearer: sky blue for infantry, scarlet for artillery and bright yellow for cavalry. The brim was to be pinned up on the right side for cavalrymen and artillerymen, and on the left for infantry soldiers.
This example of the Hardee hat has its original cross sabers, attached to the front of the hat and its accompanying, worsted wool, yellow hat cord, both denoting cavalry use. The right side of the hat is folded up and affixed to the right side of the crown, with the correct, original Hardee hat eagle device. The brim of the hat is bound with two rows of stitching, as seen in all period Hardee hats, and the original U.S. Army label remains on the inside, top of the crown. The small, black grosgrain ribbon remains beneath the hat cord, surrounding the crown’s exterior, as well. This hat appears to have seen significant field use, as it does have some wear and weather exposure areas, especially on the brim. The felt remains in overall good condition, although there are several breaks in the brim, which have been repaired with felt backing (only visible on the underside of the hat) and some very old stitching. There is also a break in the crown, which has been partially backed, on the interior, with stiff felt. The sweatband is missing, as well. This hat is quite pliable and no longer stiff, a feature also indicative of war period field use. Despite some minor condition issues, the hat displays very well and really is impressive in appearance.