Model 1858 U.S. Army Dress, Hardee or Jeff Davis Cavalry Hat


Model 1858 U.S. Army Dress, Hardee or Jeff Davis Cavalry Hat – The Model 1858 U.S. Army Dress Hat, often referred to as a Hardee or “Jeff Davis” hat, was the regulation dress hat for enlisted soldiers, in all branches of service, just prior to and at the onset of the Civil War. Each hat’s branch of service designation was indicated by the front insignia and color of the worsted wool hat cord; other than that aspect, all of these hats, at least the enlisted versions, were essentially the same; besides those latter adornments, these hats often had one brim side folded up, thereby cradling a black ostrich plume with the folded up brim affixed to the side of the hat’s crown via a so-called “Jeff Davis” hat badge – a stamped, sheet brass American Eagle. The Union Army’s renown “Iron Brigade” became associated with their wearing of the Hardee hats and were hence known as “The Black Hats”. Due to the issuing and utilization of sabers, the brim of Hardee hats worn by mounted soldiers in the cavalry and artillery, had their hats pinned up on the right side; infantrymen issued Hardee hats had their hats pinned up on the left side.

These hats were seemingly named after William J. Hardee, a career officer in the U.S. Army from 1838 until resigning his commission on January 31, 1861, to join the Confederate Army. During Hardee’s U.S. Army service, he was Commandant of Cadets at West Point from 1856 to 1860 and a lieutenant colonel in the 1st U.S. Cavalry until just prior to  the onset of the Civil War. Hardee, a schooled and skilled tactician, published, in 1855, “Rifle and Light Infantry Tactics for the Exercise and Manoeuvres of Troops When Acting as Light Infantry or Riflemen”, often referenced as “Hardee’s Tactics”; this book would become a highly touted period manual utilized by officers on both sides, during the Civil War. The Hardee hats are also often referred to as “Jeff Davis” hats; an allusion to Jefferson Davis’ tenure as Secretary of War from 1853 to 1857.

This example of an original, M1858 Dress Hat is in superior condition; it appears to have never been worn. The hat retains its original yellow (cavalry) worsted wool hat cord, as well as an original, enlisted man’s, sheet brass, crossed saber insignia, affixed to the front the hat; the original, black ostrich plume is on the hat, as well. This hat appears to have never had its right-hand side brim folded up, also indicative of the hat never having been issued. The pressed, black felt encompassing the body of the hat remains in excellent condition, exhibiting only the most minor of slight creases. Surrounding the exterior of the crown is the original, narrow, black silk, grosgrain ribbon. The interior crown retains the lacquered, dark brown, green, army label that depicts an American eagle, clutching an American flag, beneath of which are 13 stars, with the original, gummed label size tag, reading 71/8, all still in place. Finally, the original, wide brown, leather sweat band remains completely intact and in seemingly unworn condition. This hat is one of the best examples of the Model 1858 hats we have encountered.