MEXICAN WAR AND EARLY 1850s 8TH US INFANTRY OFFICER’S INSIGNIA

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Item Code: 480-244

These four pieces of insignia belonged to an officer of the 8th US Infantry who served in the Mexican War and into the 1850s at least, with the hat insignia and shoulder strap dating to his earlier service and the epaulet disks slightly later. The open hunting horn insignia appeared on infantry dress shakos in 1833 and the looped horn with a regimental number in it made its appearance in the War Department’s illustrations of the new 1839 pattern officer’s forage cap. Regulations at first proposed the insignia be worn on a colored branch of service band around the base of the cap, but by 1841 colored bands were abolished for officers’ caps, but the horn and number, as here, were to remain silver, changing to a gold horn and silver number in 1851. As is common in insignia of the period the patch on which the embroidery itself is done is black.

The narrow second lieutenant’s shoulder strap fits the 1841-1850 dating of the cap insignia. The bullion border is likewise silver, somewhat muted by age. The ground is black, which could indicate some staff duty, but was often close enough to the dark blue of the uniform to pass, as was the patch of hat insignia. Originally a simple strap used to retain the epaulet, the shoulder strap came into use on undress frock coats in 1829 to designate an officer and by 1834 bore rank insignia, with the plain field indicating a second lieutenant, as shown in the regulations of 1835. Straps tended to widen toward 1850/51, but this was not universal. Sherman’s 1st lieutenant straps of 1841-1850 are still just 1-inch wide and 3 ¾ inches long, though with bullion borders nearly ¼ inch rather than the regulation 1/8.

The embroidered disks with the number 8 date 1851 to 1855 or so. From 1831 to 1851 officers wore a regimental numeral directly applied to the epaulet with color of epaulet, silver or gold, indicating branch of service. Starting in 1851 the number was applied to a separate disk and by 1855 the ground of the disk was one of the new branch of service colors, in this case Saxony blue for infantry, which morphed into light blue.

Given the appropriate dates for the insignia, the officer who wore them was certainly part of the regiment’s early history at least. Organized in New York in 1838, the regiment spent two years along the Canadian border until mid-1840 when it was sent to Fort Winnebago in the Wisconsin Territory and then to Florida in September 1840 where it remained four years and fought in the Seminole Wars. It joined Taylor’s army in Texas in 1845, fighting at Palo Alto, Resaca, Monterey, Churubusco, Molino del Rey, Chapultepec, and the San Cosme gate. After the war it returned briefly to Jefferson Barracks in 1848, but was sent back to Texas late the same year, remaining there at various stations until 1861.

This is a visually pleasing and historically interesting set of pre-Civil War officer’s insignia.  [sr] [ph:m]

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