SCARCE INDIAN WAR US ARMY 1872 PATTERN SHOE WITH FIELD REPAIR

$1,850.00

Quantity Available: 1

Item Code: 1052-576

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New pattern shoes and boots were introduced in the U.S. Army in 1872 and in use until the 1880s. These shoes improved upon Civil War issue patterns mainly by using brass screws in the soles, rather than just pegs or sewing, to better withstand campaigning on rough and rocky ground such as the army operated over in the American southwest. This is a great example that is solid, very displayable, and shows a field repair made by a soldier stationed at Fort Pembina in North Dakota. In this case the brass screws held the sole together fine, but the soldier wore a hole through the leather sole on the ball of his foot, exposing the inner sole, a hole that he then repaired by simply sewing a leather patch over it, which apparently worked for a time, but then gave way, leading him to simply discard the shoe entirely.

The pattern was similar to the Civil War issue patterns, with square toe, rough-side out black leather uppers consisting of vamp and quarters, an interior counter at the lower back, holes for shoelace or thong, and with the uppers coming up a bit higher on the ankle than the Civil War versions. This one is solid, can be handled, and displays well, though the leather is stiff and oxidized slightly toward brown, but with only a couple of small gray or white spots, and a narrow gap on the right between the top of the sole and the uppers, about 3 inches long, in part due to the soldier’s repair, which involved sewing a 3 by 3 inch piece of leather over the hole, which is about 2 ½ by 1 ½ inches, with the patch mostly tearing off at some point from further use. The small brass screws are all there, showing verdigris. The heel is missing some of its leather layers. Just one is in place on underside of the sole. The shoelace is missing, but the lacing holes are not torn out- four on each side and two on the tongue.

This is looks very much like a barn or attic-find from a veteran’s estate, but in fact was excavated at Fort Pembina, a US army fort established in 1870, where anaerobic soil conditions have yielded cloth and leather gear in remarkable states of preservation. (Think of the Roman fort at Vindolanda in Britain, where similar conditions are giving up 2,000 year-old sandals, etc.) The fort was established by troops of the 20th US Infantry in 1870 and operated until 1895, when it was abandoned after a fire and the land later sold. This was excavated on private property with the owner’s permission.

The fort was situated in the Red River Valley in North Dakota near the Canadian border. Trading posts existed earlier in the area as part of the fur trade, and the first U.S. military post there was temporary- manned by a detachment of Minnesota troops in 1863-1864 following the 1862 Sioux uprising. In March 1870 a new fort was established south of the Pembina River and about 200 yards west of the Red River, completed by July and named in honor of Gen. George H. Thomas. The name was changed to Fort Pembina in September and the initial garrison consisted of two companies of the 20th US Infantry. Their main purpose was to provide security for settlers worried about Sioux returning south from Canada, but much of their duty involved escorting boundary surveys along the Canadian border and preventing Fenian raids heading north into Canada.

The fort included enlistedmen’s barracks, officers’ quarters, guard house, ordnance storehouse, company kitchen, root house, laundress’s quarters, quarters for civilian employees, hospital and hospital servant’s house, a barn for the “hospital cow,” quartermaster and commissary offices and storehouse, stables, wagon shed, etc. The garrison reached peak strength in 1878 of 200, but the average was about 125 enlisted men and 8 officers. An October 1885 return listed 97 men, 2 field pieces, 1 mountain howitzer, 100 rifles, 19 pistols, 23 mules, and 9 wagons. By 1890 the post had just 23 men, and after an 1895 fire destroyed some 19 buildings it was decided to abandon the fort rather than rebuild, the last detachment left in September. The property was turned over to the Interior Department and later sold in 1902.

This is a nice example of a scarce piece of army-issue gear. Although an essential item, shoes were hardly the thing to be preserved by a soldier or his family in memory of his service. This has the added attraction of being repaired to keep it in service, a problem likely much greater at a small frontier post like Fort Pembina, where resupply might be infrequent. [sr][ph:L]

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