US REGULAR ARMY INFANTRY OFFICER’S MODEL 1872 KEPI ACTUALLY WORN AT A US ARMY FRONTIER FORT

$2,250.00

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Item Code: 1052-246

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This US army M1872 officer’s kepi is in a remarkable state of preservation and could be mistaken for a barn or attic find, but actually comes from excavations at Fort Pembina, ND, in operation from 1870 to 1895, where the anaerobic conditions of the dig have yielded both leather and cloth in good condition.

The color of the fabric has shifted from dark blue to a light brown with white and gray stains, but the cloth remains soft and the visor is firmly attached. The lining is long gone, but the leather stiffener in the crown is there and much of the sweatband. The cap has a 1 ¼” band around the base, rises to about 2” in front, and has a flat visor about 1 ½” deep with a bound edge. This is very much the M1872 pattern, derived from the Civil War chasseur style forage cap. The chinstrap is missing, but the cap still retains both small “eagle-I” officer’s buttons on the sides, one corroded, indicating wear by an infantry officer. There is a narrow 1 ½” slit along the upper edge at the top of the cap on the wearer’s left, with a shorter 1” slit along the top of the band, just below that. Otherwise we see just one very small hole on the lower left edge and lower right center front.

Model 1872 caps as a pattern are not hard to find. They were used for decades by national guard, fraternal and masonic groups, veterans’ groups, military academies, etc. Finding one that is regular army, however, is difficult, and especially one with real use at a frontier post. Situated in the Red River Valley in North Dakota near the Canadian border, Fort Pembina was established in 1870 with an initial garrison of two companies of the 20th US Infantry, and in operation until 1895. 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 first in honor of Gen. George H. Thomas, with the name changing to Fort Pembina in September. The main duty of the garrison was to provide security for settlers worried about Sioux returning south from Canada, but the troops also served to escort boundary surveys along the Canadian border and prevent Fenian raids 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 af 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 in remarkably good condition for an excavated piece, is very displayable, and has a tight provenance to an Indian War post garrisoned by the U.S. army for a well-defined period that encompasses the 1870s and 1880s Indian Wars.  [sr][ph:L]

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