CIVIL WAR ISSUE L.J. & I. PHILLIPS CONTRACT FORAGE CAP WITH INFANTRY INSIGNIA

$1,495.00 SOLD

Quantity Available: None

Item Code: 2024-542

This original Civil War Union army forage still has its original contractor’s paper label inside reading, "Size No 4 / 7 8/1 / U.S. Army. / L. J. & I. Phillips." The “8/1” is an original printer’s error for “1/8,” the label providing the both the standard army sizing and the normal civilian equivalent. Lewis J. and Isaac Phillips of New York had huge army contracts for caps every year of the war, furnishing some 35,000 in 1861, 175,000 or more in 1862, 251,000 in 1863, 330,200 in 1864, and even 50,000 on a contract of January 1, 1865. The forage cap was the typical headgear of the Union soldier, the quintessential, universally recognizable Civil War headgear, and if there was a typical forage cap, it was likely one by L. J. & I Phillips.

This is the typical issue pattern for enlistedmen and what some collectors refer to as a Type-II, having a fairly boxy profile, wide top, and flat visor. The cap is fitted with an original Civil War issue stamped brass hunting horn indicating infantry service. The chinstrap is in place, secured by two small general service eagle buttons at the sides, and is the common issue pattern using a floating friction buckle that acts as a stop against the loops on either end of the two-piece chinstrap.

The cap rates about good for condition, showing scattered moth nips overall, with some on the lower portion exposing the light brown buckram lining stiffener, particularly around the lower rear edge. One spot on the wearer’s lower left front had a piece of matching fabric put in. On the top there is a semicircular tear, with no missing fabric, near the mouthpiece of the infantry horn that has been left as is. The interior has the full polished cotton lining in place, with the label intact, though the sweatband has a tear on the wearer’s left front, and wear along the left rear. This has been stabilized by a line of stitching along its top and on the bottom, folded, edge where necessary. The visor has been restitched on the wearer’s front left, and there seems to be a small semi-circular glue mark on the right. Little of this shows on the exterior, however.

The cap shows dust and dirt from storage and the infantry horn has a matching aged patina. The presence of the excellent label suggests the hat was a surplus piece, however; though the sweatband does show wear to its finish.

The forage cap was adopted army wide in 1858 and descended from the prewar shako, at least as it looked after exposure to the elements. They were intended to be worn on “fatigue” duties with the Hardee hat serving as the dress hat, but it is the forage cap that is the most recognizable piece of Civil War headgear and a key piece in any Civil War collection or display. They were so common as to become scarce: most soldiers probably went through several of these in their army service and few thought to preserve them. Those that were kept usually met their fate in doing chores around a farm or were simply discarded over the years by the veteran or his family. Those in government stockpiles were sold off as the army was reduced and regulations changed, and surplus dealers advertised them as cheap workman’s caps for years after.  [sr][ph:m/L]

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