St. George's Notes XXI - Indian Scout Uniforms...
« on: August 02, 2005, 12:42:43 PM »
Every so often - someone wants to do an Impression of a Scout - more often, an Indian Scout or someone associated with them.
That way - they get to use all sorts of bits and pieces that they figure a scout would wear.
There was a difference, though.
Early on - such fanciful dress would've been a common sight, since those folks would not've been subject to a uniform - but after 1866 - things changed, because prior to that time - Indians employed as scouts and guides were not actually soldiers but were considered employees.
The history of Indians employed by the Army is a long one - Indians having aided the Army in the Revolution, the War of 1812, and on both sides of the Civil War - with at least one becoming a General.
In 1891 - the War Department manned some Cavalry Troops and Infantry Companies with Indians - but these men served as regular troops - wearing the standard uniform - and 'not' as Indian Scouts.
On 28 July 1866 - the Congress authorized the Army to have a Corps of Indian Scouts.
There was an 'actual' uniform that came about in at that time - and they wore cast-off and obsolete uniforms.
In 1890 - special uniforms were prescribed - with that uniform being proposed by First Lieutenant Edward Casey - Commander of the Indian Scouts Troop at Fort Keough, Montana, who wrote the Secretary of War with his suggestions.
War Department Circular - dated 15 August 1890 - authorized a distinct uniform virtually unchanged from that of the one suggested by the Lieutenant.
It included a Black felt fatigue hat with a 3 1/2" brim and a 3 1/2" crown, A White hat cord with a Red strand intermixed decorated the hat, along with a special hat ornament.
The standard Dark Blue shirt was modified to have a deeper collar "to hold a neck-handkerchief".
The overcoat was unusual insofar as it was designed to fit over 'all' accouterments.
It came within 10" of the ground, featured a long rear slit to allow for more comfortable seating on the saddle and it at also had a pointed hood.
A surviving example is in the Collection of Fort Sill's Museum.
The Scout Dress uniform was generally similar to the standard uniform with chevrons, trouser stripes and other trim of White with Red trim.
When that uniform changed in 1902 - the White with Red trim remained.
From 1890 until early in the twentieth century - Regulations called for Indian Scouts to wear Silver-colored crossed arrows on the Dress Blue uniform's Brass helmet plate.
The Quartermaster Depot initially stocked this insignia, but by 1900 all initial purchases were exhausted.
Lieutenant Casey recommended: "Two arrows, crossed, to be made of nickel or of some white metal, three inches in height, the letters USS in the intersection' as the ornament for the special Black hat.
The Office of the Quartermaster General Specifications Number 318, dated March 1892 - depicts this insignia.
The Philadelphia Quartermaster Depot issued several hundred of these insignia and in November of 1893 - placed a second order for 323 additional devices - as the cost of .15 each.
As an aside - in the 1960's - a partial original insignia was used to make a die and restrike copies were made of this unique insignia.
No complete original hat devices are known - though the Philadelphia Depot had 275 in stock in March of 1901.
Prescribed in 1902 - the block letters USS were worn on both the collar and the hat - until they were withdrawn in 1907 when the Army removed all Campaign hat insignia.
In 1902 - the Bronze letters were also worn on the collars of service coats until the Army changed to a collar disk in 1910.
Also in 1902 - the Army decided not to issue the Indian Scouts a new dress uniform - issuing Service uniforms only.
Specifications of 1915 call for Gilt letters of the same design and style of the older Bronze letters.
No evidence has been given to suggest that they were produced, as there was no Dress uniform requiring their issue.
In March 1921 - the Indian Scouts became a part of the Detached Enlisted Man's List - and were authorized a collar disk featuring the crossed arrows - unlike that of the regularly-issued disk for that element - the Great Seal.
Few would actually wear this insignia, as by that time there were only 23 men eligible.
With the adoption of the crossed arrow disk - the USS disk disappeared completely.
In the '20's and '30's - Indian Scouts served as a labor force - assisting carpenters, plumbers and others.
They wore whatever insignia was available as they faded into the mists of history - though one Apache Scout Detachment continued to perform military duties (a wide-ranging description, to be sure) until disbanded in 1947.
In speaking of reference books - a very good reference on Indian Scouts is:
"The Indian as a Soldier at Fort Custer, Montana" - by Upton.
It goes into much of the material surrounding those soldiers and is well-written and well-researched.
No idea where a copy may be found.
The Indian Scouts pictured are in the standard Army dress, though - as required.
Another good book for your references is:
"To Live and Die in the West - The American Indian Wars" - by Hook and Pelger, and available through Osprey.
Yet another is:
'Wolves for the Blue Soldiers' - Dunlay
'Scouting for the U.S. Army, 1876 - 1879, the Diary of Fred M. Hans' - reprinted from the South Dakota Historical Collections, in 1981
If you want a more 'colorful' look and yet a 'realistic' one - Frederick Remington's artwork is pretty accurate and has the added feature of some color.
What I'm referencing here - is the 'standard' uniform as laid down in Regulations and seen at the Fort or in Garrison.
'On Campaign' - as often noted - there was sometimes a wider variety of clothing worn.
Varieties of that are seen in Remington's work - as well as in pictures taken in the field.
The Indian Scouts were led by white Officers - detailed from their parent Branch.
That Branch was most likely Cavalry and they were to return to it upon completion of their assignment as Commanders of those detachments.
They would've worn the Crossed Sabers of that Arm.
Non-Commissioned Officers were drawn from the ranks of the Indians - as were those in Regular units.
The only photo of an Indian Scout - a Crow from Troop L, 1st Cavalry - wearing any sort of hat ornament, by the way - is one of an NCO wearing a pair of the M1872 Crossed Sabers.
Take that for what you will...
Unfortunately, as far as historical accuracy is concerned - Hollywood muddied the waters a long time ago through 'artistic license', and thus was born the "John Ford Reference Library" - a wholly-ficticious, yet dangerous place to draw an accurate picture of the Frontier Army.
The above covers Indian Scouts.
White scouts would wear the commonly available civilian clothing, and not articles of uniform, since association with the Army wasn't something to be overly proud of, as the Frontier Army was looked at as if it were a parasite on the public treasury - despite the often dangerous duty, and even commissioned Officers were viewed askance.
Some articles of equipment would be available - sold, as mentioned earlier, by deserters.
The Quartermaster contract wagoner/freighter - of which there were many - were sometimes supplied with obsolete weapons and ammunition as may be available on Post - but it was more a case of outfitting the 'wagon' than the man - like supplying a spare wheel.
Good Luck, and Happy Researching...