Author Topic: 7th Cavalry uniform and equipment circa 1876?  (Read 625 times)

Offline smoke

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7th Cavalry uniform and equipment circa 1876?
« on: December 07, 2019, 08:41:59 pm »
I have been fascinated all my life by Custer and his last stand, ever since i got record about it.  Now with a trip out west in the spring I really want to dig into it.

I am looking for info/reference what the 7th Cavalry actually was issued and wore on the fateful campaign. 

I have numerous references about that US army 1865-1898 or so.  I know that the first half of the 1870's was a transitional time for the army.  1872/1874 tunics, 1874 shirt, etc.  Colt SAA, Trapdoor carbines etc.  New holsters, belts cartridge belts etc.  I know what was supposed to be issued to troopers.  I also know that units on campaign were often a law unto themselves.  They often wore their older uniforms, fair weather Christian belts, civilian hats etc. I know that at least some of Custer's companies were issued 1873 Colt SAA's and trapdoor carbines.

What I don't know is what they had actually been issued before the campaign or what they are know to have been wearing on it. 

Were all the 7th Cav. issued SAA's and trapdoor carbines?

Had they been issued newer holsters?  McKeever pouches/Dyer pouches?

Had the 1876 prairie belt been issued to them?

Is there any info on what they might have been wearing at the time?  I kinda assume that they were   wearing the standard skyblue trousers, grey shirt and teh 1872? campaign hat.  The one that had teh hook system.

Thanks for any help you can give me or any direction. you can point me.
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Offline Niederlander

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Re: 7th Cavalry uniform and equipment circa 1876?
« Reply #1 on: December 08, 2019, 05:52:37 am »
"Bugles, Saddles, and Warbonnets" by E. Lisle Reedstrom is an excellent place to start.  Doug McChristian's books are excellent, as well, but Reedstrom focuses on the 7th.  There is an almost limitless amount of information out there on this subject.  I can definitely recommend the authors above, though.  Good luck!

(By the way, I'd guess you'll get lots of replies on this!)
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Offline smoke

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Re: 7th Cavalry uniform and equipment circa 1876?
« Reply #2 on: December 08, 2019, 07:11:21 am »
"Bugles, Saddles, and Warbonnets" by E. Lisle Reedstrom is an excellent place to start. 

Thanks for the tip!  I just bought that off of Amazon.   ;D  I have his Apache Wars book also....never realized who the author was until now. 

I also have the 3 McChristian books on the US army 1870-1892 and the 2 Lee Rutledge books on teh US Army 1866-1886.  They are great resources and I have learned a lot.  I really want to dig down on the 7th and the Little Big Horn not only the weapons and gear but the battle also.
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Offline Niederlander

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Re: 7th Cavalry uniform and equipment circa 1876?
« Reply #3 on: December 08, 2019, 09:14:15 am »
You should probably read some of the classics such as Centennial Campaign by Gray, Custer in '76 by Camp, Cavalier in Buckskin by Utley, Son of the Morning Star by Connell, and The Custer Myth by Graham.  There are literally hundreds or thousands more.  One of my personal favorites is Crazy Horse and Custer:  The Parallel Lives of Two American Warriors by Ambrose.  I don't agree with everything in any of these books, and have some (I think) sound theories of my own, but it's hard to discuss the battle without reading some of the source material named above.  There's probably been more absolute drivel written and spoken about that particular battle than any other on record, and much of that because people don't take time to actually read, and then do some critical thinking.
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Offline River City John

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Re: 7th Cavalry uniform and equipment circa 1876?
« Reply #4 on: December 08, 2019, 09:58:34 am »
The two Lee Rutledge books are a good reference.

The Park Service had a booklet they put out about the Little Big Horn site and battle history authored by Robert M. Utley, former Chief Historian for the National Park Service. In it there were illustrations of typical clothing and accoutrements of troopers.

Any field campaign was rather hard on clothing, and often civilian items were called into service, too.


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Offline Tascosa Joe

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Re: 7th Cavalry uniform and equipment circa 1876?
« Reply #5 on: December 08, 2019, 11:15:55 am »
We did a Division staff ride on the 76 Sioux Campaign.  The instructor/mentors were from the Staff College at Leavenworth.  Very interesting and eye opening.
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Offline smoke

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Re: 7th Cavalry uniform and equipment circa 1876?
« Reply #6 on: December 08, 2019, 07:15:22 pm »
You should probably read some of the classics such as Centennial Campaign by Gray, Custer in '76 by Camp, Cavalier in Buckskin by Utley, Son of the Morning Star by Connell, and The Custer Myth by Graham.  There are literally hundreds or thousands more.  One of my personal favorites is Crazy Horse and Custer:  The Parallel Lives of Two American Warriors by Ambrose.  I don't agree with everything in any of these books, and have some (I think) sound theories of my own, but it's hard to discuss the battle without reading some of the source material named above.  There's probably been more absolute drivel written and spoken about that particular battle than any other on record, and much of that because people don't take time to actually read, and then do some critical thinking.

When I was about 6 years old my dad bought me this record. 

https://www.amazon.com/Storyteller-General-Custer-Geronimo-Record/dp/B01N2GFMRM



I loved it.  I listened to that record for years. We used ot watch all the John Wayne/John Ford westerns and all the other stuff that came on.  When I was around 6 or 7 my mom made me a Cavalry uniform, light blue jeans that she added yellow stripe,blue knit long sleeve pull over, a cheap kepi and a Marx brothers US 1860 Cav. saber.  ;D  I loved all that stuff.

As I got older (10 or so) we watched 'They died with their boots on" and dad started to tell me that most of it was wrong.   He was a great history buff and read constantly about the Indian wars.  To say i was disappointed is an understatement.  I did read some stuff after that but once I got married and started having a family etc. stuff like that got put on the back burner.  Now with kids raised and being semi retired i have the time to do what I have always wanted.  After my dad passed I got the pick of his very large boo collection.  A lot of words ot say, I may have those books that recommended.  I will go through them and see what i have.

Thanks for the recommendations!!
« Last Edit: December 08, 2019, 07:18:04 pm by smoke »
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Offline smoke

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Re: 7th Cavalry uniform and equipment circa 1876?
« Reply #7 on: December 08, 2019, 07:16:35 pm »
The two Lee Rutledge books are a good reference.

The Park Service had a booklet they put out about the Little Big Horn site and battle history authored by Robert M. Utley, former Chief Historian for the National Park Service. In it there were illustrations of typical clothing and accoutrements of troopers.

Any field campaign was rather hard on clothing, and often civilian items were called into service, too.


RCJ

RCJ...I will have to see if I can find that pamphlet. 

Thanks!!
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Offline Trailrider

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Re: 7th Cavalry uniform and equipment circa 1876?
« Reply #8 on: December 08, 2019, 10:41:44 pm »
I have been fascinated all my life by Custer and his last stand, ever since i got record about it.  Now with a trip out west in the spring I really want to dig into it.

I am looking for info/reference what the 7th Cavalry actually was issued and wore on the fateful campaign. 

I have numerous references about that US army 1865-1898 or so.  I know that the first half of the 1870's was a transitional time for the army.  1872/1874 tunics, 1874 shirt, etc.  Colt SAA, Trapdoor carbines etc.  New holsters, belts cartridge belts etc.  I know what was supposed to be issued to troopers.  I also know that units on campaign were often a law unto themselves.  They often wore their older uniforms, fair weather Christian belts, civilian hats etc. I know that at least some of Custer's companies were issued 1873 Colt SAA's and trapdoor carbines.

What I don't know is what they had actually been issued before the campaign or what they are know to have been wearing on it. 

Were all the 7th Cav. issued SAA's and trapdoor carbines?

Had they been issued newer holsters?  McKeever pouches/Dyer pouches?

Had the 1876 prairie belt been issued to them?

Is there any info on what they might have been wearing at the time?  I kinda assume that they were   wearing the standard skyblue trousers, grey shirt and teh 1872? campaign hat.  The one that had teh hook system.

Thanks for any help you can give me or any direction. you can point me.
I don't have access to the Ordnance Dept. records as far as issuance of holsters and belts for the 7th Cavalry, but an excellent source for equipages is "Arming & Equipping United States Cavalry 1865 - 1902", by Dusan P. Farrington.  The question of what the 7th was issued before the Big Horn & Yellowstone Expedition of 1876 is best answered by the practices of the Ordnance Dept. in that time frame. In particular, the Pattern 1876 cartridge belt was not developed and issued until reports came back from Capt. Michaelis and a lieutenant who accompanied him on a field inspection of Crook's command.  The standard issue for carrying carbine ammunition was the M1874 Dyer Pouch and the Ordnance modified pistol cartridge pouch that were leftovers from the percussion version. (The mod included removal of the wool liner and addition of the wooden block that held six rounds of .45 caliber pistol ammo.)  The problem with the Dyer pouch was the limited amount of carbine/rifle ammo, plus the concentration of weight on the trooper's belt. As Michaelis noted in his report, the majority of officers and troopers obtained "thimble" or Prairie belts with cartridge loops that would handle a lot more ammo, but distributed the weight more evenly.  As to the holsters, while it is possible that Pattern 1874 or 1875 holsters might have been distributed, the latter which would accommodate the Schofield revolver, the more likely thing would have been issue of the full-flap Pattern 1863 holsters, of which there were a large quantity in ordnance stores following the CW.

Since Custer didn't join the 7th at Ft. Abraham Lincoln until just before the start of the campaign, I doubt he would have had much influence in the equipages of his troopers, that primarily being left to the individual company commanders. The primary clothing and campaign dress and gear of General Crook's troopers, on the main column of the BH&Y Expedition of 1876, was described by his aide, (then) Lt. John G. Bourke, (as nearly as I can recall the quote), "We looked more like a band of brigands than a military command!"  He went on to describe that officers and men equipped themselves with whatever clothing and accoutrements (especially cartridge belts) that they could afford or scrounge.

Hope this is of some help in answering your questions.
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Offline Niederlander

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Re: 7th Cavalry uniform and equipment circa 1876?
« Reply #9 on: December 08, 2019, 10:50:39 pm »
When I was about 6 years old my dad bought me this record. 

https://www.amazon.com/Storyteller-General-Custer-Geronimo-Record/dp/B01N2GFMRM



I loved it.  I listened to that record for years. We used ot watch all the John Wayne/John Ford westerns and all the other stuff that came on.  When I was around 6 or 7 my mom made me a Cavalry uniform, light blue jeans that she added yellow stripe,blue knit long sleeve pull over, a cheap kepi and a Marx brothers US 1860 Cav. saber.  ;D  I loved all that stuff.

As I got older (10 or so) we watched 'They died with their boots on" and dad started to tell me that most of it was wrong.   He was a great history buff and read constantly about the Indian wars.  To say i was disappointed is an understatement.  I did read some stuff after that but once I got married and started having a family etc. stuff like that got put on the back burner.  Now with kids raised and being semi retired i have the time to do what I have always wanted.  After my dad passed I got the pick of his very large boo collection.  A lot of words ot say, I may have those books that recommended.  I will go through them and see what i have.

Thanks for the recommendations!!
I envy you all the fascination and fun you're going to have doing this research!  Enjoy!
"There go those Nebraskans, and all hell couldn't stop them!"

Offline Pay Dirt Norvelle

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Re: 7th Cavalry uniform and equipment circa 1876?
« Reply #10 on: December 09, 2019, 10:14:43 am »
There is a book on the Cavalry in the Indian Wars called "Forty Miles a Day on Beans and Hay". It is not specific on the 7th Cavalry, but will give you a general idea on the uniforms and equipment.
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Offline Niederlander

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Re: 7th Cavalry uniform and equipment circa 1876?
« Reply #11 on: December 09, 2019, 02:22:51 pm »
Another excellent source I'd forgotten to mention!
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Offline Tascosa Joe

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Re: 7th Cavalry uniform and equipment circa 1876?
« Reply #12 on: December 10, 2019, 09:13:08 am »
Look in the National Archives--Record Group 156-159, Microfilm Roll 1281.  This has a Summary of Ordnance and Ordnance Stores in the Hands of Troops in the Service of the United States 3rd quarter 1874.   i believe this will show the 7th had been issued Colts and Springfields by this time.  The book listing equipment I have is about the Red River Wars.  All the units except the 9th Cav had been issued the new weapons.  The 7th was way up on the pecking order although in a different department.
« Last Edit: December 10, 2019, 09:17:21 am by Tascosa Joe »
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Offline Trailrider

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Re: 7th Cavalry uniform and equipment circa 1876?
« Reply #13 on: December 10, 2019, 10:01:15 am »
Look in the National Archives--Record Group 156-159, Microfilm Roll 1281.  This has a Summary of Ordnance and Ordnance Stores in the Hands of Troops in the Service of the United States 3rd quarter 1874.   i believe this will show the 7th had been issued Colts and Springfields by this time.  The book listing equipment I have is about the Red River Wars.  All the units except the 9th Cav had been issued the new weapons.  The 7th was way up on the pecking order although in a different department.
I hadn't mentioned this, because I haven't had occasion to see how hard it may be nowadays to access these records.  I do have copies of the films, though I have to go to my local library where they happen to have a 35mm viewer.  I do have photocopies of the records, however, and concur about the 7th's issues.  I haven't really accessed these for a number of year now, but when I was, the Ordnance records ended in the June 1876 time period.  No one at the Archives seemed to know where any subsequent reports had gotten to! :(   
There are some interesting things that show up in these records about obsolescent arms being retained after the issuance of the M1873 Trapdoor Carbines.  Company G, 3rd Cavalry, for example, had been issued their Trapdoors at Ft. D.A. Russell in 1874, but retained five (5) M1869 Cartridge Conversion Sharps Carbines, cal. .50 (.50-70).  When they were reassigned to Sidney Barracks, NE, the following year, they brought those Sharps with them!  Why?  My research, covering more than 20 years, indicated these were used to arm their civilian employees (particularly teamsters and packers) who were in the field with the troops, and also for foraging (hunting) and target practice, in lieu of using .45-55-405 ammo.  The reason for not shooting the ammo for the Trapdoors was that the troops were only allowed three rounds per man per month (later increased to five rounds)) for non-combat purposes.  OTOH, there were 50,000 rounds of .50-70 ammo at Sidney in that time period. A young civilian teamster was apparently issued one of these Sharps, later apparently "lost" it or bought it outright, though there is no ordnance records to verify this.  Only his name carved in the stock, and his history as a frugal, honest gentleman who lived until 1944.
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Offline Niederlander

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Re: 7th Cavalry uniform and equipment circa 1876?
« Reply #14 on: December 10, 2019, 10:17:55 am »
If memory serves, while doing research on a relic 1873 Colt found in a pasture, the 7th was issued 1873 Colt pistols in 1874.
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Offline smoke

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Re: 7th Cavalry uniform and equipment circa 1876?
« Reply #15 on: December 10, 2019, 06:48:30 pm »
I don't have access to the Ordnance Dept. records as far as issuance of holsters and belts for the 7th Cavalry, but an excellent source for equipages is "Arming & Equipping United States Cavalry 1865 - 1902", by Dusan P. Farrington.  The question of what the 7th was issued before the Big Horn & Yellowstone Expedition of 1876 is best answered by the practices of the Ordnance Dept. in that time frame. In particular, the Pattern 1876 cartridge belt was not developed and issued until reports came back from Capt. Michaelis and a lieutenant who accompanied him on a field inspection of Crook's command.  The standard issue for carrying carbine ammunition was the M1874 Dyer Pouch and the Ordnance modified pistol cartridge pouch that were leftovers from the percussion version. (The mod included removal of the wool liner and addition of the wooden block that held six rounds of .45 caliber pistol ammo.)  The problem with the Dyer pouch was the limited amount of carbine/rifle ammo, plus the concentration of weight on the trooper's belt. As Michaelis noted in his report, the majority of officers and troopers obtained "thimble" or Prairie belts with cartridge loops that would handle a lot more ammo, but distributed the weight more evenly.  As to the holsters, while it is possible that Pattern 1874 or 1875 holsters might have been distributed, the latter which would accommodate the Schofield revolver, the more likely thing would have been issue of the full-flap Pattern 1863 holsters, of which there were a large quantity in ordnance stores following the CW.

Since Custer didn't join the 7th at Ft. Abraham Lincoln until just before the start of the campaign, I doubt he would have had much influence in the equipages of his troopers, that primarily being left to the individual company commanders. The primary clothing and campaign dress and gear of General Crook's troopers, on the main column of the BH&Y Expedition of 1876, was described by his aide, (then) Lt. John G. Bourke, (as nearly as I can recall the quote), "We looked more like a band of brigands than a military command!"  He went on to describe that officers and men equipped themselves with whatever clothing and accoutrements (especially cartridge belts) that they could afford or scrounge.

Hope this is of some help in answering your questions.

Trailrider...I appreciate your chiming in.

Thanks for the tip on the book.  I put it in my Amazon cart....the wife can "buy" it for me for Christmas.   

I was doing some re-reading of sources I have and apparently there are pics out there of some of Crook's men in the experimental/trials 1875 blue shirt.   Basically, from my understanding, just the 1874 shirt but in dark blue.

I knew that there were Custer eta Colt's and Trapdoors ser.#s.  It is good to get confirmation that they were actually issued ot them. 

It is interesting that the 1874 Dyer pouch was issued out but not the 1874 holsters...while at least unlikely they were issued.  I would guess that they were modified/upgraded to fit over .45-70 ammo on belts. 

I have seen saddler modified/sutler made belts referred to as both thimble and fair weather Christian belts.  Any clue as to why they were called "fair weather Christian"?

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Offline smoke

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Re: 7th Cavalry uniform and equipment circa 1876?
« Reply #16 on: December 10, 2019, 06:51:35 pm »
I envy you all the fascination and fun you're going to have doing this research!  Enjoy!

It's already fun and just getting better!
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Offline smoke

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Re: 7th Cavalry uniform and equipment circa 1876?
« Reply #17 on: December 10, 2019, 07:04:42 pm »
There is a book on the Cavalry in the Indian Wars called "Forty Miles a Day on Beans and Hay". It is not specific on the 7th Cavalry, but will give you a general idea on the uniforms and equipment.

I might have that one....gotta check.
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Offline Pitspitr

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Re: 7th Cavalry uniform and equipment circa 1876?
« Reply #18 on: December 11, 2019, 01:37:21 pm »
Campaigning With Crook by Capt. Charles King does a very good job of describing the experience of the campaign, even though it's the 5th instead of the 7th Cav. Campaigning with King is another good one.
While one must take Libby's books with a grain of salt, every once in a while you find good information in them. For instance (I believe it was) in Boots and Saddles she describes how that even though the officers had forbidden the men to bring harmonicas on campaign, a few had smuggled, "the little harps" in the tops of their boots.
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Offline Guns Garrett

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Re: 7th Cavalry uniform and equipment circa 1876?
« Reply #19 on: December 11, 2019, 03:13:36 pm »
For accessories, don't forget arrows....lots of arrows.

And bullet holes.
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