- Beaver-felt Military Hatwith Bearskin, Cockade, and Plume 1
Between about 1794 and 1810, every enlisted infantryman was issued a tall hat — called a "round hat" in original documents — that stood about 5 inches high and had a two-inch brim. The dress version of this hat was decorated with a leather cockade and white laced strap, a white deer's tail, a strip of black bear's fur running over the top, and white worsted trim around the brim. Artillerymen wore the more traditional three-cornered cocked hat laced with yellow worsted trim.2
According to modern military tradition, the gesture we call a salute originated in medieval times, with the raising of the armored knight's visor. However, in the 18th century the proper gesture between gentlemen was a low bow accompanied by a sweeping removal of the hat.
During the Revolutionary War cavalrymen and light infantry men, who wore leather helmets, were permitted the simpler motion of raising the flat of the hand up to touch the brim. British soldiers used a similar gesture if not wearing cocked hats. Upon the introduction of the round hat, it was soon discovered that the old-fashioned doffing of the hat quickly broke down the stiff, narrow brim, so the abbreviated gesture became the preferred one.
1. Re-creation by Robert Moore, Historian at Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, St. Louis; Peyton C. Clark; Greg Hudson, Weeping Heart Trade Company, Ehrlanger, Kentucky. Photos by Jon Stealey.
2. "Worsted" yarn is made of wool that has been combed to remove the short fibres, and make the remaining long fibres lie parallel so they can be twisted more tightly than the usual full-bodied wool yarns.