5th U.S. Infantry officer’s shako; attributed to Colonel Nelson A. Miles.
The exact shako is featured in John Langellier’s work, “Army Blue, The Uniforms of Uncle Sam’s Regular- 1848-1873,” page 212. Coming out of the Civil War as a major general, Miles reverted back to colonel in 1866, and given command of the 5th U.S. Infantry. The shako is not identified, but attributed to Miles. From the Ex-Wes Clark collection. I have no documentation other than the placement and identification within Langellier’s book.
This 1872 pattern shako was made between 1872- 1875, as initially the infantry branch insignia was still the horn, which changed in 1875, when the crossed rifles were adopted. This Infantry (Heavy Artillery as well) shako pattern would be replaced in 1881 with a completely different pattern more in line with British helmets of the time.
The body is a pressed felt, and fine wool covered on the exterior. Narrow 1/8 inch bullion tape is used to embellish the base of the shako and the crown. More bullion tape is used (one on each side and to the rear) vertically. A squared finished bordered visor is painted in green, is is holding firm to the shako. The wool has a few very small moth holes, and one replaced area about a finger tip size on the right rear side. Chinstrap is sound and held in place with the use of two Infantry “I” buttons.
On the crown, a pinwheel vent is placed at the center, and a brass plate a the forward point of the crown provides a protective shield when mounting the feather plume.
What is atypical about the insignia on this shako is the use of earlier regulation Hardee hat eagle and horn. The standard eagle and horn are small and fit together nicely in front, as these overlap due to their size. As many officers would do, the might wish to save money by using existing insignia, and or using “militia” type shako with proper insignia to meet their need, yet still meeting army standards. (See an image of an artillery officer with a militia style shako listed on this site). The large infantry horn in gold bullion is in fine condition (one thread pull) and has an applied silver bullion “5” for the regiment number. This overlaps the Hardee hat eagle that was trimmed on the edges to allow it to conform to this need, and this is in great condition as well.
The interior has no maker’s label, and supports the idea that the officer wished to purchase a shako body and use is own insignia. The silk lining is in fine condition, as is the sweatband (some stitching broken loose at the very back for about 2 inches.
I purchased this without it’s original ostrich plume, and offer this replacement for display.
Size approximately 7- 7 1/8.
Worn for less than ten years by the regular army, and hard to find in any condition.
A Great Indian Wars shako worn by a Civil War general and Medal of Honor recipient, who remained in the army until 1903. He was born in Westminster, Massachusetts, just over the hill from me, in 1839. He passed away in 1925. Miles had a long and successful career.