Civil War Hats

Liz ODonnell
Civil war era cap

Civil war hats are in demand from participants in historical military re-enactments, history buffs, antique collectors, fashionistas and actors. Luckily, they are easy to find.

Where to Find Civil War Hats

Dirty Billy has collected Civil War items since 1962. Today he sells them online at Dirty Billy's Hats and in his Gettysburg, Pennsylvania shop. He sells both original items and reproductions. He has made several hats for Hollywood productions including North and South, Rough Riders and Gettysburg starring Sam Elliot and Martin Sheen.

Dirty Billy reproductions are very close to the real thing. In fact, Dirty Billy got his name because he supposedly used to rub dirt from different Civil War battlefields on his reenactment clothing. The labels in his hats are reproduced from original labels. Reproduction hats average around $100 while an authentic hat from Dirty Billy can cost as much as $16,000. Dirty Billy does a chemical analysis to verify the age of original items.

The Clearwater Hat Company is based in the Ozark Mountains in Arkansas. This hat company, which has received several grants from the National Endowment of the Arts to collect folklore, has also outfitted Hollywood. The family-owned business provided the hats for Jude Law in the movie Cold Mountain. Most of Clearwater's Civil War-style hats sell f for $90. The company sells a Slouch hat, marked by a ribbon on the brim and a rounded crown.

Miller Hats, which claims to be the world's largest online men's hat store, sells authentic design Civil War hats. The Houston-based company sells hats with enlisted insignia and authentic-style hat cords for approximately $100.

Of course, you can also search Ebay and antique shops for hats from the Civil War. Collectors should look for authentic hats from the following manufacturers:

  • Lewis J. & Isaac Phillips of New York manufactured approximately 800,000 forage caps during the war.
  • Geo. Hoff & Co. of Philadelphia made approximately 620,000 forage caps from 1861 to 1865.
  • Thomas Murphy and William Griswald and Company from New York manufactured 583,000 forage caps from 1862 to 1865.
  • G. & S. or Griswald and Son of New York made hats with chin straps.
  • Brooks, Matthew of Philadelphia made approximately 26,000 contract caps for the US Army during 1862 through 1865.
  • Thompson, Goodrich, & Co. of Cincinnati made approximately 86,000 forage caps.

The army and militias purchased hast from these government commissioned manufacturers. Although the hat makers were strictly dictated, the styles of hats were not.

Types of Civil War Covers

The Slouch hat was just one style from the Civil War era. Confederates wore a style called a Kepi. It was a dark blue or gray cap with a sunken top. The kepi hat resembled a French hat called the chasseur cap. Officers wore a braid on their kepi hats to signify their rank. The number of braids varied based on rank with major generals wearing the most.

The forage cap was also known as the bummer cap. It had a visor and a curved shape. The sides were collapsed and the top was sunken. Most enlisted men in the Confederate Army would have worn several different styles during the time they served. Each state had its own militia and regular uniforms were not enforced throughout the military until well into the War. In addition, many soldiers could not afford to replace worn gear and were forced to create uniforms in any way they could.

Civil War Hats