Hardee Hat

Union Army Hat

The Hardee hat is also known as the Model 1858 Dress Hat and nicknamed the ‘Jeff Davis’, was the regulation dress hat for enlisted men in the Union Army during the American Civil War. The Hardee hat was also worn by Confederate soldiers.

However, most soldiers found the black felt hat to be too hot and heavy and shunned its use, preferring a kepi or slouch hat. In the Union Army, the most prominent wearers of the Hardee hat during the war were the soldiers of the Iron Brigade, also known as the Black-Hats.

The hat was named after William J. Hardee, a career officer in the U.S. Army from 1838 until resigning his commission on 31st January, 1861. Hardee was Commandant of Cadets at West Point from 1856 to 1860 and was lieutenant colonel of the 1st US Cavalry until just before the war. He joined the Confederate States Army in March 1861 and eventually became a lieutenant general and corps commander.

US Army regulations specified that the hat should be adorned with a brass hat device and a wool hat cord denoting the branch of service of the wearer:

  • sky blue for infantry
  • scarlet for artillery
  • yellow for cavalry

The brim was to be pinned up on the right side for cavalrymen and artillerymen, and on the left for infantry soldiers.

The Hardee hat was briefly revived during the Vietnam War, worn by helicopter pilots as a tribute to their cavalry roots, though it soon fell out of place in the face of increased danger from Viet Cong small arms fire. They are still worn today by US Army helicopter pilots and crew members, usually as a ceremonial headgear.

Other names for Hardee Hat

  • Model 1858 Dress Hat
  • Jeff Davis

Famous Hardee Hat wearers

  • William J. Hardee
  • US Cavalry
  • US Army helicopter pilots
  • Iron Brigade soldiers
  • LTC Kilgore in Apocalypse Now