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IDENTIFIED “ROUGH RIDER’S” ca. 1898 TROPICAL UNIFORM BLOUSE – SGT. GEORGE W. ARMIJO TROOP F, 1ST US VOLUNTEER CAVALRY -  AN EXCELLENT HISTORIC UNIFORM WITH WELL DOCUMENTED PROVENANCE:   This ca. 1898 Khaki Uniform Blouse belonged to, and is identified to, Sgt. George Washington Armijo of the 1st US Volunteer Cavalry, otherwise known to history as “The Rough Riders".   Armijo's enlistment in the 1st USV, his presence in Cuba, and his close relationship with President Theodore Roosevelt are all well documented.   

Discovered in a New Mexico home, this historic piece was fortunately regarded in sufficient esteem that some effort was made to maintain the identification of the soldier through the years.  At the time of the initial purchase, in one of the pockets a simple piece of paper was found with the inscription, “Sgt. Georg Armijo, Santa Fe, 1st US Vol”.   

George Washington Armijo, the son of Mariano de Jesus Armijo (1852 - 1904) and Dolores Elizabeth "Lola" Chavez (1863 - 1919), was born March 16, 1876 in Peralta, Valencia County, New Mexico Territory.  On May 2, 1898, George W. Armijo enlisted as a Sergeant with Troop F, 1ST US Volunteer Cavalry - The Rough Riders - deployed to Cuba, and shortly after arriving Sgt Armijo was wounded during The Battle of La Guasimas on June 24TH, having received a gunshot wound to his wrist.  He survived his wound and returned with the regiment to be mustered out in New York in September of 1898.   

Armijo returned to New Mexico where he became a political figure of considerable standing, serving in a number of appointed and elected positions for the balance of his life, to include: Chief Clerk of the State House of Representatives, vice president of the Santa Fe City School Board, an alderman for the City of Santa Fe, and Probate Clerk & Recorder for Santa Fe,  As New Mexico Territory prepared for statehood, Armijo was elected as the Secretary of the Constitutional Convention on October 3, 1910, and in 1920 he was elected as the Sheriff of Santa Fe County. 

There was a very strong relationship between Armijo and Roosevelt that survived long after the Spanish American War ended and the Rough Riders disbanded.  I have found personal correspondence between the two, and not only did Armijo name his first son Theodore Roosevelt Armijo after the president, but Roosevelt attended the boy’s christening as a witness of record.     

I have done considerable research on Armijo, his enlistment with the Rough Riders, his family, and some of the New Mexico history that reflects his life.  A comprehensive biography, a detailed letter documenting the provenance of the coat, enlistment rosters of the 1ST USV, copies of period photos of Armijo, and a copy of a letter sent to Armijo by Roosevelt have been assembled in a binder which will accompany the sale of his uniform blouse.  

Approved just prior to the start of the Spanish American War, these khaki colored, cotton blouses were adopted with the issue of General Order No. 39 on May 9, 1898.  While the standard issue uniforms provided to the regular army soldiers were ordered to be trimmed with the color of the branch of service (G.O. 51, May 23, 1898), the volunteer units purchased their uniforms from civilian suppliers, and although adhering to the khaki cotton material, they varied somewhat from the regulation pattern.      

Overall the blouse is in very good condition with no open seams and no evidence of abuse or significant damage to the material.  It does show evidence of use in the tropics, with some characteristic fading, most certainly the result of prolonged exposure to the tropical sun and repeated laundering – including the possibility of being washed in salt water during the ship board transit to and from Cuba.  (For those of you who have never been treated to the joy of wearing salt water washed clothing aboard a ship when fresh water rationing is in force – well, you’ve been denied one of the more or less subtle tortures life has to offer.)   

The color of the khaki has a definite light rose tint to it as can be seen in the photographs below.  The color of the khaki material used in this blouse is very similar to the color of the khaki gabardine trousers worn with the World War Two US Army “Pinks and Greens”.  In the case of the color of this blouse, it is likely the fading that resulted in this tint.   

Embroidered in gold bullion directly on each side of the collar of the blouse is the unit identification, “1 U.S.V.”.  The front of the blouse and the four pocket flaps are closed with the standard issue uniform eagle buttons – all present and each mounted with the disc and cotter pin arrangement which allows them to be removed when the blouse is laundered.  Both sleeves bear the correct cavalry sergeant’s chevrons.  The chevrons are in very good condition, with minimal fading consistent with the khaki material and no significant wear, still retaining much of the yellow color.   

The fabric of the blouse is in overall very good condition with one small hole (¼”) immediately next to the right front breast pocket.  The collar and all four pockets are full form and do not show any significant wear or damage.  The most apparent condition issue is the few rust stains primarily along the crest of both shoulders, likely the result of storage on a metal hanger.     

The note found in the pocket, in addition to the inscription quoted above, also bears a second notation in red ink, likely added by one of the subsequent owners after the blouse was originally purchased, “Became congressman in NM”.  In fact, Armijo was not a congressman, and the writer of this additional information was probably confusing Armijo’s role in the New Mexico Constitutional Convention with serving in congress. 

This blouse has passed through the hands of a short list of well respected collectors and I have been able to document the provenance of ownership through the five previous owners, beginning with the man who purchased the blouse from the estate.  I am very comfortable with the honesty of the former owners - I know several of them personally – and equally certain of the information regarding the history and discovery of the blouse. 

Given the short duration of the Spanish American War coupled with the limited number of soldiers in the 1st US Volunteers, and considering their uniforms were subjected to the severe use and wear of combat in a tropical environment, that this blouse survived at all is remarkable.  Further reducing the likelihood of survival was the common practice of issuing new uniforms to troops returning from the tropics and requiring that their old uniforms be burned to prevent the introduction and spread of disease within the continental United States.  In the case of the Rough Riders, they were held in quarantine on Long Island, New York upon their return for 30 days to prevent the introduction of just such contagions.  

Material identified to the 1ST US Volunteer Cavalry continues to hold the interest of the collecting community as one of the most well known military units in our nation’s history and this offering is a rare opportunity to acquire a uniform that belonged to a member of Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders.  Sergeant Armijo was one of that special breed – the last of the frontier bred soldiers who not only served with distinction in this historic unit, but then returned to husband his native homeland into the 20th Century and through the process of statehood.    SOLD



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