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PATTERN 1883 5 BUTTON ENLISTED MAN’S BLOUSE OR UNIFORM COAT – AN EXCELLENT MAKER MARKED AND INSPECTED SPECIMEN:  Examples of the Indian Wars era original five button US Army Blouses are not particularly common, and those that have survived in the condition of the one offered here are almost nonexistent.  Due to the environments in which they were worn, and that the relatively few which did survive were poorly stored, finding an example of these blouses in decent condition is notable.  In the case of this blouse, it was obviously issued, but could not have been worn on more than a few occasions.  This specimen genuinely ranks in the cream of the crop when it comes to Indian War era blouses. 

Due to the several changes in pattern and features to which the standard blouse was subjected in a short, three year period – 1883-1886 – several features ordered in the earlier pattern such as button or pocket placement bled over into subsequent patterns.  This was the result of the Quartermaster’s efforts to exhaust the quantities of existing stocks of clothing before producing a newer pattern.  Where possible, the new changes ordered for the blouses were incorporated in those currently in the manufacturing pipeline or those which had not yet been issued.   

In the best of circumstances, there were no distinct lines of demarcation in the issue or use of any of the clothing, weapons, or equipment during the Indian War era, as is documented in period photographs.  Driven by limited finances and huge stocks of material left over from the Civil War, the army made every effort to use up any stocks in inventory prior to even manufacturing new material, much less issuing it.  So when the army came to the point of manufacturing new uniforms such as these five button blouses, and the pattern changed as often as it did from 1883-1886, it is no surprise that some combinations of features of the different patterns is often encountered in surviving examples of these Indian War period uniforms.  This characteristic is well documented and described in John Langellier’s More Army Blue – The Uniform of Uncle Sam’s Regulars 1874-1887 (both of these volumes are highly recommended). 

This blouse most closely follows the Pattern 1883, with the addition of the cuff buttons as ordered in 1886, but without the three exterior pockets as ordered in 1884.  That this blouse was made to the specifications of the regulations and was the product of the regular army clothing supply system, there can be no doubt, as it is well marked with the ink stamps identifying the Quartermaster Depot that accepted the blouse and the maker’s name. That these ink stamps survive is further testimony to the lack of wear to which the blouse was subjected, as these ink stamps were prone to fade or wash away with only minimal wear when subjected to the body heat and perspiration of the soldier. 

This blouse was certainly issued, but as noted above it was worn very gently and well cared for over the years.  It presents in as close to “like new” condition as one can reasonably expect.   

The material is overall very clean and the color is consistent without any fading, stains or discoloration.  The wool is still supple and has not hardened as is often seen when these woolen uniforms are exposed to poor storage. 

There is no significant damage or evidence of wear, and all of the seams are intact.  There are two small snags (less than 1/8”) in the material above the left breast and just below the crest of the left shoulder.  The two snags are aligned in an angle running from the point of the shoulder down towards the centerline of the body of the coat.  The positioning of these two snags strikes me as being in the very area and along the same line that a cavalry soldier’s carbine sling would lay across his shoulder and chest, and chafe against his blouse, and these snags would be the sort of wear caused by the sling buckle or the rivets used to assemble the sling. 

The body of the blouse is full lined with a polished black cotton material.  The lining is fully intact and shows no evidence of wear and no damage.  The collar is full form without any wear to the edge or where the collar folds over, and the loop provided for hanging the blouse on a hook is still intact and in excellent condition.   

There is a single breast pocket with a “slash” finished opening in the seam between the lining and the wool facing which also has the button holes.  On the inside edge of the pocket, there is a period applied label bearing the soldier’s name and what may be tailor or laundry notations.   

There is one feature which was not regulation, but is an example of the sort of additions the individual soldiers made to their uniforms.  On the lower left front of the lining is a 6” square, open topped pouch or pocket sewn onto the lining and made of the same material as the lining.  This pocket may have held the soldier’s handkerchief, a note book, a pair of gloves worn during guard mount, or any number of other necessities the soldier needed close at hand.    

The sleeves are both lined with patterned cotton material which is clean and shows no tearing or wear.  The edge of each cuff has a minor (less than 1/8”) snag which was apparently repaired during the period of use.  Interesting that both cuffs have this same snag and it suggests that they were in some way associated with the soldier’s daily routine.  Both arm holes where the sleeve joins the body of the blouse are fully intact with no loss of stitching and no staining.   

The interior lining of the right sleeve is ink stamped “THE W.H. HORSTMANN CO.” and the interior of the lining of the left sleeve is ink stamped “U.S. QMD” in an oval and “PHILA” indicating this blouse was accepted into and issued from the Quartermaster Department’s Philadelphia Clothing Depot.   

All five of the US General Service buttons are present on front of the blouse and each sleeve cuff is decorated with three of smaller version of that same button.  The buttons are apparently original to the blouse, as all the buttons bear the HORSTMANN back mark.   

Examples of Indian Wars era Enlisted Man’s Blouses are not particularly common, and specimens in this excellent condition are virtually nonexistent on the market.  This is a superb example of the desirable Indian War Enlisted Man’s Blouse worn by the men who wrote much of the history of the Western Frontier, and it would be very a very special addition to your collection which would never need to be upgraded.  (1107) $975

NOTE:  To say that photographing dark blue wool is a challenge is an understatement.  In normal lighting, it appears black and none of the finer features or condition details can be seen clearly in the photographs.  In order to highlight the features and provide you with an accurate view of the material, I have to lighten the contrast of the photograph which in turn causes the even colored dark blue wool to appear faded or discolored when such is not the case.  This coat is an even dark blue color with no fading or discoloration, as is seen in the photographs of the larger areas of the coat. 



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