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Thread: Civil War Forage Caps: A Review of Several Modern Sutlers

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    Familiar Face Doc Glockster's Avatar
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    Civil War Forage Caps: A Review of Several Modern Sutlers




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    Civil War Forage Caps: A Review of Major Sutlers

    Ever since I was a kid, I have been fascinated by the Civil War forage cap, or bummer. Often erroneously called a kepi, the forage cap is distinguished by the taller crown and lack of a prominent welt around the crown disc’s top edge. This gives the appearance that someone has sewn a plate into the top of the hat, and the weight of it usually allows the crown to droop forward over the forehead. This is the look that most wearers of forage caps hope for, so it will figure prominently in my reviews. Usually, if you lightly wet the area around the crown disc, then shape the crown to drape forward as it dries while you wear the cap, you will get the right look. Be careful not to soak the hat, though. The crown disc is usually just a form of cardboard, and you can ruin it.

    I wasn’t quite as concerned with 100% authenticity as a dedicated reenactor might be. I collect these hats and wear them as a novelty to gun shows, barbecues, and whatnot. Usually I get at least one compliment.

    I ordered a forage cap from each of several top sutlers and compared them for fit, appearance, and quality of construction. All caps were Federal Type 2 (larger crown disc) unless otherwise noted. Unfortunately, I can’t post photos because the caps I disliked I quickly got rid of.

    1. CD Jarnigan—Older caps made by this company looked more authentic. Completed auctions on eBay show caps that might have been top quality at one time. What I got from Jarnigan was clearly not up to that standard. For one thing, the crown disc had a welt around it like a kepi should, and the crown disc material was so lightweight that it just would not drape properly even after lightly wetting the cap. Construction looked cheap, too.
    2. NJ Sekela—The cap’s fit seemed all wrong. For my size, 7 ¼, it felt about half a size too small. The crown was not quite tall enough to allow the disc to drape very well, either, leaving the cap with the crown disc sort of hovering above the forehead. After giving the cap away, I began to wonder if they sent me one with the size marked wrong.
    3. Mike Anderson—Too bad Mike decided to retire recently. I probably got one of his last forage caps. The crown disc is slightly larger than any of the other offerings, but not so large as to be inauthentic or an obvious difference compared to other caps. All in all, the Mike Anderson cap looked, fit, and draped nearly perfectly. I did not like how the chin strap was left unfinished on the back, however. I got my cap and it was covered with little leather “pills”. If you find a used Mike Anderson cap on eBay: you should be happy with it.
    4. Dirty Billy’s—I love the way Dirty Billy’s forage caps look, and the way the crown disc drapes over the forehead with just a little wetting. I liked the Dirty Billy’s caps so much I ordered more than one from him. My only criticisms are that maybe his reproductions are a tad too authentic: the paint on the visors cracks like the real caps, and on a hot day the dye on the leather sweatband leaves a brown mark on your forehead. I could do without that. Bill also takes a shortcut with his chin straps, leaving them removable. All other sutlers sew them in place. It’s debatable which I prefer. I have also ordered Confederate kepis from Bill in the past. He is considered the best in the business for a reason, and I think his caps have the best fit and appearance.
    5. Greg Starbuck—This was a grey Confederate hat. I wanted to get one of his famous Amzi Williamson forage caps. It’s dyed with a natural dye which slowly fades from grey to tan in the sunlight. I also ordered mine with Texas state chin strap buttons. The buttons came with a dull appearance, leading me to believe they might be original period buttons and not modern reproductions. All in all, Starbuck’s cap fits and looks fantastic.
    6. scoutdrummer—an Ebay-only Confederate cap maker. I ordered a tawny colored forage cap from him. His quality is comparable to Greg Starbuck’s, and he only charges a about half what a Starbuck hat costs. Lately he has not listed any caps for sale, so I wonder if he’s gotten out of the business.
    7. Superior Cap Company—Another Ebay-only sutler. I actually ordered a Confederate kepi from them. The quality is okay, but certainly not the same as any of the better sutlers like Dirty Billy. For the quality they should be selling their caps for not much more than what scoutdrummer charges: around $40-50.


    I deliberately avoided some of the "cheapie" eBay caps. Past experience with a very inauthentic-looking Confederate kepi made me want to avoid Quartermaster Shop also.

    All in all, if I had to pick one sutler, it would be Dirty Billy's. His shipping can be slow, but I liked his caps so much I ordered more from him than any other maker.

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    One of the Regulars
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    hi doc any ideas on the 1872 IW kepi? and who makes the best fitting one, ive theard they have perchy feel to them and dont fit that well

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    One of the Regulars
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    I agree with you about Dirty Billy's. I put together my companies early war impression for 150th of Bull Run and I used his type I forage cap and it was worth the price.

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    Familiar Face highway66blues's Avatar
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    I have been out of the hobby for some time now but will haveta Absolutely Agree with you, Doc.
    Dirty Bill is The Bee's Knees. He's got some Great Stuff (and his collection of original stuff is Rilly Neat, too).
    I like a lot of his felts, too.

    liten - I'd recomend you to Dirty Bill as well, he covers this period = same quality & authenticity
    Last edited by highway66blues; 07-17-2013 at 05:25 AM.
    ...just like in old blues,i gotta borrow this...

    "The future ain't what it used To Be"

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    I'll Lock Up The Wiser Hatter's Avatar
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    Man this tread needed pictures.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk 2

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    Call Me a Cab David Conwill's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Wiser Hatter View Post
    Man this tread needed pictures.
    Yep. Subscribing in the hope that some will be added.
    All hat, no Packard.

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    Bartender Feraud's Avatar
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    I'd love to see some pics too!
    Workwear is the new Black.
    I'm not a bearded logger but play one on the internets

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    I'll Lock Up The Wiser Hatter's Avatar
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    Dirtybilly's US 11 U.S. Kepi

    Infantry Lieutenant's Kepi is the one I like. dirtybillyshatsconfederate_kepis

    http://www.dirtybillyshats.com/acw1....vernment_North
    I had trouble accessing the front page url for dirtybilly's for some reason.


    CD Jarnigan
    jarnaginco.com/federal hats
    Boy what a bad website. Had to search google to get the page link.


    NJ Sekela njsekela forage cap page

    Mike Anderson http://www.wwandcompany.com/OLD_SITE/uscaps.html



    Greg Starbuck cap Greg Starbuck
    Possibly the finest forage caps and kepis in the field.
    P.O. Box 30958
    Savannah, GA 31410
    (912) 352-2381
    Email: ofj@g-net.net
    no website active.

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    I'll Lock Up The Wiser Hatter's Avatar
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    scout drummer cap


    Superior Cap Company ebay Superior-Cap-Co nothing on this store right now.

    So I spent a few minutes finishing this thread out. Always wanted a Kepi cap.

  10. #10
    Familiar Face Doc Glockster's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by liten View Post
    hi doc any ideas on the 1872 IW kepi? and who makes the best fitting one, ive theard they have perchy feel to them and dont fit that well
    The main characteristic of IW kepis is that the crown is shorter than a CW kepi, leaving the wearer with the feeling that it's going to slide off your head.

    Dirty Billy's is the only authentic maker I know of, and his are not 100% authentic to that feel, if you judge by the two examples I bought from him.

    The trouble is, IW reenacting gear is not nearly as popular as CW gear, so there aren't as many makers.

    I would not use the Quartermaster Shop IW kepi. It's not even close.
    Last edited by Doc Glockster; 07-17-2013 at 07:17 AM.

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