atm-logoWhat clothing was issued to the cavalry troops in the Old West?

James Rowley
Laingsburg, Michigan

Near as I can tell, frontier cavalry troops were issued all the essentials, including gray or blue flannel shirts, socks and long woolen underwear. The Army-issued material was cheap and wore out quickly, and the soldier had to buy replacements.  Frequently, he picked up civilian clothing, which was more comfortable and held up better. “Left to our fancy in the matter, we had fallen back upon our comfortable Arizona scouting-suits, and were attired in deerskin, buckskin, flannels and corduroy,” wrote 5th Cavalry Capt. Charles King, who added, “You could not have told officer from private.”

The authorities were obviously a little lax in maintaining uniform standards, especially on the frontier. But initially, every soldier got the same clothing—
it didn’t matter whether the weather was 40 below in Montana or 115 in
the Arizona desert.


Marshall Trimble is Arizona’s official historian. His latest book is Wyatt Earp: Showdown at Tombstone.  If you have a question, write:  Ask the Marshall, P.O. Box 8008, Cave Creek, AZ 85327 or e-mail him at

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