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sketch of soldiers in uniform
The Bursting of the Chrysalis and The Omnipotent Bugler, both by Frederic Remington. The figure at left is a cavalry officer in full dress.
Denver Public Library

Dress Blues

Although officers and enlisted men alike usually wore whatever suited their fancy on campaign, such was not the case in garrison. Dress blues were donned each day for guard mount and the evening retreat parade, and the frequent social events brought the men out in the full glory of blue and gold. The uniform adopted by the United States Army in 1872 reflected a Prussian influence dramatized by the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71. Gold cords and epaulettes adorned a navy blue blouse. The spiked helmet bore a large metal eagle device and supported a horsehair plume identifying the wearer's branch of service—yellow for cavalry, blue and later white for infantry, and red for artillery. Stripes running down the seams of the sky-blue trousers repeated the color of the plume. Such material display made up in a small measure for the drab and often unmilitary life of the typical frontier post.


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