The Hardee hat, also known as the Model 1858 Dress Hat and sometimes nicknamed the "Jeff Davis", was the regulation dress hat for enlisted men in the Union Army during the American Civil War. The Hardee hat was also worn by Confederate soldiers. However, most soldiers found the black felt hat to be too hot and heavy and shunned its use, preferring a kepi or slouch hat. In the Union Army, the most prominent wearers of the Hardee hat during the war were the soldiers of the "Iron Brigade", also known as the Black-Hats.
The hat apparently was named after William J. Hardee, a career officer in the U.S. Army from 1838 until resigning his commission on January 31, 1861. Hardee was Commandant of Cadets at West Point from 1856 to 1860. He was lieutenant colonel of the 1st U.S. Cavalry until just before the war. In 1855, he published Rifle and Light Infantry Tactics for the Exercise and Manoeuvres of Troops When Acting as Light Infantry or Riflemen, popularly known as Hardee's Tactics, which became the best-known drill manual of both sides of the Civil War. He joined the Confederate States Army in March 1861 and eventually became a lieutenant general and corps commander.
U.S. Army regulations specified that the hat should be adorned with a brass hat device and a wool hat cord denoting the branch of service of the wearer: sky blue for infantry, scarlet for artillery, yellow for cavalry. The brim was to be pinned up on the right side for cavalrymen and artillerymen, and on the left for infantry soldiers.
The Hardee hat was briefly revived during the Vietnam War, worn by helicopter pilots (particularly those flying the UH-1 Huey) as a tribute to their cavalry roots, though it soon fell out of place in the face of increased danger from Viet Cong small arms fire. They are still worn today by US Army helicopter pilots and crew members, usually as a ceremonial headgear.
- Uniforms of the Civil War: An Illustrated Guide for Historians, Collectors, and Reenactors, Robin Smith and Ron Field, Guilford, CT: The Lyons Press (2001), pp. 240-241
- The Confederate Army 1861-65, Ron Field and Richard Hook, Oxford: Osprey Publishing (2005), p.22
- Museum exhibit, Gettysburg National Military Park.