M1885 Officer’s Cape

This month’s featured artifact is an M1885 officer’s cape that once belonged to Cavalry Officer and future Brigadier General John T. Knight. After graduating from West Point in 1884, Knight was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Cavalry. In the late 19th Century he served in the Army’s actions in the West, before being appointed Commandant of Cadets at Virginia Tech University. He served in Cuba during the Spanish-American War and also spent time stationed in the Philippines. However, he is most recognized for his work as a Quartermaster during World War I, both for his time as the Quartermaster for the Port of Embarkation at Newport News, Virginia, and for his time in Europe including serving as the Chief Quartermaster for the American Expeditionary Forces from April to September of 1919.

In 1885 the Army authorized an optional cape to be worn in place of or in addition to the already standard overcoat. The cape is made of dark blue wool with a black velvet collar and black mohair trim along the opening. A black mohair frog button fastens at the neck. The inside of the cape is lined with wool in a color corresponding to the Soldier’s branch of service—in this case yellow designating Cavalry. The collar on this example features the embroidered crossed swords insignia of Cavalry along with embroidered “U.S.” insignia.

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