24. Buffalo Coats

Buffalo coats were the preferred winter attire for U.S. Army soldiers by 1876 and were issued to troops to keep them warm while campaigning on the plains during the winters. Before this, in 1871 troops were issued blanket lined wool overcoats. The wool overcoats were not sufficient enough to keep soldiers warm. The design and execution elements of the buffalo coat kept a soldier warm in subzero temperatures. Buffalo were hunted during the winter months so that the fur collected was thick and woolly. The coats were made large and extended past the knee. They were also double breasted and had a high collar that could be turned up to cover the neck and ears. White men moving west began hunting buffalo for hides as well and turned it into an industry. With the U.S. Army, Native Americans, and white settlers all hunting buffalo; the species was almost completely diminished. The Army replaced the buffalo coats with blanket lined heavy canvas coats.

Buffalo Coat ca. 1875, Frontier Army Museum collection.
Miles Enlisted Overcoat 1879, Frontier Army Museum collection.