Mexican Army Shako

A distinctive military hat from the 1800s

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The shako was used as a military headdress by most of the armies of Europe and the Americas throughout the 1800s, inspired by the Napoleonic uniforms of the French Army. The Mexican Army of the 1820s-40s looked to the French in designing their uniforms. They adopted the shako in the 1820s, regulating various aspects to help identify different units. This Mexican Army shako likely belonged to a soldier in Mexico’s light cavalry.

Shako hats were worn as part of a military uniform to identify soldiers on a battlefield. It was not meant to protect the head in the same way a helmet does today. On a chaotic battlefield, distinctive uniforms helped soldiers identify where their fellow troops were located through the fog of gun and artillery smoke.

The Mexican Army of the 1800s had 20 different models of shakos, helmets, and caps. They ranged from simple cloth caps to very elaborate metal helmets worn by high-ranking officers. The shakos themselves also varied from unit to unit. Yellow ribbon was common for standard infantry soldiers. The top of the shako could have a pom-pom, larger tufted piece, or a feathered plume. Different cap badges were also issued for different units or branches of service.

This shako features several interesting details, some of which differ from the standard Mexican shako. The most distinctive change is the use of a leather chinstrap instead of a brass one. The strap on this shako is made of leather carved to look like brass scales, which was then painted with gilt paint. This shako has a high-quality silver cap badge in the shape of the Mexican eagle and snake national emblem, with silver gilt lace behind the badge. The silver gilt embroidery work on the bill of the hat and at the back are another unusual detail. This silver gilt work as well as the silver gilt lace on top of the shako indicate that this hat likely belonged to a light cavalry soldier.

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Mexican Army Shako Artifact from Galveston, TX
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