Robert E. Lee

Joseph G. Totten

U. S. Mil: Academy West Point

15 March 1853.


The present Cadet uniform dress cap is heavy, harsh & uncomfortable to the head. The black patent leather crown, when exposed to the hot sun in summer is particularly objectionable, causing headache, dizziness &c. The supply on hand is nearly exhausted, & in preparing for the admission of the next 4th class, I have considered it a good opportunity to endeavor to remedy these evils.

I have caused therefore a model to be prepared under the direction of the Comdt. of Cadets, & to be submitted to some of the manufacturers in New York, with the view, in case of its adoption, of obtaining proposals for a supply for the Corps, accompanied by a specimen of material & workmanship.

It is proposed to make the new cap of a better kind of silk fur than the old, lighter, shaped more to the head, of the form & style of the present army cap, which is warranted to last five years. To have the crown of the same material as the body, the edge only reinforced with a patent leather rim & a patent ventilator in the center. The Castle and mountings the same as in the present cap. The pompom for the privates, black as at present, but of an egg or illipsoidal shape, instead of an inverted cone. The Plume for officers, black,& of the same character as at present, but rather lower, to correspond with the style of cap.

Patterns have not yet been recd form all the manufacturers from whom proposals were invited, but enough is known to state that the cost of the cap will not exceed $2.50.

Should you not be able from my description, to decide between the relative merits of the cap now in use & that proposed, after recg all the patterns & proposals expected, & selecting the one preferred, I will forward by express, a cap of the old & proposed pattern, that you may compare the one with the other. Should you however consider this unnecessary, I request authority to make the proposed change in the dress cap, on or after the 1st of July next.

I am very respectfully Your obedt Servt(Signed) R. E. Lee Br. Col:
Supt: Mil: Acady

Superintendent’s Daily Correspondence
United States Military Academy

Superintendent’s Letter Book No. 3, pp. 9–10. Addressed “Genl: Jos: G. Totten Chief Engineer Washington City D.C.”