After the battle of Gettysburg, the Union began to get increasingly war weary. In October 1863, President Lincoln issued a call for new regiments and the New Jersey authorities hit upon a brilliant idea to speedily attract recruits into one of the State's new cavalry regiments. The 3rd New Jersey Cavalry was called the 1st United States Hussars and recruits were promised a special hussar uniform, unlike any others worn in the Union army. Originally recruited by European armies, the attitude of devil-may-care hussar units with their colourful uniforms had won them an even greater reputation than lancers and recruits anxious to be dashing hussars were not slow to fill the ranks of the 3rd New Jersey Cavalry.
The uniform of the 1st United States Hussars was based on those worn by Austrian Hussars and the 3rd New Jersey quickly became known as the Butterflies because of their exotic dress. Their jackets were cut in the regulation Union cavalry style and trimmed in yellow but they were fastened with 12 large buttons and two rows of 12 buttons formed a plastron at the side. Buttons were connected by double rows of yellow cord and cuffs were ornamented with yellow cord knots. Collars were edged with yellow tape and on each side featured an orange patch on which were set two yellow cords.
Hussars were issued with talmas which were made out of sky blue material with yellow braid and tassel, and often worn flung back over the shoulders. Trousers appear to have been standard issue, but had broad yellow stripes on the seams. One of the most distinctive parts of the uniform were the pill box hats worn by the men, which were worn cocked at an angle or like an ordinary forage cap. The hussars' caps had a chin strap and were trimmed yellow. Crossed sabre insignia and the company letter was worn on top of the cap and hussars wore a brass '3' in a wreath on the fronts of their caps. Officers' uniforms were even more spectacular with gold rather than yellow cord.
Cavalry veterans sneered at the Hussars who were at first confined to courier duties. But in the Shenandoah Valley in the latter stages of the war the regiment developed plenty of fighting skills including capturing an entire enemy regiment. They may have been called butterfles but the 1st United States Hussars also had a wasp-like sting.
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