Army Unit Patches...Where did it start?
So have you ever wondered when, where, and why units in the Army started wearing unit patches? Well we have...like all the time. So we have done some little research over time and figured we would share our observations with you.
So it looks as though the first officially recognized unit Shoulder Sleeve Insignia (SSI) happened in 1918 during World War I when the 81st Division went to Europe. Before the unit left Fort Jackson, portions of the unit had unofficial felt patches made of a wildcat and affixed them to their arm of their uniforms. The army officially accepted them and from there it officially began in earnest.
But looking at accounts of US military history and it can be discovered that Unit Patches were started back during the Civil War era by the US Army for a very practical reason. Officers stated that during movement they had a hard time telling Soldiers from their unit from other units. To improve command and control during movement they attached red shape patches to the top of their hats so they could easily be seen by the officers while on their horses. This can be seen in paintings and drawings of the war along with written accounts of that era.
This concept obviously was effective and began to be widely accepted as the idea spread throughout the US Army during the war. Many hats from that era can be found with various red patches on them, each from a different Corps.
Some commons ones seen are the red cross for 5th Corps, the red diamond for 3rd Corps, and the red clover for I believe 2nd Corps.
We will continue or research into this topic, but for now its a great start. If we stated anything incorrectly, please let us know in a comment. If you have more information on this, please comment for the group. Thanks!