is somewhat legendary and uncertain.
Not having become a member of Kearny
's old corps until about a year after the idea was promulgated, I have no tradition of my own in regard to it, but I have heard men who served under him tell widely differing stories of the origin of the “Kearny
patch,” yet all agreeing as to the author of the idea, and also in its application being made first to officers
. General E. D. Townsend
, late Adjutant-General
of the United States Army, in his Anecdotes of the Civil war
, has adopted an explanation which, I have no doubt, is substantially correct.
“One day, when his brigade was on the march, General Philip Kearny
, who was a strict disciplinarian, saw some officers standing under a tree by the roadside; supposing them to be stragglers from his command, he administered to them a rebuke, emphasized by a few expletives.
The officers listened in silence, respectfully standing in the ‘position of a soldier’ until he had finished, when one of them, raising his hand to his cap, quietly suggested that the general had possibly made a mistake, as they none of them belonged to his command.
With his usual courtesy, Kearny
exclaimed, ‘Pardon me; I will take steps to know how to recognize my own men hereafter.’
Immediately on reaching camp, he issued orders that all officers and men of his brigade should wear conspicuously on the front of their caps a round piece of red cloth to designate them.
This became generally known as the ‘ Kearny Patch.’
I think General Townsend
is incorrect in saying that Kearny
issued orders immediately on reaching camp for all “officers and men” to wear the patch; first, because the testimony of officers of the old Third Corps to-day is that the order was first directed to officers only
, and this would be in harmony with the explanation which I have quoted; and, second, after the death of Kearny
and while his old division was lying at Fort Lyon, Va.
, Sept. 4, 1862, General D. B. Birney
, then in command of it, issued a general order