Wednesday, July 11, 2012
The Elite Italian Bersaglieri
In the United States, during the American Civil War, Italian-American units in both the Union and Confederate armies wore feather-decorated hats in imitation of the famous Bersaglieri. Even the headgear of the Royal Guard of the Kingdom of Norway was influenced by the unique style of the Bersaglieri. Believe it or not though, the plumes were originally not meant to be purely decorative but to serve a number of practical purposes (in addition to looking super cool of course). The feathers were always worn on the right side of the hat (or later helmets) to shade the shooting eye of the soldier when taking aim. They were also useful to distinguish the soldiers at a glance. Also, because most military units wore such decoration on the left side, by putting them on the right, the Bersaglieri could confuse an enemy into thinking they were moving in the opposite direction. They also helped break up the profile of the rifleman and serve as an early sort of camouflage when in overgrown terrain. Ultimately, of course, they were one of the many unique distinctions that encouraged esprit de corps amongst the men, a proud tradition that set them apart and was a badge of honor for the Italian light infantry.