Reference Items
Uniforms
Infantry Officer’s Overcoat

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This is an extraordinary example of an identified Civil War infantry officer’s overcoat. The coat is a regulation dark blue, tightly woven wool. Four frogs and loops of black silk fasten the overcoat. It was also closed by a longer thong at the base of the neck. Called a cloak coat, the garment was a copy of the official greatcoat worn by French officers. The body and sleeve linings are bright vermillion-red polished cotton. As the war progressed, the regulations were amended to allow officers to wear enlisted men’s sky blue overcoats to avoid making them less conspicuous in the field.

The coat is identified in ink on the backside of the hook loop located at the neck to Lt. George W. Bates, 14th Illilnois Infantry. Lieutenant Bates enlisted in 1861 and was discharged on February 26, 1864. He participated in the Battles of Fort Donelson and Shiloh where he was in the ranks until ordered to the rear due to sickness. He also participated in the seige of Vicksburg, but afterwards was taken by boat north with little hope of survival.

It was written of Bates, "His moral character was such that the men of his company rallied around him in battle, believing that he had a charmed life, and that they would be safe when under him.” Surviving the war, Bates married and had two daughters, and survived miraculously, but with extremely poor health until February 14, 1901.

Member - Mike Shotwell
Item #: CIV-198

Cavalry Officer's Shell Jacket

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This officer’s jacket is in excellent condition with apparent field wear and is an outstanding example of a cavalry officer’s preferred field apparel. This handsome jacket is privately tailored of fine woven wool fabric, exhibiting an attractive sheen typical of Civil War period manufacture coats. Three bands of black lace tape piping are found on the sleeves and two bands on the collar. Such dark insignia was occasionally used by officers to identify rank, yet remain a less conspicuous target to the enemy.

The jacket’s body is lined with dark green polished cotton and the sleeves are lined with white cotton. All 15 staff buttons are matching in patina and on original thread. Measurements on the coat are 1-1/4” height at the collar, a sleeve circumference of 16” at the elbow and 10½” at the cuff.

Shoulder straps as seen on this jacket were available to officers in either traditional bullion embroidery or stamped brass false embroidery, and curved to conform to the shoulder. Metallic straps such as these were patented by James S. Smith on June 18, 1861 and were well received for their durability in the field, though their use was less common than the bullion.

Member - Mike Shotwell
Item #: CIV-197

Infantry Officer's Frock - Maj. Gen. John Ramsey

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Regulation infantry officer’s frock coat exhibiting extensive field wear, with original captain’s shoulder straps. The coat, which belonged to Major General John Ramsey (then a captain) of New Jersey, is tailored of very fine woven tuxedo quality wool fabric. The coat exhibits some discoloration and moth nips on the shoulder behind the neck, and some minor repairs on the front side. Inside the breast pocket are General Ramsey’s elaborate inked initials "JR" with the year "1861." His faded name and unit are also penned on the inside of the collar. The body lining is green polished cotton. The tail pockets and sleeves are lined with off-white polished cotton. All eagle "I” buttons are matching with appropriate patina. The coat’s collar measures 2” in height; its sleeve circumference is approximately 18” at the elbow and 10½” at the cuff. Length of the coat from waist seam to the bottom of the skirt is 21½”. The captain's shoulder straps are original to the coat, and are an early war pattern with wide, double border strap and boullion wire wrap.

Until recently, the coat was in a private museum in the south. A small note was found in the skirt pocket, bearing the text of "Marching through Georgia” in General Ramsey’s own hand.

Ramsey enlisted with the highly decorated 5th New Jersey Volunteer Infantry in 1861, and later commanded the 8th New Jersey. He was promoted quickly becoming a Brigadier General in March of 1864 and brevetted Major General in March 1865.

He wore his captain’s coat in the Peninsular Campaign in 1862, and as a colonel later commanded brigades at the great battles fought by the Army of the Potomac, including Chancellorsville (wounded) and also Gettysburg where he was wounded in the Wheatfield. The monument of the 8th New Jersey is inscribed with Colonel Ramsey’s name.

Member - Mike Shotwell
Item #: CIV-190

Regulation Artillery 9-button Frock Coat

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Known as an enlistedman’s frock coat during the war years, today’s students of Civil War uniforms call this frock a "9-button coat."  It is a representative example of one of the more desirable of Civil War uniforms. 

Marked in the sleeve is the numeral "2" alongside two ink dots.  Also stamped inside the right shoulder is the manufacturer’s mark, "John Boylan & Co., Newark," and the date of the contract, "Nov. 3, 1864."  Bazelon’s Directory of American Military Goods Dealers and Makers notes that Boylan fulfilled a contract for 25,000 artillery 9-button coats provided to the Army on the November 3 contract.

The nine breast buttons and two buttons at the waist on the back of the coat are all coat sized general service US eagle buttons with Waterbury backmarks, the letters being raised in a depressed channel.  The four functioning cuff buttons are unmarked.  The dark blue wool broadcloth retains its original knap texture on the surface.  The interior of the skirts are lined with brown polished cotton and both have pockets.  The sleeves are lined with white cotton now toned to a light tan.  A scarlet welt is present at the cuffs and collar, the collar having been lowered at some point during the coat’s service.  Adorning the sleeves are scarlet sergeant’s chevrons, hand sewn to the jacket.  Sleeve linings are white cotton.

The coat is pictured with a buff leather NCO belt, artillerist’s belt-mounted fuse box, and leather gunner’s haversack.


Member - Mike Sorenson
Item #: CIV-189

Cavalry Enlistedman Musician's Jacket

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Regulation 1855-pattern cavalry musician’s shell jacket with yellow, worsted lace "herringbone form” braids across the chest. This pattern was continued and included in the 1861 Uniform Regulations.

This rare jacket is well preserved, with slight field wear; the coat is of Civil War manufacture and exhibits a 2½” high collar with two buttons on each side and standard cavalry "pillows” on the backside. The body lining is loose brown cotton weave, the sleeves in green and cream colored striped cotton, and the collar is lined with black cotton. The worsted wool trim is cavalry yellow and in fine condition.

Also featured are the original twelve buttons and rare, original brass shoulder scales. The scales are attached to the uniform by a tongue on the bottom of the scale, which slides through a brass keeper sewn onto the shoulder of the uniform. At the collar, a rotating stud device or "scale button,” turns and locks the shoulder scale into place. These shoulder scales were not particularly popular with the soldiers, as their required maintenance and inconvenience of wear outweighed any perceived benefits, and they had virtually disappeared from use by the midpoint of the Civil War.

Member - Mike Shotwell
Item #: CIV-188

Cavalry Frock Coat - Major Robert C. Wallace

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Major Robert C. Wallace of the 5th Michigan Cavalry wore this mid-war pattern, single breasted frock coat. It features a black velvet turn-down collar, and matching staff buttons which are original to the coat. The coat is entirely hand stitched, tailored in a dark indigo wool fabric. The lining is full length dark green/black polished cotton, with a padded breast containing two pockets. The 5” wide cuffs bear three functional staff buttons; the sleeves widen to 9" at the elbows and are lined with white cotton. Two tail pockets are lined in brown polished cotton and three of the four buttons are present on the tails. The GS-18 buttons all bear "Horstmann & Co. NY & PHI” markings (see Guinn & Bazelon fig. 6, #7.) Two cavalry major shoulder straps are sewn at their corners to the coat. A few tiny moth nips are present, but do not detract from its overall appearance.

A variety of additional items belonging to Major Wallace appear on this website, including buttons saved by him from his previous coats. Four published texts are found in the "Articles” section of this website on Wallace and his actions during the Civil War.

Wallace was appointed to the staff of Brigadier General A.T.A. Torbert in May, 1864 as Aide de Camp; (see staff photo in the "Finding Major Wallace" article.) Following Appomattox, Wallace rejoined the 5th Michigan Cavalry and was promoted to the rank of Major, while in the field, on 3 May 1865.

Member - John Beckendorf
Item #: CIV-184

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