Reference Items
Confederate "Rope Border" Plate and Belt

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The Confederate enlistedman’s belt pictured here bears what is known by collectors as a "rope border” plate, receiving its name due to the twisted rope design encircling its inner border.  Likely manufactured in Nashville, Tennessee, the letters "CS” were die stamped onto a thin sheet of brass without use of a counter die, and then three brass hooks were soldered to the back with no lead filling.  The crude hooks which vary from one plate to another are created from excess brass.  This style of plate was issued primarily to Confederate infantrymen serving in the Western theater.

The faces of rope border plates bear block letters in two known patterns, indicating the use of at least two dies at the place of manufacture.  On this pattern, the letters show increased thickness and the inside square serifs on the "S” nearly touch the body of the letter.  The "S” is slightly crooked in its alignment.

Rope border plates are rarely encountered in non-excavated condition.  When seen, they often have been mounted on a Yankee belt, either during their wartime use or by a modern collector.  This plate is on its original russet leather belt.  The leather has a fine line tooled into its upper and lower borders, a characteristic which is never found on Yankee enlistedmen’s examples.  Unlike its Federal counterpart, the leather was never coated and still retains its original russet finish.  The right handed plate has a natural untouched patina and over time has created an outline on the belt, leaving what is termed as a "ghost” of the belt plate.  This indicates long and constant contact between the plate and belt. The initials "VMW” are carved into the belt at the left of the buckle, the owner’s identity having long since been lost to history.  There is also an unusual incision entirely through the leather between the third and fourth holes, yet the leather remains intact and is strong and supple.

Member - Mike Sorenson
Item #: CIV-289

M1858 Smooth Side Canteen - Cavalry

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Model 1858 "smooth side” canteen as issued to Federal troops with a leather attachment strap for fixing to a saddle.  The canteen is approximately 7˝” in diameter.  Its metal is solid and its spout is intact, as are all three mounting brackets.  It has a jack chain attached to the strap keeper which fastens the original stopper to the canteen.  The burlap fabric is worn from use.

Of special note is the leather attachment strap with roller buckle at one end which is contemporary to the whole assembly.  The strap is affixed to a metal clasp which suspends the canteen from one of the sidebar rings at the front of the saddle's cantle. 

Member - Mike Sorenson
Item #: CIV-271

U.S. Army Signal Corps Telescope

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During the 1850’s, Captain A. J. Myer of the U.S. Army was responsible for the dramatic increase in the use of optical devices to observe military signal flag communication.  Improved optics such as binoculars and telescopes made it possible to read signals at great distances, thus improving communications on both sides during the Civil War.  Signal officers became a valued source for intelligence through first-hand study of enemy movements or by observation of enemy signal stations while attempting to break codes.  Telescopes were a valued tool and orders were clear that in precarious situations, rather than risk capture of the scope, it was to be destroyed.

Early in the war, most optics were of French manufacture.  A primary maker of telescopes was the firm of Bardou & Sons whose products were imported by James M. Queen of Philadelphia.

This example is a four-draw brass telescope with a 2” objective lens and yields a 30 power magnification.  The two largest tubes were once encased with leather coverings, the front stitched in place, and the second fastened by sixteen brass screws aligned in two parallel columns of eight.  The rear ocular is equipped with a sliding brass dust cover.  The telescope weighs just over three pounds and reaches an impressive 3’1˝” when fully extended.  When compacted, it is 10Ľ” in length.

The smallest tube is marked "Bardou & Son.” in hand engraved script letters.  Centered beneath the Bardou marking is GB in a Roman font, separated by a caduceus with TRADE MARK in block letters centered further below.  Inscribed in a different hand and closer to the rear ocular is "U.S. Army/Signal Telescope.” in script letters.  All markings are inscribed by hand and are original to the telescope.

Member - Mike Sorenson
Item #: CIV-269

Infantry Officer's Belt

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A classic Civil War officer's belt on brown russet leather with cast brass eagle buckle.  This right-handed buckle matches plate #644 in the reference work American Military Belt Plates by O’Donnell & Campbell.  The eagle faces to its right, its lengthy wings reaching almost to the border of the plate frame. The laurel wreath extends beyond its wingtips.  Six stars, each resting within a cloud are above the banner with an additional star at each end and five more below.  Rays reach above the stars but are not present on the sides of the wreath.  The background of the plate is stippled.  The eagle’s wings, the wreath, and the swept shield are in very high relief and richly detailed.  The buckle is uncleaned and shows a rich patina.  The back of both the keeper and buckle are unmarked.  The leather is firm and supple with minor flaking.  Both saber straps are present with original suspension clasps and parade hook.  The interior stitching shows some old repairs. 

This is the exact belt pictured on page 139 in the reference work Army Blue by John P. Langellier, where it is shown accompanying a cavalry officer’s frock coat. 

Member - Mike Sorenson
Item #: CIV-266

1851 Pattern Bridle Leather Cavalry Belt

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This is a bridle leather cavalry saber belt whose rectangular eagle plate is patterned after the plate specified by General Order 31 of June 1851.  It specified a buckle with the U.S. coat of arms surrounded by a laurel wreath.  Most such belts were made from the 1850's through end of the Civil War.  This belt is unmarked and bears no contractor’s stamp. 

The belt is complete with both saber drops and the shoulder support strap which is often absent; all leather parts match.  The bridle leather is dyed black on the exterior per 1851 Army regulations, with natural color on the belt interior.  The hasp bears a bench mark "879” with the 9 being a weak strike.  The plate is unmarked.

The right-handed plate has an integral tongue and one-piece nickel silver wreath applied to the plate entirely below the eagle’s relatively compact wing tips.  In addition to less obvious features such as a more rounded head on the eagle and a circle of rays outside the wreath, this lowered wreath is consistent with an amended design published in the Ordnance Manual in November 1861, the revised plates actually going into production after delivery of a template from the government in December of 1863.  The plate is made of cast brass with a comparatively flat banner; the eagle’s head is facing to its right and almost touches the banner.  In place of clouds above the banner, there is stippling around the stars and the rays surround the wreath.  There are thirteen stars, six above the banner, two above the banner tail, two left of the eagle's head and three to the right.  The swept shield on the eagle's breast bears stripes in two directions with no stars.  The narrow tongue on the plate is integral to the casting, its thinner tip is bent, intended to fasten to a separate brass keeper.  

Member - Mike Sorenson
Item #: CIV-264

1839 Pattern Enlistedman's Buff Leather Belt

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Standard issue 1839 pattern enlistedman’s white buff leather belt.  It is equipped with a die stamped US buckle with a single arrow style hook.  It also has its original white leather keeper.  The belt is 1˝” wide and 48” in length, its leather still shows the arsenal knap and is very supple. 

The buckle measures 40mm x 70mm.  Use of the small US oval plate was approved with the regulation of 1839.  Although most of these small sized plates were manufactured in the 1840's and 1850's, many still saw use through the Civil War.  This particular dye pattern shows thick letters, the "U" with medium boxy bottom, the "S" with rounded openings.  The buckle is configured as a left-handed buckle with single brass arrow hook behind the "S."

Member - Mike Sorenson
Item #: CIV-263

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