Thursday, December 17, 2009

1st Md Cav Officer Frock Coat

This dress uniform frock coat is attributed to have belonged to Lt. Bonn of the 1st Maryland Cavalry, CSA and has recently been acquired by the Museum Collection at Gettysburg NMP. The collection has very few Confederate Cavalry items so this is a very nice addition. The frock coat has not yet gone on exhibit, and the white of the storage box has brightened some of the pictures here, I do apologize. The coat is double breasted with 7 evenly spaced Maryland Buttons on the front on each lapel. Faintly yellow piping in the sleeve trim, the neckline, and the opening overlap shows in these pictures.

The reason these pictures are on my blog for your study is that this coat belonged to a member of the historical unit which we represent when we reenact, thus the interest on my part, besides my general interest in history, the Civil War, textiles, construction of period garments, and material culture.
I have enhanced the photographs of the jacket for clarity and lighting so the colors aren't coming out consistant, it's just due to making it lighter or darker to show detail. The cloth is the "Maryland Blue" Kersey Cloth, or British Army Cloth...thin and very well made. I've noticed that most of the "reenacting" uniforms have much heavier cloth than in the originals, both Confederate and Union. Notice also that the sleeve and rank trim is very subdued, almost to the point of being purposely darkened, though I have no information on whether or not that has indeed been done. The yellow piping might either have been light colored by design, or faded over the years. I haven't done any research yet on the properties of the yellow dyes used for wool in that era.
This is a close up of the lining of the coat, it's silk, and you can see from these shots that it has seen some wear, it is not attached on the bottom, the wool and the silk have been hemmed separately as was done in garments of the era.
This is another close up of the lining showing the cloth without the shine of reflected flash.
This is a close up of the sleeve braid. It's a single thickness of soutache braid and has been sewn on the outside of the sleeve before the jacket was put together.
The coat has Maryland buttons on the body of the coat and they have been darkened with either lacquer or some such substance. I haven't done any research to see why the buttons have been darkened, one volunteer told the curator that there was a practice popular at the time called "Japaning" which was to cover the buttons or item with a clear to lightish brown lacquer much like the lacquered bento boxes in Japaneese restaraunts have. So far we can't find any mention of this practice in the books we have on hand. This shot of the coat shows the inside buttons.
The sleeve buttons are small Federal buttons, 3 to a sleeve. They, too, have been darkened.
Notice the silk lining has worn from use in the neckline. His collar rank designation is evident here as well as an added loop for hanging the jacket.

This incredible artifact is going to be on display in the Gallery in Gettysburg at the Visitor's center after conservation.


Anonymous said...

It was against the law to display confederate buttons after the war. Many were darkened or covered with fabric so the could still wear their uniforms.

Fiber addikt said...

Yes, the confederate veterans were not allowed to vote, nor to wear their dress uniforms in public in the south. But Maryland was considered not to be a "southern" state during the war, as it was never permitted to vote on secession, having been occupied by Federal Troops, so there was no similar law in effect there. Bonn had the means to not have to wear his dress uniform as a regular piece of clothing, such as people that had nothing were forced to do in the deeper south. That is why the curators felt that the buttons were "Japaned" rather than painted (after examination of the buttons themselves) as they might have been if he'd been in the Confederate states. One will never know for sure, and it's certainly to know the history behind all possible scenarios. Thank you for your post.