Civil War Union Officer's Sword Belt Buckle

Presented is an original, 1851 pattern brass sword belt buckle worn by a Union officer during the Civil War. This is a good example of the wartime Union officer’s belt buckle and is a very typical memento preserved by a family that had a member serving as an officer in the war.

The rectangular sword belt plate bearing the Arms of the United States was introduced in 1851 as the regulation buckle for Officers and for enlisted men armed with swords. The central motif is an eagle with an American shield on its chest, clutching arrows and an olive branch, surrounded by stars overhead and wreath below.  A ribbon flows from the eagle’s beak, emblazoned with the motto “E Pluribus Unum,” which means "out of many, one.”

Before the Civil War the number of sword plate manufacturers was limited, but with the expansion of the Army in 1861 more manufacturers made them. As such, there is variety in die strikes for this sword plate. Typically, enlisted men were issued their plates and officers had to purchase their own. Officers’ plates were a higher quality than the enlisted versions. Plates for officers sometimes featured a lightly applied silver wash to the wreath or accenting stars over the eagle. Although in most antique plates found on the market today, the silver accent is no longer visible due to age and past use. 

CONDITION:

Rectangular cast-brass belt plate, U.S. pattern of 1851. Nice, attractive patina to the brass front, with light verdigris on low portion. The reverse shows a layer of verdigris overall. As is usual, any thin silver wash is long gone. Some rubbing on the high spots of the design that has lightened brass slightly in spots. The side bar shows a little distortion from the pulling of the belt. The 1” long narrow belt hook is in place on the reverse. Dimensions: 2" H x 3 ¼" W.




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