Old South Military Antiques

Virginia Sword Belt Plate
Item #: OS-6478

In 1860 the state of Virginia sent 1,000 of the heavy Virginia Manufactory cavalry swords that they had in storage to Emerson Gaylord of Chicopee, Massachusetts. Under contract to Virginia, Gaylord shortened the swords and reshaped their blades to more closely resemble the Model 1860 Light Cavalry Sword. He then manufactured from scratch a scabbard of iron to fit the newly shaped swords that looked just exactly like the production Model 1860 Light Cavalry scabbards made in the North, with the exception that brass was used for the ring mounts rather than iron. This was fortunate for the modern collector; otherwise we would not be able to identify the correct scabbards for these rare swords.

A sword without a belt was of little use, so the State of Virginia also contracted with Gaylord to produce 1,000 sword belts to accompany these swords. The sword belt plate was to bear the Virginia Coat of Arms, a defeated Tyrannis (Tyranny) underfoot of Virtus (Virtue) surrounded by the motto: "Sic Semper Tyrannis” or "Thus ever to Tyrants”.

Gaylord produced a very high quality plate by first casting and then die stamping to bring out the detail in the brass Virginia State Seal. After casting and die stamping the face, the tongue was brazed on and a keeper was fitted. Both the keeper and the plate were then struck with a matching number in order to keep them together until they were sewn onto the buff leather sword belt. In this case, number 366 is struck in the correct location on the upper left reverse corner. These attractive Sword Belt Plates would have been used primarily by members of the early Virginia Cavalry regiments, most notably the 1st Virginia Cavalry.

The non-excavated example shown here has good detail in the low areas and is well worn in the high unprotected areas; there is also more wear around the brazed on tongue where the belt’s keeper rode up and down on it for many a weary mile than on any Virginia plate I have ever seen. Minor dings, scratches and the extensive wear all indicate that the trooper who wore it served a long while in the Confederate Cavalry, certainly from the beginning, and perhaps to the end of the War, if he survived.


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