Old South Military Antiques

Only Known Round Virginia Sword Belt Plate
Item #: OS-6857


Any round Virginia plate is exceedingly rare. The few that are known seem to have originated with the Southern Guard, Company B, 11th Virginia Infantry. The most common is the cross-belt plate. The soldier who used these would have carried his bayonet scabbard on a white web belt slung over his shoulder and his musket cartridge box would have been carried on an identical belt slung over the other shoulder. These shoulder belts would have crossed at the breast and been locked in place by the breastplate with a stick pin, and then locked again at the waist by a web belt fastened with a plate bearing the Virginia seal.

There is one known round Virginia seal plate that has hook positions that demonstrate that it was used as a waist belt plate. In the Mullinax book it suggests that it was an early War conversion, but this is incorrect, as the surviving tongue is the same tongue found on the die stamped Virginia State Seal Rectangular plate. This means it was produced this way by the manufacturer.

This is the only known round Virginia Seal Plate that served as an NCO sword belt plate. It can be easily seen that this plate utilized a three hook wire frog that served as belt hooks. It can also be clearly seen that the frog was set on an angle to buckle an over the shoulder belt for an NCO sword.

No others of these last two have ever been found, and that is likely because these were officer’s plates for the one company known to have used them, and thus only a few were ever made. This plate rates 10 on the Mullinax rarity scale.

Few Southern belt plates can be attributed to a specific maker and fewer still to a specific unit. This exceedingly rare die-struck, round Virginia State Seal Sword Belt Plate is an exception. By comparing the die-strike with waist belt plates marked James Smith & Sons, New York, it can be identified as a circa 1860 Smith product.

There are several images of "Southern Guards” wearing the distinctive Cross and Waist Belt configuration.

In the first months of 1860 men from Campbell County, Virginia organized the "Southern Guard” for local defense in response to the North’s support of the criminally insane John Brown. In May of 1861, the "Southern Guards” became Company B, Eleventh Virginia Infantry.

The Eleventh fought in nearly all the major engagements of the Army of Northern Virginia from Bull Run to Saylor’s Creek where they were virtually wiped out. Only one officer and twenty-eight men surrendered at Appomattox.

I knew when this particular plate was found in sight of Fairfax Court House Virginia, Circa 1998.

Other than missing the iron wire hook, the plate is perfect and as solid as when it was made.

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