Virginia Hat Plate


Description and Photograph





     In 1851, the Virginia legislature made an attempt at forming regiments of volunteers but made little headway.  The regiments were slow in forming because most Virginians saw no eminent threat and were reluctant to volunteer.  By 1858, when Virginia’s governor reactivated the Virginia line, it was apparent that manpower needs were going to be greater than the Volunteer Militias could provide.  In 1859, following John Brown’s infamous raid, Virginians began to seriously plan for defense, volunteer companies sprang up all over Virginia.  When Lincoln illegally ordered Virginia to supply troops to invade and subjugate her sister states, Virginia withdrew from the Union and lifted her own flag.  Men rushed to her standard from the farthest reaches of Virginia.

     Though the earliest use of the Virginia coat of arms on belt plates dates to the 1830s, it was not widely used until it was proscribed for Virginia officers in 1858.  This plate would date between 1858 and 1862.  There are two different die strikes of this pattern, one was made by James Smith & Sons of New York and is so marked.  The other is believed to have been manufactured at the Virginia Armory in Richmond, using a die that had been purchased from W. H. Horstmann prior to the War.

     This hat plate is made using the identical die stamp believed to have been used at the Virginia Armory.   After stamping it was then trimmed to size and two brass wire loops were soldered to the back.  Both loops are intact and secure.  The plate is crisply struck and retains its original curvature.  The plate retains nearly 100% of its original gilt on the reverse, though the front gilt is worn off on the high spots showing it had much use.  It is in perfect non-excavated condition.



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