|Description and Photograph||
The North Carolina “NC” oval waist belt plate is one of the very rarest and most desirable of the Confederate State plates. So rare are they that I have wanted to purchase one for more than 30 years and this is the first opportunity that I have had of doing so. This example was purchased from the Earl, Roger and Allan Catlett Collection. The Catlett’s lived on the Chancellorsville Battlefield and began hunting and collecting in the 1940s. They also purchased rare plates that they had not found. Recently they began to deaccession their collection for estate planning purposes and I was fortunate enough to be able to purchase this rare “NC” oval.
Little is known of these rare plates, but we do know something of North Carolina’s actions leading up to the War. Prior to the War North Carolina did not have an organized militia like many other states; instead they had independent companies such as the Charlotte Grays, the Buncombe Riflemen, etc. These groups tended to wear stock pattern plates and insignia if they had uniforms at all. The arms and accoutrements that North Carolina drew from the Federal Government under the Militia Act of 1808 supplied arms and accoutrements identical to those of the United States. These various facts tell us that the NC oval was not a pre 1861 acquisition.
In 1861, North Carolina’s Governor Ellis began a feverish effort to get arms and accoutrements for the coming storm. In 1861 prior to the state’s secession he sent an agent to the North to purchase arms and accoutrements. He only acquired cavalry arms; 280 short Enfield rifles, 500 Colt Navy revolvers and 300 cavalry swords, plus powder, lead and percussion caps. The rifles and swords came from the Northern firm Schuler, Hartley and Graham. When purchasing swords in bulk, they always came with sword belts, since a sword without a belt was more problem than help. Invariably the “NC” ovals when found on their original belts are mounted on a buff Model 1851 type sword belt and there is no known matching cartridge box plate. There is no record of who these 300 belts and swords were issued to, but they were no doubt issued to three independent companies as they enrolled into state service. These early companies would become a part of the 1st North Carolina Cavalry. Photographic evidence exists to substantiate this supposition; there are images of members of the 1st North Carolina Cavalry wearing the rare NC Sword Belt.
To my mind this leaves virtually no doubt that these “NC” oval plates came from Schuler, Hartley and Graham in the spring of 1861. Also that there were at most 300 of them ever produced, if that many, since all 300 from S, H & G were not necessarily this pattern. I only speculate all 300 were not “NC” because of their extreme rarity. If 300 were issued, I would expect more to survive than are known.
This excavated example has a beautiful, unaltered face, the back of the plate has had a small amount of liquid metal added to the upper rim to support the undamaged rim and otherwise it is just as found.