Virginia Waist Belt 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 prescribed for Virginia officers in 1858.

     There are two patterns of this plate.  One was made by James Smith and Sons in New York and is so marked.  This pattern is believed to have been made at the Virginia Armory using a die purchased from W. H. Horstman prior to the War.

     The plate’s condition is near perfect and would have been worn on a white web belt used to lock the same type of web belts, used as shoulder belts to carry the musket cartridge box and the bayonet.  The plate shows much wear and has a beautiful, deep, non-excavated patina; more so that is commonly found in these plates.



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