Virginia Officer's Belt


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 the state.  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 1830’s, it was not widely used until it was proscribed for Virginia officers in 1858.  The two piece state seal belt plate was used extensively by Virginia’s officers until the end of the War.  It is known that this pattern was made just prior to the War, but the maker is unknown.  Speculation as to the maker runs the gamut from English (because the workmanship is extremely high quality and the style is reminiscent of some known English manufactured plates) to a local Virginia manufacturer.  If it had been made outside of Virginia, one would expect to encounter the same buckle bearing other state seals, but none exist.  The patent leather belt has an inner core of canvas webbing to give it the strength to stand heavy field service.  The belt is strong, supple and the stitching is original and tight on both the adjuster and wreath end.

     The gilt plate is made of cast brass with a crisply struck, die stamped disc soldered on to the tongue bar.  The disc bears the Virginia state seal, Virtue standing over a defeated Tyranny encircled by the Latin motto “Sic Semper Tyrannis” or Thus Ever to Tyrants.  The wreath is finely cast with an oak leaf pattern.  Both the tongue and the wreath had the bench mark number 19 stamped into them and the back and front face of the wreath were lathe turned prior to gilting.

     This pattern is one of the rarer, and is arguably the most attractive of the Virginia two piece buckles.  It would be impossible to upgrade this belt.                                                                                                                                                        



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