Non-Excavated Gothic Letter CS

Officer's Two-Piece Buckle


Description and Photograph






     This extremely rare two-piece waist belt buckle is known simply as a “Gothic Letter CS”.  When William Gavin wrote Accoutrement Plates North and South, 1861-1865 in 1963, he identified this as a Louis and Elijah Haiman product made in Columbus, Georgia.  It was a reasonable assumption because of the similarity of the letter style to known Haiman two-piece buckles.  By the time Sydney Kerksis wrote Plates and Buckles of the American Military, 1795-1874 in 1974, he expressed his doubts that Haiman had made this pattern.  Steve Mullinax did not address the subject when he wrote Confederate Belt Buckles and Plates in 1991.  By the time he published his Expanded Edition in 1999, a few pieces and parts of what is know as the “Freedom or Death” two-piece buckle had been discovered in Arkansas, and there could be no doubt that the Gothic CS two-piece was made by the same maker as the “Freedom or Death” buckle.  I have included an image of the “Freedom or Death” buckle from Steve Mullinax’s book for comparison.  Notice that both of these patterns have left handed tongues, a stepped up wreath bar, the same style rounded belt loops, and the raised CS letters are shaped identically.  A few halves of the “Freedom or Death” buckles have been excavated in Arkansas since the publication of the Expanded Edition which leaves little doubt that the “Gothic Letter CS” and the “Freedom or Death” two-piece buckles were made and/or issued in Confederate Arkansas.

     This non-excavated example is identified by the tag attached to it with brass wire as having been found near Chattanooga, Tennessee in 1910.  The term “found” did not imply that it was excavated, as there were no metal detectors until forty years later.  The tag also identifies it as an officer’s buckle and at that early date it is presumed that the collector (likely a veteran) had first hand knowledge of its use.  There were several Arkansas regiments in the area so it is impossible to determine from which regiment it came.  The tongue and wreath are joined together by two strands of the same brass wire used to attach the tag.  The two wires were put across the face rather than the reverse to hold the disc in place.  Had they been put on the reverse, the buckle would have folded together.  The tongue disc is pulled to the left a little by the wires.

     The “Gothic Letter CS” two-piece buckle shown here, like all of this style, is made of sand cast brass and measures 54 X 86 millimeters. 

     It is flawless!

     Addendum:  I was recently approached by a Gettysburg resident named Ron Palm who recognized this CS buckle.  He stated that the buckle had been given to him by his father.  Dr. Jacob Palm had been given the buckle by one of his patients in 1975.  It was related that he thought the buckle was brought back from Chattanooga by a veteran of the 78th Pennsylvania Volunteers.  I had Mr. Palm document this history and his documentation is included.



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