Old South Military Antiques

Published Shiloh Church Belt-History at its Best!
Item #: OS-7277







"Shiloh Church”; just the name conjures up images of a maelstrom of war, and ragged torn bodies bathed in gore. Nothing about it makes one think of the "place of peace” it was named for. From the time it was built in 1853, until the spring of 1862, it was no doubt a "place of peace”, a place of tranquility, a place where God reigned supreme.

But then armies under Maj. Gens. Ulysses S. Grant and Don Carlos Buell moved to sever the Southern railroads. Grant ascended the Tennessee River by steamboat, disembarking his Army of the Tennessee at Pittsburg Landing, 22 miles northeast of Corinth. There he set up camp on a plateau west of the river, extending two miles inland and around Shiloh Meeting House, a simple log structure. Buell's Army of the Ohio, was marching overland from Nashville. The plan was for the two armies to unite and drive on to Corinth, Mississippi and destroy the important rail junctions there.

General Albert Sydney Johnston set out to spoil the Yankee plan. Confederate Private Henry Stanley wrote: "Day broke with every promise of a fine day. Next to me, on my right, was a boy of seventeen, Henry Parker. I remember it because, while we stood-at-ease, he drew my attention to some violets at his feet, and said, 'It would be a good idea to put a few into my cap. Perhaps the Yanks won't shoot me if they see me wearing such flowers, for they are a sign of peace. Capitol said I, 'I will do the same.' We plucked a bunch, and arranged the violets in our caps. The men in the ranks laughed at our proceedings.”

On Sunday morning, April 6th, there was no worship at the "place of peace”, on that day demons held high carnival as the Confederates broke out of the woods at dawn and assaulted the Yankee camps around Shiloh Church. 40,000 Yankees were caught off guard and totally surprised by the vicious onslaught.

Stanley continues: "After a steady exchange of musketry, which lasted some time, we heard the order: 'Fix Bayonets! On the double-quick!' in tones that thrilled us. There was a simultaneous bound forward, each soul doing his best for the emergency. The Federals appeared inclined to await us; but, at this juncture, our men raised a yell, thousands responded to it, and burst out into the wildest yelling it has ever been my lot to hear. It drove all sanity and order from among us… 'They fly!' was echoed from lip to lip. It accelerated our pace, and filled us with a noble rage. Then I knew what the Berserker passion was! It deluged us with rapture, and transfigured each Southerner into an exulting victor. At such a moment, nothing could have halted us. Those savage yells, and the sight of thousands of racing figures coming towards them, discomfited the blue-coats; and when we arrived upon the place where they had stood, they had vanished…The Yanks soon rallied, however, and bitter fighting swirled around the little log church house.” It was here that the brave lad that wore this belt fell. The Confederates slowly gained ground, forcing Grant's troops to fight a succession of defensive stands at Shiloh Church, the Peach Orchard, Water Oaks Pond, and the Hornets' Nest.

Confederates were victorious everywhere but then their gallant leader, General A.S. Johnston was mortally wounded and expired on the field. Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard took over command; the lost time and momentum could not be regained, and by the end of the day Confederate forces had pushed the demoralized Yankee’s back along the river, but not into the river. Grant's battered divisions retired to a strong position extending west from Pittsburg Landing where massed artillery and rugged ravines protected their front and flanks. Fighting ended at nightfall. General Beauregard celebrated a "complete” victory. It was premature.

All through the night reinforcements from Buell's Army arrived by steamboat at Pittsburg Landing. Beauregard, unaware Buell had arrived, planned to finish the destruction of Grant the next day. At dawn, April 7th, however, it was Grant who attacked. Throughout the day, the combined Union armies, numbering over 54,500 men, assaulted Beauregard's 34,000 exhausted men, with fresh troops. Though they fought valiantly, the exhausted Confederates could not stem the increasingly stronger Federal tide. Eventually the Confederates were forced back to Shiloh Church. It is here that some elated Yankee stripped this remarkable belt from a fallen Confederate and scratched "Shiloh Church” into its back with the point of his knife. Beauregard withdrew his outnumbered command and returned to Corinth. The battered Federals did not press the pursuit. The terrible battle of Shiloh Church was over, it had cost both sides a combined total of 23,746 men killed, wounded, or missing.

The belt captured that day is known as a "Rope Border” belt, because of the twisted rope design encircling the plate’s inner border. This style of plate was issued to primarily Confederate infantrymen serving in the Western Theatre, but is occasionally found in the Eastern Theatre.

Usually when found today on a belt, it is a Yankee belt that it has been put on, either by the Confederate who used what was available during the War, or more often done recently by modern collectors. I am very particular in this respect; unless a buckle has everyindication of having been on its belt virtually forever, I assume that it has not been and pass it by, or only consider its buckle value. In every way, this plate appears to be on its original Confederate made leather belt. It is a truly exceptional belt; it is made of canvas webbing. A thin layer of leather has been sewn to each side of the canvas for appearance sake, and perhaps to add some rigidity. I have often seen this done with officer’s belts, but never with enlisted men’s belts. The closest comparison to it that I have encountered is the painted canvas belts that are occasionally found on the Cast Clip Corner CS plates.

The plate’s long contact has highlighted the outline and even created a deep impression in the belt of a different color, leaving what is termed a very strong "ghost” of the buckle; the presence of which indicates long and constant contact between the brass and belt.The belt remains super strong and flexible; there are no weak places.

While the buckle with "Shiloh Church” cut into its reverse makes it the star of the show, regardless of the single missing hook, the belt is significant in its own right. Most collectors are aware that painted canvas cartridge or cap boxes, belts and slings are the crème de la crème of Confederate belts. Because the belt is so extraordinary, it was Civil War Soldiers by renowned artist Don Troiani on page 110, and may be in some of his masterpieces.


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