Old South Military Antiques

Richmond Arsenal Linen Sword Belt
Item #: OS-7531







This ultra rare belt is an example of the supply difficulties that the South was striving to overcome. It is much rarer than the more common leather sword belt, by a factor of more than a hundred to one.

The blockaded South suffered a severe leather shortage. In order to relieve this shortage and direct available leather towards shoes, which Stonewall was using up at an unprecedented rate, rifle slings, cartridge box slings, and even belts, for both infantry and cavalry were made from a cotton/flax blend. Due to the blockade, cotton was in great supply. Making the most of what was at hand, the Richmond Arsenal used a three and a half inch wide band of linen and folded it double, lengthwise, and then a quarter of an inch of each edge was inserted into the doubled belt before stitching the length at the top, middle, and bottom. This formed a very strong, pliable belted material. Afterward, the belt was cut to length, and drop rings and sword hanger were attached using a narrower belted linen. Linen scabbard attachment drops were then added to the loops, and a cast Richmond wreath was sewn into the left end using a chain-stitch sewing machine. The other end was passed through a Richmond tongue, then folded back and a small (probably two) linen adjuster keeper was placed around it. In this case, one adjuster band remains, and the loose end has been sewn back into the belt. This process actually made a very strong belt, but these belts deteriorated very rapidly when exposed to the weather. Had they been painted they would have proved much more serviceable.

Many of these belts were discarded at Brandy Station because they wore out so rapidly. For this same reason they are extraordinarily rare, so rare that though I have gone to all the major War Between the States shows for the last four decades, and know most of the major collectors in the country, yet I have certainly never seen more than five of these rare belts.

This, and the few other survivors were saved by Yankees because of their novelty. This example has a tag attached that reads: "Belt worn by a Confederate Officer in the Civil War. Taken at the battle of Chickamauga Sept. 19 1863” This refers to one of General Longstreet’s officers that had come from Virginia. As noted, this belonged to an officer, but most of this rare pattern were issued to cavalrymen.

The belts condition is truly extraordinary, it is flawless, the very best of the best !!


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