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Old South Military Antiques

CSA General John B. Floyd’s Belt
Item #: OS-7703

By its manufacture techniques and materials, the extremely high quality belt shown here can be positively identified as a War Between the States manufactured product. The sand cast, two piece buckle is a War era copy of a circa 1850’s die stamped northern product. The belt is made of a fine patent leather over linen. Prior to the War, militaria north and south were made very light, with a definite emphasis placed on aesthetics rather than functionality. The pre-War militias were social organizations with a military flavor rather than true military companies; hence their uniforms and dress were made out of material too light to stand up under field use.

When the War began and the militia’s entered the Confederate Army, these early accoutrements quickly broke down and were discarded. This is evidenced by the many excavated examples of the light pre-War buckles and plates found broken and discarded. The newly made and issued War era products were made of heavy leather for enlisted men and of patent leather over linen for officers concerned with appearance. The patent leather offered the finer look the officer desired and the linen offered the support his belt needed.

The aforementioned linen liner not only offered the durability that the officer desired, today it gives strength and flexibility to not only the belt, but also to the thin sword hangers. The patent leather dried and cracked long ago, and had not the belt had the linen liner the sword hangers certainly, and the belt possibly, would have broken and separated.

That this particular belt was made to such high quality standards is not surprising when one learns that it belonged to a very prominent Virginian, John B. Floyd, who served as governor of Virginia (1849–1852), Secretary of War in the administration of United States President James Buchanan (1857–1860), and a Confederate Brigadier General during the War Between the States. Floyd died August 23, 1863 in Abingdon, Virginia. At that time, he held a commission as Major General in the Virginia Militia.

The General’s belt was first brought to the attention of Mr. Art Beltrone in August of 1983. He had purchased it from General Floyd’s descendant, Andrew Kean Leake. Mr. Leake recounted the history of the belt in a letter to Art Beltrone. He wrote:

Dear Mr. Beltrone,

During the course of cleaning out mothers’ home after her death May 1, 1972 a Confederate belt and buckle was found packed away in a trunk together with many other non-related items. Attached to the belt was a note on a piece of brownish faded writing paper on which was written the following "Gen John Floyd’s belt.” (the note accompanies this research report, as does the letter from Leake to Beltrone) Something else had been included in the writing but was not legible. This note appeared to be in my mother’s hand writing. She was Susie Harris Preston, daughter of Charles Henry Campbell Preston who was a captain in the Confederate Army and served under General Jackson. Gen. John B Floyd’s wife was Sarah Buchannan Preston my grandfather’s aunt. Since Gen Floyd died near Abingdon VA. Aug 26, 1863 his personal effects would have been sent to his wife if possible and evidently the belt and buckle were included. Later Mrs. Floyd must have given the belt and buckle to C. H. C. Preston, her nephew, because both he and her husband served in the Confederate Army. There it passed to my mother at her father’s death. Yours Truly Andrew Kean Leake son of Dr. Louis Knight Leake and Susie Preston Leake.”

Mr. Beltrone sold the belt to Donald Tharpe of Great Marsh, Bealton, Virginia. While it was in his ownership, it was photographed and published in the Commanders of the Civil War Series by Salamander Books. The next owner that I could locate was Mr. Richard Ferry of MacClenny, Florida. There was one owner between Mr. Tharpe and Mr. Ferry. For proprietary reasons, Mr. Ferry declined to identify the collector he purchased it from. The next collector to own the belt was Ted Campbell, in who's collection it remained until the present time.

I can only call to mind on Virginia belt better than this example; that is General William Mahone's presentation belt.
Not for Sale