Original M1855 Civil War U.S. Issue Cavalry Enlisted Man’s Shell Jacket
Original M1855 Civil War U.S. Issue Cavalry Enlisted Man’s Shell Jacket – Typical U.S. Federal Issue enlisted, cavalry shell jacket, constructed of dark blue, indigo dyed, heavy or coarse wool; jacket is trimmed in bright yellow (indicative of cavalry use) worsted wool piping; 12 general service, plain eagle buttons of cuff size, button the front of the jacket; all buttons holes are hand-whipped; two plain general service eagle buttons appear on each, functional cuff; two general service eagle buttons are sewn to right and left side of high collar; collar is piped in common style of two rows, per button, of yellow worsted wool; both original belt bolsters, also piped in yellow wool, remain on back of jacket; interior is lined in a coarse, white muslin; both original, white muslin sleeve linings are in place, with two stampings; in one lining is stamped – “A. Rose NY 4” ; in the other lining is stamped – “A Rose NY 4” and what appears to be a date. The collar retains its original, japanned closure hook, although the eye is missing. The coat is in excellent condition, retaining vibrant color, with minor insect damage; there are some blue thread repairs on the right shoulder. The coat was, as most of these shell jackets were, constructed by a combination of machine and hand-sewing.
Military shell jackets were short jackets that extended down to hip level and were commonly issued in the mid and late 19th century. This type of jacket was first utilized in Austria. The shell jacket became regulation for the US army in 1833, replacing the Napoleonic-era blue tail coat. Infantry jackets were sky blue with white piping and silver buttons. Cavalry uniforms were navy blue with orange (later yellow) piping, and artillery uniforms were identical but with red piping; they had brass rather than silver buttons. The infantry uniform was worn during the Mexican War until 1851 when it was replaced with the dark blue frock coat with sky blue piping. Cavalry and artillery shell jackets remained in use until after the Civil War, as they were more practical for mounted troops than the long frock (which was briefly introduced in 1851 but rejected). Complaints poured in from the field that the frockcoat issued in 1851 was unsuitable for enlisted men while mounted. So in 1854 the Dragoons, Mounted Artillery and Mounted Rifles were given (back) the waist length jacket for Dress and Undress in a slightly modified version. The 1854 Jacket had the shoulder tabs removed and the waistline pockets were deleted. Also, the collar height was lowered slightly from the 1846 model. The 1858 jackets are essentially the same as the M-1854/5 model jackets except the collar was again lowered slightly.