1840s – 1850s Stamped Brass Militia Belt Plate on Original Belt – Early Battlefield Pickup from the Battle of Bull Run



1840s – 1850s Stamped Brass Militia Belt Plate on Original Belt – Early Battlefield Pickup from the Battle of Bull Run – This type of belt and plate were commonly utilized by various state militias, prior to the Civil War. The plate is a die-struck, rolled brass sheet; it retains its applied tongue and belt loop bar. A number of early war regiments, from both the North and South, wore these belts and plates, at the onset of hostilities. We have had several of this type of stamped, brass, Eagle and star motif belt plates, but this is the first example we have had that is still on its original belt; of additional significance is the faded, inked inscription on the interior of the belt:

Rebel Belt – B …”

 When we obtained this belt, an element in a large group of memorabilia once owned by a long time, older collector in Virginia, we noticed a note that accompanied the belt, stating that there was an inscription on the interior of the belt that said – “Rebel Belt – Bull Run 1861”; we were able to see, the wording “Rebel Belt” with the unaided eye, and part of the word “Bull”, but little else. With some past items that exhibited illegible writing, we have submitted the artifact to art conservator, Elizabeth Fulton, for her assistance in deciphering the illegible writing, by photographing the item in question, when illuminated by UV light. The resultant images did confirm the presence of the words – “Rebel Belt – B …”; closer scrutiny of the UV illuminated images do seem to show the last visible word to read: “Bull …“, although, as denoted in Ms. Fulton’s accompanying letter, she could not confirm that. In addition, further analysis of the images led to the conclusion, based upon UV fluorescence, that the ink utilized to write the inscription was Gall Ink – Iron gall ink (also known as common inkstandard inkoak gall ink or iron gall nut ink) was a purple-black or brown-black ink made from iron salts and tannic acids from vegetable sources. It was the standard ink formulation used in Europe for the 1400-year period between the 5th and 19th centuries. The conservators conclusions confirmed that the inscription on the belt, dated to the Civil War period, thereby leading to the additional conclusion that this belt was apparently worn by a Confederate soldier, who lost the belt during the Battle of Bull Run. Both the belt and plate remain in excellent condition. We will include the letter, from Richmond Conservation Studio, confirming the ink type and composition, as well as their UV images of the inscription.