RARE TRIPLE-BORDERED MEDICAL STAFF CAPTAIN’S SHOULDER STRAPS

$3,500.00 SOLD

Quantity Available: None

Item Code: M26407

This is a nice set of “extra-rich” shoulder straps with triple borders for a rare rank.

At the beginning of the Civil War regiments were allowed just two officers on their medical staff: one surgeon, who ranked as a major, and one assistant-surgeon (expanded to two in 1862) who ranked as a first lieutenant, and there was no intermediate grade. These officers in theory wore shoulder straps with their rank insignia in gold and with an “MS” in silver, all on black backgrounds indicating a staff position, but in practice many wore straps with deep blue backgrounds like this.

During the war, with hundred of new regiments being created and attrition taking a toll, promotion from assistant surgeon to surgeon might come quickly. In the prewar Regular Army, however, promotion was slow and an assistant surgeon might wait a very long time before a surgeon’s position opened up. The army thus instituted a practice whereby assistant surgeons with five years of service would still be considered assistant surgeons, but would rank as captains until they could be promoted to (full) surgeon. Period photographs showing officers with such insignia are very uncommon, but do exist, and it seems that some state units might have carried over the practice, allowing prewar militia service to count toward their rank. In any case, the rank is a rare one.

These straps are of typical Civil War construction, with the background fabric, a deep blue velvet, turned under at the edges and the backs left open. The background still has a wonderful, deep color and no rubbing or loss to the nap. The applied metal “MS” (“Medical Staff”) letters are in “Old English,” silvered, and stamped to imitate embroidery. The borders and captain’s bars are gold bullion embroidered and bordered with gilt jacqueron wire. Officers purchased their own insignia, of course, and expense went up depending on how elaborate one got. In this case the officer elected for triple borders, created by using a wide central embroidered bar with a narrower bar on either side. The bars are constructed around interior cords and the center bar is thus not only wider than its companions but also rises up more, making even more of an impression. (The rank insignia uses bars of equal width.)

These straps are in very good condition. The blue is quite strong, the fabric has not been the object of moths, and the false-embroidered letters are still bright. The gold color of the embroidery has mellowed slightly, but the bullion has not appear “zinced-out” as sometimes happens when it oxidizes to a silver-gray. There are one or two spots where a strand of bullion cord has moved away from its neighbor to show the underlying cording, but the bullion is all there and not broken.

This is a very nice example of a rare insignia that would enhance a medical or Civil War insignia collection.  [sr]

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