IMPRESSIVE NY STATE IDENTIFIED FROCK COAT, EX-TEXAS CIVIL WAR MUSEUM

$12,500.00 SOLD

Quantity Available: None

Item Code: 1179-149

This gray NY Militia frock coat has great visual appeal and comes from the collections of the Texas Civil War Museum. This is a high-grade garment with the button holes on the lapel edged with twisted gilt brass wire and the collar and pointed cuffs faced with dark blue and edged with red tape. Nine large NY State “Extra Quality” buttons close the single-breasted front, and four more are on the rear waist and skirts, also edged in blue and red. The cuffs are pointed, blue edged in red along the top and around the bottom of the cuff. Each cuff has three small NY buttons in a vertical line from cuff bottom up to the point. The blue collar is edged in red along the top and front edge. The interior is fully lined in body and skirts with a heavy brown polished cotton and is padded, but not quilted. The skirts have functional pockets, accessible from the exterior. There is no interior pocket in the chest.

The condition is excellent. There a few tiny moth nips on the left shoulder and at left collar over the first buttonhole, two or three, also small, lower down and a couple on the right sleeve near the shoulder. Colors are strong. All buttons and trim are firmly in place. The interior shows just some openings to the lining at the bottom of the armpits, natural points of stress and smaller area at the top center rear at the base of the collar, another stress point.

The lining of the left sleeve has a number in black ink “3114.” This is partially under a seam and thus may be a number from the end of a bolt of cloth used for the sleeve lining. In larger old brown ink script is “James Taylor.” The coat was identified as the uniform of James F. Taylor of 11th New York, better known as the Ellsworth Zouaves and the First New York Fire Zouaves, having been recruited heavily among NY City firemen, known for their dash and bravery. Taylor enlisted at age 20 on April 20, 1861, and mustered in as a private in Co. D on May 4. His obituary indicates he had been a fireman and Company D was commanded by John Downey of Engine 34, strongly suggesting that Taylor and comrades were part of that fire company. Taylor was captured at Bull Run, July 21, 1861, and imprisoned at Richmond. Transferred to Charleston, SC, in September, he was paroled at Richmond May 21, 1862, and discharged as a prisoner of war on parole at Washington, DC, on May 26, 1862.

The use of blue facing with red trim on a gray coat fits the color scheme of the 11th New York, but we find no record of its enlisted men in frock coats. It is possible that some individuals or small groups so uniformed themselves as the regiment rushed to arm, equip and uniform itself before heading to Washington, or that the coat could date to the last phase of the unit. After Bull Run they had gone back to New York briefly in September 1861 to reorganize, before returning to Virginia to be posted at Newport News. It is conceivable they might have adopted a new dress coat as an incentive to recruiting during that period, but the regiment returned north on May 7, 1862, before Taylor was discharged at Washington on May 26, but he might just have had time to reach his old comrades before they mustered out in New York on June 2 and hung up their uniforms. 

Taylor also had subsequent active service with the 22nd NY National Guard, when it was called up for thirty days during the Gettysburg Campaign and served in the 8th Corps, Middle Department, service chronicled by G.W. Wingate in, “The last campaign of the Twenty-second regiment, N.G., S.N.Y. June and July, 1863.” That unit is well recorded as wearing gray frock coats as their dress uniform, but a detail again gets in the way: their coats were faced with red and trimmed with white (giving them the nickname of “Strawberry Grays.”) Taylor may have had service in yet another NY unit that did not have federal service, but rosters for those units are seldom available or complete, though matching the coat with the color scheme and cuff designs of other NYSM and NGSNY coats might identify the unit.

We note that Taylor had been born in Manhattan and died at his home in Whitestone, Long Island, July 7. 1898. His obituary notes that he has served as a postmaster under Benjamin Harrison and was a past President of the Retired and Relieved Firemen’s Association of New York.  [sr] [ph:L]

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