IDENTIFIED REGULATION ISSUE CIVIL WAR CAVALRY SABER BELT RIG

$795.00 SOLD

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Item Code: 2022-1024

This is an issued and identified, but still minty, Union cavalry saber belt with matching bench number “93” on the reverse of the rectangular eagle saber belt plate and on the hasp, indicating they have been together and not swapped out or exchanged by mistake during a cleaning session in a barracks or around a campfire. The plate is the enlisted version of the 1851 pattern sword belt plate using an applied one-piece nickel-silver or “German silver” wreath and sun rays showing along all sides of the plate, a style for which orders were placed starting in December 1863 (See O’Donnell and Campbell, Plate 662.) The belt is made of buff leather and shows the rivets introduced to reinforce the stitching securing the hasp and billets for the saber slings about the same time. As is usual for these belts, the iron used in the dying process has oxidized its black color to brown, something experiments have shown could occur shortly after issue and exposure to the elements. As is also usual with buff leather, it is still very solid and tough. The belt is complete with sliding loop tighteners on the waist belt and at either end of both saber slings, which have all their double-headed brass button adjusters, and the carry hook, for supporting the saber when on foot is still present as well. The ends of the saber slings are slightly pinched, indicating they spent some time looped through the carrying rings of a saber scabbard. The only piece missing is the shoulder support belt, which several cavalrymen indicate in memoirs was often dispensed with.

The belt has an original soldier’s stencil on the inside reading, “F. M. RICE” in large black letters. A quick check of Union soldiers named “F. Rice” yields 85 results,

45 of whom list no middle initial and are possible candidates, as are another 7 who specifically list “M” as a middle initial. Of these latter 7, one, Francis M. Rice, served in Battery B 3rd NY Artillery, a light battery, and could have been issued a cavalry belt. He served from September 1864 to July 1865, so the dating of the belt would fit. Of those showing no middle initial, ignoring men serving in infantry or heavy artillery units, three with cavalry service were in the 5th Ohio, 14th NY, and 10th NY, but died or left service too early for the belt. Three others, all named Frank Rice, would be candidates, serving in the 3rd Mass Cavalry, 18th Indiana Light Artillery, and Battery K 3rd US Light Artillery, though dates of service of the latter are uncertain and middle initials for all would have to be determined. (It is worth noting a small bit of black ink at the upper right of the stenciled “M,” indicating it might have been “Mc.”)

Some further digging might narrow down the possibilities or even produce a winner, but in any case, the belt is an excellent example of a regulation U.S. cavalry saber belt and of a soldier’s period personalization of his field gear, something for which he might be charged if lost or stolen. This would look great in a cavalry display.  [sr] [ph:m]

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