BURNSIDE PATTERN CARTRIDGE BOX BELT PLATE FROM HARTRANFT’S LINES IN THE GRAND ASSAULT OF MAY 12, 1864 AT SPOTSYLVANIA, EX-KERKSIS

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Item Code: 490-5806

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This is the slightly smaller sized round eagle plate for the cartridge box sling that is known among collectors as “Burnside” plates from their association with 9th Corps and 1864 battle sites. This fits perfectly with its find location as noted by Syd Kerksis, well-known early collector and author, on the collection envelope with the plate. He recorded finding it in February 1960 as Spotsylvania Court House, specifically noting, “Grand assault / Hartranft 12 May.” Hartranft was a brigade commander in Wilcox’s 3rd Division of Burnside’s 9th Corps, operating under Grant’s command, side by side with Meade in command of the Army of the Potomac’s 2nd, 5th, and 9th Corps. In the grand assault against the “Mule Shoe” salient on May 12, Burnside attacked the east leg of the Confederate lines. Potter’s division had a hand in the early fighting. At around 2:00 P.M. Wilcox led his division forward, but was hit in the flank by Lane’s brigade and halted, one of the casualties likely leaving behind this plate in fighting.

The plate shows nice detail to the eagle and is a brownish olive tone with some green showing on the feathers of the wings, brownish white along the edge of the rim, with a dusting of similar small spots. The rim has some light indentations on the right. The reverse shows a cream white surface with dark brown stains marking the positions of the wire loops that are now missing. The surface shows some cracks, with some small losses of fill on the edges near wire loops.

These plates were adopted in 1826 with hooks on the reverse for the bayonet shoulder belt and made of brass for artillery and white metal for infantry. This was changed to brass for both services in 1831 and when the bayonet was moved to the waist belt around 1842, the plates were redesigned with two loops on the back for wear as fixed ornaments on the cartridge box sling and plates with hooks were relegated to the NCO and musician’s sword shoulder belts. (Some militia versions used hooks at a different angle for wear on the waist belt.) Although in theory the plate was dropped with introduction of the 1864 cartridge box rigs with no plates, the plate remained in use in the field and was not discontinued until the new 1872 sets of accouterments were distributed.

As a “Burnside” plate, this is a scarcer variant and has a good solid battle connection to the 9th Corps and specific brigade. See O’Donnell and Campbell plate 448, page 283, for a similar example.  [sr] [ph:m/L]

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