Shoulder straps were grade (rank) insignia worn on the ends of the shoulders. Below are those of company officers worn during the Civil War period.
This strap is unusual in that it is entirely made of cable pattern embroidery. Cable pattern has two strands of bullion twisted together. Straps of this type were offered in a period catalog of military goods published by Schuyler, Hartley and Graham. The field color is the yellow of cavalry.
This is an oversized triple border strap with doubled gold bullion bars. The field is dark blue of staff. Bars of captains and of first lieutenants were always gold in color on shoulder straps during the period 1851-1872. After 1872 they were silver in color.
Among the more unusual of Civil War shoulder straps are those whose ends are rounded rather than square. These are known to have been worn in the Civil War from period photographs. Why these rounded end straps were manufactured is uncertain. This strap has the yellow field of cavalry made of melton wool. The border is all dead bullion. The majority of Civil War shoulder straps have borders of mixed dead and bright bullion.
In 1917 first lieutenants were given a gold bar as their insignia of grade. Prior to that time they had no device indicating their grade. A shoulder strap with a plain field was worn until the First World War. The above strap is reduced in size measuring three inches long rather than the regulation four inches. The field appears to have originally been yellow velvet, the pile of which has worn off in places showing a blue color. The border is quarter inch all dead bullion. It is not possible to be absolutely certain about the date of this strap. The reduced size, velvet field and unfinished bottom favor the Civil War period.