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Union Army Uniforms and Insignia of the Civil War

State Buttons

Examples

Conn. Mass. NY RI
Connecticut Massachusetts New York Rhode Island

In addition to buttons of the U.S. Army, buttons of various states can be found at Civil War sites and were in use during the period. In order to appreciate the significance of these buttons one must understand the relationship between the states and the federal government in raising troops for the Union army. At various times during the war President Lincoln called upon the loyal states to furnish troops. Each state was given a certain allotment and it fell upon the states to initially organize regiments. This is why most Civil War regiments have names like 51st Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. Once the state had fully organized a regiment with the required number of officers and men, the unit was mustered into federal service. The first issue of clothing was often supplied by the state. For a period the federal government was unable to keep up with the demand for clothing and asked the states to clothe their own troops. Many states contracted for uniforms of patterns different from that of the federal government. In all likelihood these state issued uniforms were fitted with state buttons. During the war some existing state militia regiments, such as the 7th New York State Militia (NYSM) or the 55th NYSM, remained at home and were called up for short periods of federal service lasting months several times during the war. These units likely never received issues of U.S. government clothing.

State buttons were in use before the Civil War by militia units and many continued in use into the early 20th Century. Interestingly the number of state buttons discovered at Civil War sites do not correspond to the number of troops that states provided. The buttons of some states such as New York and Massachusetts are encountered commonly, while the buttons of other large states that also provided many troops are much less common, such as Ohio or Pennsylvania. Of course, regulation U.S. Army buttons are the most common of all to be found at Civil War sites. In addition to buttons other uniform items, such as belt or cartridge box plates are recovered from Civil War sites that have state initals or seals.


MORE: Private Wearing a SNY (State of New York) Buckle
Ohio State Sword Belt Plate
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