An Album of U.S. Army Shoulder Straps by Dr. Howard G. Lanham

Album of Shoulder Straps

Multiple Border Shoulder Straps of the Civil War Period

Shoulder straps were grade (rank) insignia worn on the ends of the shoulders by officers. During the Civil War these were hand made and there are many variations in their style of manufacture. It is common to find ones that are not made according to the published regulations. The regulations call for a single border that is 1/4 inch in width. Among the more unusual are those with multiple borders. It is very unusual to find a multiple bordered strap worn after the Civil War.

Double Border Photo

Double Bordered Shoulder Straps
Worn by an Unidentified Staff First Lieutenant

The resolution of the straps on many photographs do not permit counting the number of borders. In this case we can distinguish a line on the border indicating he is wearing a double bordered strap. We know he is a staff officer because one of the buttons on his coat appears to have the construction of a staff button.

[Shoulder Strap 1]

Civil War Cavalry Colonel's Shoulder Strap with Four Borders
(Courtesy James Frasca)

Four borders may seem like a lot, but other straps have as many as five. This examples has four borders, which are uniform in size. Other types will have borders of different sizes. The above strap has a blue velvet field that has not stood the test of time and is deteriorated. All of the above examples show an escutcheon (shield) on the eagle's chest but it is sometimes omitted. The embroiderers of Civil War shoulder straps did not have the written regulations to refer to and in all likelihood executed their designs based on oral instructions. The result is that there is a great variation in their product. During the post-Civil War period manufacturers of insignia controlled the output much more closely and the straps conform more closely to written regulations

[Shoulder Strap 2]

Civil War Cavalry Colonel's Double Border Shoulder Strap

This is a Cavalry Colonel's strap with wings made of sequins and cable pattern embroidery. This field is yellow velvet. There are two borders equal in size.

[Shoulder Strap 3]

Civil War Staff Major's Double Border Shoulder Strap
Worn by Alexander S. Diven

This is an double border strap with two all dead bullion borders of equal size. The leaves abut the border, a common feature in 19th Century straps. Diven served as Acting Assistant Provost Marshall General for western New York State.

[Shoulder Strap 4]

Civil War Staff First Lieutenant's Shoulder Strap

This is an oversized double 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.

MORE: Additional Civil War Shoulder Straps
MORE: Discussion on Civil War Colonel's Shoulder Straps
MORE: Shoulder Strap of MOH winner George Davis
MORE: Other Double Border Shoulder Straps
MORE: Post-Civil War Shoulder Straps
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