Union Army Uniforms and Insignia of the Civil War

Shoulder Scales

Private's Shoulder Scales Attachments
Private's Shoulder Scales Attachments for Scales on Coat

Shoulder scales were worn as a dress distinction on the uniform coat and jacket of enlisted men of all branches. However, it is unusual to see them in period photographs being worn in the field. They were never worn on the sack coat. They were attached to the uniform by a tongue on the bottom of the scale, which slid through a brass attachment sewn onto the shoulder of the uniform coat that was called a scale slide. At the collar was a second piece called a scale button, which turned and locked the scale onto the uniform.

Attachments Attachments
Scale Slide Scale Button

These were issued in three different patterns:

1. Privates, Corporals and Musicians
2. Sergeants
3. Members of Noncommissioned Staff

These differ it that the privates type are not finished off on the bottom. The sergeants type have a bottom section that fits the shoulders. The noncommissioned staff type has a series of rivets in the scales (see link).

We were furnished with the regulation frock coat for street duty with the brass scales for the shoulders. (The abomination of a soldier as it kept us continually digging away with our vinegar bottle and whiting to keep the tarnish off. I had my likeness taken in this uniform and a fine looking burlesque it made.
--Memoirs of Private Alfred Bellard, 1st Regiment Veteran Reserve Corps

MORE: Excavated Shoulder Scale
Sergeant's Shoulder Scale (Artifact)
Noncommissioned Staff Shoulder Scale (Artifact)
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