Union Army Uniforms and Insignia of the Civil War

Late Civil War Grade Insignia

Captain's Insignia

Strap Offcier
A Captain Grade Insignia
Without Embroidered Borders
A Similar Insignia Worn
by an Unknown Officer

General Orders Number 286 November 22, 1864 reads:

"Officers serving in the field are permitted to dispense with shoulder straps and the prescribed insignia of rank on their horse equipments. The marks of rank prescribed to be worn on the shoulder-straps will be worn on the shoulder in place of the strap. Officers are also permitted to wear overcoats of the same color and shape as those of the enlisted men of their command. No ornaments will be required on the overcoat, hats or forage caps; nor will sashes or epaulets be required. BY ORDER OF THE SECRETARY OF WAR"

Images of Civil War officers wearing unusual grade (rank) insignia are not that uncommon. In some cases this may have been done to reduce the conspicuousness of the officer under fire. In 1864 the above quoted General Orders allowed officers to wear grade devices (marks of rank) on their shoulders rather than the more traditional shoulder strap. The General Orders are not clear exactly how this should be done and images suggest that different officers or their tailors interpreted the orders differently. Should a single pair of Captain's bars be worn or a set of two pairs? The above set of captains bars are believed to have been made to conform to G.O. 286 and the photograph shows a similar insignia in use.

MORE: Major Wales wearing a single leaf
Similar Colonel's Insignia on a Jacket
More: Additional Discussion of the effect of GO 286 on Uniforms
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