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Military Buttons

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  • Military Buttons

    Civil War Military Buttons

    Military buttons may carry insignia relating particular sectors of the armed forces and its regiment, the rank of the wearer and sometimes a state seal. These insignia were frequently in use over long periods of time without notable changes in design, so close scrutiny is needed to determine that a button is from the Civil War era (1861-1865).

    The nature of the shank (the metal loop that enables the button to be sewn to the uniform) is a good indication of age. Civil war era buttons typically have a small circular loop to the shank. The attachment method that connects the shank to the back of the button is also a clue. For Civil War era buttons the back of the button usually has a small circular depression into which the shank is “brazed” to the back with a metallic compound that usually has a different colour than the button itself. Button backs from this period usually do not have what is termed “mushrooming”, where the area around the base of the shank is raised to a mound shape (unless created by excessive amounts of brazing compound).

    Shanks which are inserted into holes in the base without any brazing compound were not in use until after World War I.

    The most reliable information for dating comes from the manufacturer’s “back mark”, the sytle and lettering of which can often be tracked to a specific time period. The most prolific manufacturers were the Scovill, Waterbury, Robinson and Horstmann companies.

    There is general information about US Military Uniform Button Identification here:

    This website has a huge list of back marks used during, before and after the Civil War, together with dates:

    Harry Ridgeway’s “Ridgeway Civil War Library” has an extensive pictorial catalogue of Army and Navy button insignia here:

    and a pictorial catalogue of back marks here:

    There’s good information on identification of Navy buttons here:
    I keep six honest serving-men (they taught me all I knew); Their names are What and Why and When and How and Where and Who.

  • #2
    Confederate Officers button.
    Click image for larger version

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    Look to the ground for it holds the past!