Original U.S. Civil War Federal Union Army Cavalry Enlisted Man Shell Jacket
Original Item: Only One Available. This is a wonderful Union cavalry uniform jacket, also referred to as a shell jacket, in excellent condition. This type of jacket was worn by countless Federal horse soldiers during the Civil War.
The shell jacket became regulation for the US army in 1833, replacing the Napoleonic-era blue tailcoat. Infantry jackets were sky blue with white piping and silver buttons. Cavalry uniforms were navy blue with orange (later yellow) piping and artillery uniforms were identical but with red piping; they had brass rather than silver buttons. The infantry uniform was worn during the Mexican War until 1851 when it was replaced with the dark blue frock coat with sky blue piping. Trousers with a fly front replaced the older-style flap-front design and kepis and Hardee hats replaced the M1839 wheel cap. Cavalry and artillery shell jackets remained in use until after the American Civil War as they were more practical for mounted troops than the long frock (which was briefly introduced in 1851 but rejected).
Garment is constructed of fine wool material dyed a deep indigo blue with the blue color still strong. Cloth body exhibits minor visible moth nips or holes so common in these wool garments. Jacket features a standup collar. Approximately 2.50” tall with 3/8” wide, cavalry-yellow piping or lacing decorating the edges, the collar is adorned with two, cuff size, eagle ‘shield’ brass buttons set back on each side with one unfortunately missing. Both buttons are offset by additional short strips of yellow braid. Collar braid is bright, tight, and free of any seam separations at the center outside or inside seam as normally seen, though there was rather recent repairs done to it to prevent any further damage or separation.
Jacket front reflects 11-button closure with twelve, original brass eagle ‘shield’ buttons securely sewn to the flap edge. Some buttons have marker marks. buttonholes show light wear. To note, while the buttons themselves are original, there are a few period buttons that were added to complete the display look. Both sleeve cuffs are functional with similar replacement style buttons. Cuffs also exhibit the chevron-style, yellow braid. Cavalry braiding also runs down the opposite (button hole) flap, circles around the entire bottom edge of the jacket and rises to each shoulder from where the two belt-rest pads are sewn on the jacket backside.
Very nice U.S. government inspection stamp to interior lining near armpit. Interior wool body of this uniform jacket is in delicate condition. As with many garments that are over 150 years old, they become quite delicate. The lining, although present, is in an extremely fragile state and tears like paper, so do handle with caution. We have taken every precaution to not add any more tearing to the lining, but with items such as these they are almost inevitable. Also keep in mind while displaying the tunic, the stitch is fragile and you do not want to have this displayed on a hanger, as gravity will take hold and ruin the uniform. It will display finely on a manikin or mounted flat.
The shell jacket proved to be a tough, light and very serviceable garment worn by Union cavalry troopers and mounted artillerymen during the war. Less expensive than the frock coats, these jackets were prescribed for issue to all mounted men in the Federal army.
Cavalry jackets are becoming difficult to find. It would make a wonderful addition to any Civil War cavalry display.
Collar to shoulder: 10"
Shoulder to sleeve: 24.5”
Shoulder to shoulder: 16”
Chest width: 18"
Waist width: 16.5"
Hip width: 16.5”
Front length: 24.5
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