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Posted By: Walt Mathers on: 05/19/2003 10:58:04 EDT
Subject: Varied Signal Badges & Insignia

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We have dated photographic images on file at the Signal Corps Association's Archive showing wartime Federal enlisted men sporting signal patches on both arms of the same roundabouts (see: Wm. P. Poling opposite p. 592 in JW Brown's History of the Signal Corps, USA in the War of the Rebellion, Boston, 1896, reprinted 1996 Signal Corps Association (1860-1865) hereafter refer'd to as Brown). We also have some privates and non-commissioned officers wearing their patches on the right instead of the 'prescribed' left sleeve (this too allowing for some reversals of period photo images).

Many images of signal privates (and also sergeants abvt'd Sgts.) do not wear insignia on their arm sleeves but opt instead for the classy enlisted cap badge of 1864.

Interestingly enough, some signal officers have been noted as wearing the enlisted man's cap badge instead of that prescribed for the ranks of the commissioned. Because these patches were manufactured with gold bullion beading on black velvet backings, over the years they have been mis-interpreted as being officer's cap devices. For an example of a Federal officer's cap badge see Chas. Weihl in Brown opposite page 256.

Wouldn't you agree that Bill Campbell's cap badge (Brown opposite p.368) is quite different from David Benson Furber's (op p. 444), even though their 'enlistment' dates are but one month apart? We have a difficult time devorcing ourselves from what is acceptable now in terms of military uniformity and what was the accepted practice in a brand new corps obtaining insignia at the same time it was fighting for it's very existence. Many re-enactors fall prey to this throught process when they say, no kepi's only bummers or slouch hats and sack coats only but not the short ones. We need to see what was avalable then by using the photographic evidence. Both Ken Dombrowski and I wish that the crossed arm'd enlisted man to the extreme left in the photo opposite page 60 of Brown's work would uncross them so that we might identify what he is wearing on his sleeve during the Fall of 1861.

Now, in your reference to Ludwick' s account of early 1862, and the possibility of memory playing tricks, lets not forget that Augustus C. Lindsley was one of those post-war let's go ahead and make up something boys (sounds like some of the re-enactors I know). Augie is shown in Brown opposite page 384 with crossed flags within a torchless wreath. Mr. Lindsley was also a wartime enlisted man and is shown as a bit mature in the Brown image.

In conclusion, we have an account where an ooficer instructs his men to remove their signal insignia as capture is seemingly eminent. Because of his instructions we know that signalmen wore theire devices into the field or were caught unawares when an attack was made. But did all signallists rush out to secure the pretty little devices? Maybe. I know I would have wanted one. But how many would have flashed them about in actual combat? We don't know. What we do know is that the signallists knew one another. Late-war commissioned officers did too but sometimes elected to secure very small rank devices to sew onto their collars instead of wear on their shoulders. They, much like signal flag-men, had, in short order, become inviting targets.

Just some of my ramblings on the subject. Ain't this great stuff to research?


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