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Posted By: Walt Mathers on: 06/02/2003 11:22:02 EDT
Subject: Federal Signal Insignia BUYER BEWARE!

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Our postings are filled with dissussions concerning signal insignia. You might want to type 'insignia' into a key word search at the bottom of this page and see what comes up.

You asked for patches and I take that to mean sleeve insignla but in modern terms that could also take in cap badges. Since I'm not sure which you are seeking let me begin answering by providing a direct quote from Fall Creek Sutler at:

... and give you an idea of what is out there for the taking; good, bad and ugly. A good tip-off at their site goes....

"Special Embroidered Badges- We have made two different "off period" items due to demand. The Bagpipes and Drum are both embroidered with metallic thread on green wool backing. I do not know of the origin, but these have been requested by band members."

They then go on to say:

"Signal Corps Insignia . Crossed Signal Flags on a black wool background for the Hat Badges, Crossed Signal Flags in the center of a dark blue background for Shoulder Boards. Hat Badges are large size. Shoulder Boards can be any rank."

What this sutler offers (and I'm certain this applies to others too) are good faith and 'right-on' reproductions of products we are seeking. But you notice in the bag pipe blurb, they almost willingly admit that, in some cases, what they offer is purely fantasy insignia.

In the case of signal insignia much can be learned for the attempt at their offer of wishing to supply what might be deemed as 'generic signal insignia'. Of the Federal cap devices they offer, only one can be documented. That is the crossed flag and torch with Old English "US" surrounded by a gold wreath and that enclosed in a small bead of gold. The wreath may be rather thick but all-in-all it works. Although I am not professing to be a mind reader, the other two offerings are not documented yet seem to have been 'created' so as to appeal to, say, our Confederate re-enactor class who search the live long day to find an insignia (any insignia) to call their own.
What Fall Creek DOESN'T say is that, regarding their signal insignia, they possibly, "have made [such] ...different "off period" items due to demand."

In another post I mention coming upon a very nice gent supporting corporal chevrons at an event. I'm not certain anymore which branch colour they were but in the angle of the chevrons were the prettiest little pair of crossed signal flags. Fantasy? Yes! But this fellow was longing to belong to the signal service so much that, like some of our sutlers, he chooses to creat instead of re-create.

Back to the Fall Creek page...

The cap insignia is listed as being embroidered on wool. Our documentation reveals that Federal signal insignia for cap devices were actually mounted on black velvet. This applied to both officer AND enlisted insignia and is one of the reasons why the enlisted torchless & wreathless signal insignia is oft times mis-represented as ablonging to the officers' class only. One thing to note is that signal officers were known to have worn the less guady enlisted man's badge. Sound strange? Not really. The enlisted me, while not docmented to have worn the officer's badge (not may officers seemed to have worn them either), did wear supposedly 'officer' only general staff buttons is numbers that got some non-signal officers quite upset.

Back to the insignia.... No pun intended but I suspect that the Fall Creek's Federal (or Confederate perhaps since they don't say which?) officer's shoulder boards, w/cross'd flags and torch, were intentionally or un-intentionally 'created' out of whole cloth. We have E-wired them for supportive documentation but were, however, not supplied with adequate information with which to lead us to an orignial source. Perhaps these too fit into their special embrioderd badge catagory of "not know[ing] of the origin, but these have been requested...".

Boy, have I NOT been a lot of help to you? Well, maybe you are actually looking for as many insignia you can find to mount on a display board or something. I don't know. If that is the case, collect the entire set.

As to a good enlisted hat badge, you may find one by conducting a search for Fair Oaks Sutler. There you will find a decent repro along with a sleeve insignia (or what some might call a patch). The flag poles are a but thick for my taste but it closely follows the one seen worn by a signal private on page 18 of Phil Katcher's "American Civil War Armies (3): Staff, Specialist and Maritime Services" Osprey Men-At-Arms Series, London, 1986.

I rather fancy the thinner signal flag poles seen in Jim Stamatelos' Federal signal round-about image printed on page 157 (and in colour!) within the US equipment volume of "Echoes of Glory" Now that's the kind of sleeve insignia I wish Fall Creek and others considered producing. I bet they'd sell them by the dozen.

As to positioning a Federal device on the sleeve look at the image of Hamilton Clark, seen just below the image of the jacket I mention above. He wears his insignia on his right sleeve, while the one above it has it's positioned on the left (as called for in the 1864 signal regs). The patches should be documentable but it's the wearer's call as far as historically accurate positioning goes.

Thanks for your posting. Hope this helps a little.

Best Regards,
Walt Mathers
Act'g Archivist
Signal Corps Association (1860-1865)

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