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ORIGINAL HISTORIC BELT PLATES ON MODERN TROUSER BELTS – EXCELLENT KEEPSAKE PIECES YOU CAN WEAR ON A REGULAR BASIS:  These three belts are fitted with original US Army belt plates, each on a modern made belt suited for daily casual wear.  Particularly nice to wear to your collector club meetings or to a gun show, these belts were set up to wear on blue jeans or slacks.  A way of advertising your interest in antique U.S. militaria, you’ll enjoy wearing these belts. 

Each is described below with accompanying photographs:


no. 1  MODEL 1851 THREE PIECE BELT PLATE AND BELT – ONE OF THE FAMOUS “JAMES RIVER PLATES” – A RELIC OF THE 1864 CITY POINT WHARF EXPLOSION:  Many  years ago a finite quantity of these Model 1851 Three Piece Wreath Waist and Sabre Belt Plates were recovered from the James River in Virginia.  This plate, and a few others like it, were only some of the relics recovered from the site of the infamous City Point Wharf Explosion which occurred on August 9, 1864.  The City Point was a forward positioned Headquarters and Ordnance Depot serving the Federal armies then in the field in Virginia.  The wharf was a terminus for the barges ferrying soldiers, equipment, munitions large and small, and supplies which were brought up from deep water ports downstream.   

It is believed that agents of the Confederate Secret Service Bureau placed a “torpedo” or bomb on a barge loaded with artillery ammunition which was berthed at the wharf.  At approximately 11:30 a.m. the device was exploded with great effect, leading to subsequent sympathetic explosions on neighboring barges also loaded with shells and small arms ammunition.  The explosions caused a substantial loss of life and rained “shot, shell, timbers and saddles” over the immediate area.  There are several first person descriptions of the resulting damage which were written at the time, and are now available on line, but some of the more notable descriptions include such passages as:   

“…five minutes ago an ordnance boat exploded, carrying lumber, grape, canister, and all kinds of shot over this point. Every part of the yard used as my headquarters is filled with splinters and fragments of shell. I do not know yet what the casualties are beyond my own headquarters…”,  

“…the resulting explosion was terrific– there was a total wreckage of the extended line of wharves and storehouses; the property destroyed being estimated at $4,000,000….the Union loss of life at 184….”,  

and most applicable to this belt plate,

Between [the barge] on …which the torpedo was placed,  and the wharf was a canal boat filled with cavalry saddles and equipments turned in by Sheridan's cavalry a few days before on embarking for Washington… The explosion sent those old cavalry saddles flying in every direction like so many big-winged bats. One of them struck and killed the lemonade man [who] was doing a thriving business under a tent-fly, surrounded by mule drivers, white and black, soldiers, civilians, and swarms of flies, when the saddle dashed through the crowd and hit him in the stomach.

While the depot would have carried items such as belt plates to supply the troops in the field, it is entirely possible that Sheridan’s troops packed all of their equipment – belts included – aboard the canal boat with their saddles.   

Much of the supplies and materiel being held on those barges which was not destroyed in the blast was lost to the river and those relics were not recovered until sometime in the 1960-1970’s.  This belt plate was one of those recovered.  Apparently, the mineral content of the water and soil of that area of Virginia is prone to be kind to relics.  I have seen some fine pieces found in that area through the years which, like this belt plate, showed little effect of having been buried or submerged.   

This belt plate is such a piece, showing no damage or erosion and with all three pieces of the silver wreath intact.  As I recall, these plates were almost black in color when retrieved from the river and traces of that black finish remain on the reverse and in crevices in the face of the plate.  Otherwise, the plate features a nice even patina.   

The plate is mounted on a modern made black leather belt made in the same fashion as the original bridle leather waist and sabre belts, with the captive catch on one end and the brass adjusting hook on the other end.  While the belt has been worn, it is still in excellent condition with no heavy wear to the surface.  The belt is 1 ¾” wide and will adjust up to 46” long, so you can determine your fit from there.  

This is a very nice set which you can wear with pride, with the added value of the plate having been recovered from the site of a very historical Civil War event.  (0819)  $495


no. 2  ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL MADE INTERLOCKING TWO PIECE BELT PLATE AND BELT:  Fresh from the estate of a former Rock Island Arsenal employee, this unique two-piece interlocking belt plate set features the Ordnance Department exploding bomb insignia surrounded by a belt which bears the “ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL” legend.   

The belt plate is a nicely done casting, I believe done in the mid to late 1970’s.  Based on what I know of other such pieces made in the work shops of Rock Island, this plate was probably cast from the bronze salvaged from the captured Confederate artillery pieces which were melted down at the arsenal.  This plate set was likely produced in a very limited, one time project, and is likely a very rare plate.   

The plate is mounted on a substantial leather belt, sewn to the plate body on one end and with the brass adjustment hook on the other end.  While the belt has been worn, it is still in excellent condition with no heavy wear to the surface.  The belt is 1 ¼” wide and will adjust up to 42” long, so you can determine your fit from there.  

This is a very nice set from a historic arsenal workshop.  (0820)  $295


no. 3  MODEL 1872 BELT PLATE AND WOVEN BELT:  This belt features an original Model 1872 Belt Plate mounted on a hand woven cord belt.  The plate is in excellent condition with no excessive wear and a nice even patina.   

The belt appears to be woven from a natural cotton or jute cord, beige in color, and the weave features an intricate pattern which was very skillfully executed.  The weave is permanently anchored to the belt plate as it was begun in the belt slot, and the loose end holds the plate clasp.  While the belt has been worn, it is still in excellent condition with no heavy wear and no broken threads. The belt is 1 ¾” wide and will adjust to accommodate a 41” waist.     

While a bit whimsical and certainly nothing close to regulation, this nice set has a decided tropical flavor, and it will allow you to incorporate the Jimmy Buffet side of your personality into your collecting interests.  This is a very nice set from a historic arsenal workshop.  (0403)  $250


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