PATTERN 1833 BRIGADIER GENERAL’S DRESS UNIFORM
EPAULETS – IDENTIFIED TO BRIGADIER GENERAL JOHN SHULER
WILCOX – 52ND ILLINOIS VOLUNTEER INFANTRY –
WOUNDED VETERAN OF CORINTH - A VERY NICE PAIR
WITH BRIGHT BULLION TRIM:
This set of Pattern 1833
General Officer’s Epaulets has not only survived as a
matched pair – a remarkable feat in and of itself, but
this set is identified to Brigadier General John Shuler
Wilcox who served as the commanding officer of the 52ND
Illinois Volunteer Infantry and was wounded during
the Civil War at Corinth.
John Shuler Wilcox was born in 1833 into a family with a
well established record of military service to the
United States – his grandfather having served as a
officer during the Revolutionary War, and both his
grandfather and father having attained the rank of
General in the New York State Militia. The Wilcox
family moved to Kane County, Illinois near Elgin in 1842
and John experienced a childhood typical of most boys
living on the frontier. Having attended some formal
classes at Lombard University, and studied the law in
the offices of his brother, Wilcox was admitted to the
Illinois Bar in 1855. Wilcox enlisted in a militia
company, the Washington Continental Artillery, when it
was organized in Elgin ca. 1856. He served in this
militia company until July 27, 1861 when he signed the
rolls of Company K, when the 52ND Illinois
Volunteer Infantry Regiment was mustered at Camp Lyon,
Geneva, Illinois. On September 14, 1861 Wilcox was
recorded as a Captain. As the 52ND – known
as the “Lincoln Regiment” - was organized and prepared
for entry into the Civil War, Wilcox was promoted to
Lieutenant Colonel. Following the Battle of Corinth,
Wilcox assumed command of the regiment and in May of
1863 he was promoted to the rank of Colonel.
General Wilcox was with the 52ND during the
Tennessee campaign in 1862 and was present at the
battles of Ft. Donelson, Iuka and Corinth,
Mississippi and in 1863 at Lay’s Ferry, Georgia. He
received a severe head wound at Corinth which resulted in a
permanent hearing loss in one ear.
In the spring of 1864, Wilcox was summoned by the
Governor of Illinois and the state’s Adjutant General to
organize the 141ST Illinois Volunteer
Infantry, consisting of the famous “100 Days Men”
mustered in at Elgin, Wilcox’s home town, to support
what was seen as the final push to end the war.
Wilcox remained on duty through the end of the war and
was promoted to Brigadier General of Volunteers in March
After the war he returned to his law practice, and in
the following years he was elected mayor of Elgin, was
appointed postmaster, served as a director of the local
bank, on the board of the local library, on the board of
trustees for Elgin Academy, and eventually owned a fuel
and warehouse business having left his law practice due
to his loss of hearing. He was a member of the Grand
Army of the Republic, The Loyal Legion, and the Society
of the Army of the Tennessee.
In 1916 Gen. Wilcox made his home with one of his
daughters in Los Angeles, California and it was there he
died in 1926 at the age of 93. He was interred at the
Bluff City Cemetery in Elgin, Illinois.
When I purchased this set, they were contained in a
glass front deep frame that had definitely seen better
days. As the frame was not providing significant
protection for the items, it did nothing to enhance the
appearance of the set, and in consideration of the risks
involved when shipping glass – the possible damage to
the epaulets if the glass were to shatter in transit - I
removed the pieces from the frame. It was very apparent
that the set had been together for a very long time, and
given the accuracy of the information on the slip of
paper as it reflects the general’s Civil War service, I
have no doubt the identifying paper is original to the
grouping and accurately identifies the epaulets and
button to General Wilcox.
Based on the inscription on the piece of paper that
accompanied the epaulets, I suspect the General
presented them with the button from his uniform to a
family member or friend on Christmas of 1914. He was 81
at the time, was two years from moving into his
daughter’s home in California, and was very likely at
that stage in his life where he was beginning to pare
down his possessions. Other than he made of gift of the
set, I can find no other significance to the date on the
slip of paper.
Of the pattern introduced in 1833 which remained the
style of general officer’s epaulets until 1872, this
pair of Brigadier General’s Dress Uniform Epaulets has
survived in very nice condition with bright brocade and
The epaulets measure 7 ¼” long and 4 ½” wide at the
width of the swell, with 2 ½” long fringe. The top
surface of the epaulet features a surface of gold
brocade cloth edged with a roll of embroidered gold
bullion cord. The swell at the outside end of the
epaulet is framed with a brass crescent edged with a
bead of jaceron. From the edge of the swell depends a
fringe of 1/8” in diameter twisted gold bullion cords.
The rank of brigadier general is indicated with an
embroidered silver bullion star in the center of the
crescent, measuring 1 ½” across the points, and standing
½” proud of the brocade base. All of the insignia, trim
and fringe is in very good condition, showing very
little evidence of wear and only the slightest
tarnishing, with an overall bright, shiny appearance.
There is some minor loss of the metallic fringe with one
or two pieces missing from the points where the fringe
ended at the points of the crescents, however the loss
is not particularly noticeable given the location.
The underside of the epaulet features a tailored cloth
pillow that fit around the radius of the officer’s
shoulder, made of white or yellow polished cotton cloth.
The cloth shows some wear and aging with some loss
around the edges, none of which is apparent when the
epaulets are displayed.
The button is the standard General Service Infantry
button and I suspect it was salvaged from the General’s
uniform. The slip of paper is intact and all of the
handwritten inked inscription is present and legible.
The age of the paper and the aged color of the ink
indicate the paper and the writing are consistent with a
piece written in 1914.
These pieces make for a very nice grouping, particularly
as they are identified to a serving officer during the
Civil War and one that participated in some of the
significant battles of the war. As I commented above,
it is very remarkable that the epaulets stayed together
as a matched pair, and even more so that the
identification remained with them for all these years.
This is a rare opportunity to acquire such a grouping
related to a respected officer for your collection.