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[221]

Steel breast plates

As defensive Armors worn by Federal soldiers in the war between the States, 1861-5.


It is in evidence that breast plates of steel were extensively worn by Federal soldiers in the War of 1861-5 as defensive armor.

In the memorable retreat before Jackson by Banks from Winchester, in May, 1862, which gained for him in supplies abandoned by him and sorely needed by the Confederates, the cheerful tribute of ‘Jackson's Commissary,’ the editor, then of the ‘foot cavalry,’ saw in the deserted camp of the enemy, on both sides of the road leading from Winchester, a number of examples of the ‘vest armor’ of thin plates of steel covered with blue cloth in vest fashion, which had been thrown away in flight by the Federal soldiers.

They were of the style of those secondly described in the following article, which appeared in the Times-Dispatch of July 31st, 1904.

Two instances of the use of such armor are given by John W. Munson in his ‘Recollections of a Mosby Guerilla,’ Munsey's Magazine, February, 1905, p. 784. One ‘taken from the saddle of Major J. S. Reed, the Federal officer who fell in the engagement with Mosby's men at Dranesville, February 22, 1864.’

Lieutenant Ben. Palmer says that he had them at his home [in Richmond] and that he and others often amused themselves by shooting at Reed's breast plates.” The other instance: ‘On the same day [February 22, 1864] Fred Hipkins, of our command, captured one of Reed's men who had on breast plates.’

Many surviving Confederates will tell of having seen these breast plates during the War of 1861-5.

The editor has since that period seen several of such preserved by the curious.

One example may at this day be inspected in our State Library here:

I have seen it stated in a recent newspaper article that the finding of a steel breast plate below Richmond where the Federal soldiers were buried, was proof that they did wear armor, although this point had been disputed. I was surprised to find that this had ever


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