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Span Am or Indian war belt and buckle?


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This is far from my area. The belt has been cut down and one cartridge loop removed. I have no idea if was common or not. The buckle has no stamps I can find. How do you tell one from the other?

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Ok, as best as I can tell this is an 1880's Mills 45/70 infantry belt and buckle. It was a 50 round belt before it was shortened. As best as I can tell this is an Indian war era belt and buckle.

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Belt itself is one of the well known series of Mills integrally-woven ammo belts, available in 45 or 50 loop capacity. The cast bronze plate is the very last pattern from a series of plates, six if I remember correct (both in stamped and cast form), from 1880 to 1886. This is the 'Pattern 1886', the latest one, actually issued since early 1887.

Made at Watervliet arsenal and with no markings of any kind, some modern repros are marked R.I.A. (!!!..) for Rock Island Arsenal, even though it had been manufactured exclusively at Watervliet. Originals must absolutely be w/o any markings.

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These belts were commonly cut down to fit the skinny soldiers of the era Yours is a nice clean specimen . Please leave the buckle alone .

Thanks, No worry's I like things in their original state. Any ideas of how many were made?

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Some more infos, the 'Pattern 1886' belt plates have been produced from December 1886 to November (or December) 1892.

 

I exploit here to rectify an error I did in post #6. While writing I had in mind only the plates manufactured at Watervliet Arsenal and they're indeed unmarked, but 5,000 more had been initially made at Rock Island Arsenal too, and they are marked R.I.A. in small letter on the reverse (upper right corner if looking from behind). Some repros marked this way, have been reported being in existence.

Total of Pattern 1886 plates manufactured, at least 15,667 by the two arsenals. Your's is one of 10,667 made at Watervliet.

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No problem, glad to be helpful. Here a couple pictures of my Watervliet-made plate, fitted to a 'Pattern 1894' ammo belt - the last one in the series of Mills integrally-woven cartridge belts that started back then from a July 1880 contract.

* As a note of interest: this very pattern of belt is much more commonly seen together with the so-called C-type closure method (no plate at all), but vintage photos sometimes show them fitted with Pattern 1886 plates as well.

 

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No problem, glad to be helpful. Here a couple pictures of my Watervliet-made plate, fitted to a 'Pattern 1894' ammo belt - the last one in the series of Mills integrally-woven cartridge belts that started back then from a July 1880 contract.

* As a note of interest: this very pattern of belt is much more commonly seen together with the so-called C-type closure method (no plate at all), but vintage photos sometimes show them fitted with Pattern 1886 plates as well.

 

attachicon.gifpost-151851-0-60112200-1396209732.jpg

 

attachicon.gifpost-151851-0-90851400-1396209664.jpg

How are Mills belts dated? I have seen double stacked 100 rounds belts and belts with pistol round loops. Whats the skinny on these? I assume the wire belt loops on mine date different than the flat belt loops on yours.

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For most of this decade, the Regular Army's organizational structure consisted of five regiments of artillery, ten regiments of cavalry, and twenty-five regiments of infantry. In March 1898, two more artillery regiments were authorized, and the outbreak of the Spanish-American War would bring additional changes to the Army's organization and missions. Since the end of the Civil War, the infantry and cavalry regiments had been engaged in numerous campaigns against the Native American (Indian) tribes. Units were seldom at authorized strength, and, for the most part, the soldiers served as relatively small detachments (of companies or troops), at posts scattered throughout the nation's vast western states and territories. A reduced threat from Indians allowed the Army to begin reducing the number of garrisoned posts and this in turn allowed more companies to serve together at the same post. The Army began pushing for Congress to adopt a three battalion organization (each with four companies) for each of its infantry regiments, but these regiments continued to be authorized only eight manned companies (Companies I and K were at zero-strength), with only 46 privates in each company.

The average soldier faced long patrols, supply problems, and other hardships. Of the roughly 2,100 officers and 26,000 enlisted men in the Army on 1 Apr 1898, almost 900 officers and 13,000 enlisted were infantry, and another 400 officers and 6,000 enlisted were assigned to the cavalry. The majority of the artillery branch (totaling nearly 300 officers and 4,500 enlisted) were stationed at established fortifications along the nation's coastline and these soldiers seem to have fared better, which probably contributed to their ability to maintain authorized organization. During this period artillery batteries served both field and coast defense guns, and were expected to serve as infantry to defend fixed positions as needed. The remaining 500 officers and 2,500 enlisted were on miscellaneous duty or comprised general officers and staff.

The Cavalry as a Constabulary Force:
Organization and Equipment (1890 to 1898)
  • The cavalry fought its last major Indian engagement at Wounded Knee during the winter of 1890-91.
  • The cavalry was organized into ten regiments. Regimental squadrons and troops were widely scattered in order to garrison numerous posts. For example, in 1882, cavalry troops garrisoned 55 posts throughout "Indian country."
  • Thanks to its mobility, the cavalry was viewed as the Army's primary force for combating the Indians and troopers were always in short supply. Prior to 1890, cavalry troops had an authorized strength of 100 enlisted men (which came at the expense of infantry strength when Congress cut the enlisted authorization from 30,000 to 25,000 in 1876), but few units ever reached or maintained authorized strength. With the end of the Indian threat cavalry strength was reduced with the inactivation of Troops L and M in each regiment, and the remaining troops were authorized only 44 privates. Beginning in 1891, part of these losses was restored when the Army authorized the first eight cavalry regiments to bring back Troop L using Indian troopers. There were numerous problems, however, and by 1897 the last of the experimental Indian troops was gone.
  • During this period the Army adopted the .30-caliber Krag-Jorgensen as its new shoulder arm to replace the single-shot .45-caliber Springfield carbines. The Army was still converting its armories by 1898, but there were enough Krag-Jorgensen carbines in the supply system to equip all ten Regular Army cavalry regiments.
  • By 1898, conditions in the cavalry were improving. New Congressional authorization [dated 26 Apr 98] called for the reactivation of Troops L and M in each regiment. The strength of each troop was also increased with an additional officer, noncommissioned officers, and 34 privates to bring the troop's authorized strength to 104 (and a regiment's to 1,262 officers and men).

Prepared by DAMH-FPO / Apr 2000

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