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Mills 1880s Infantry Cartridge Belts


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Hello,

 

Lets leave the 1870s cartridge belts behind and move to the 1880s 45-70 woven cartridge belts. First up are Mills Patent Infantry Belts with Mills H pattern brass plates. The top two belts pictured have the model 1886 Whittemore H pattern US plate on them. Some references state that these are 1890s plates. The two belts in the middle of the picture have the model 1887 H pattern US plate on them. Both plates have the Mills Patent with the 1881 date on the back. The last belt has the first H pattern US plate on it, the 1880. I'm missing the model 1883 and 1885 H pattern plates. Once I get them I will have the whole set. These are on my to get list but carry a heavy price.

 

Two belts have the model 1887 bayonet frog with the brass hook and US rosette and model 1873 trapdoor bayonet. One belt has the 1873 leather loop frog and model 1873 trapdoor bayonet, Two belts have 4 grommets for attaching equipment (bayonets, 1880 hunting knives, etc.). Two belt have 13 grommets for attaching equipment indicating other than infantry use. The two belts with the 13 grommets also have 3 grommets (eyelets) at each each to tie together making the belt a bandolier. One belt has no grommets indicating strict infantry use. This belt also could be an early belt since some references indicate that the 13 grommets were added by the arsenal around 1885.

 

To the the experts out there. Do you have a good method to date theses tan woven mills cartridge belts? I would appreciate your opinion. Some references state that the 3 eyelets to make the belt a bandolier means it is an early 1880s belt because the bandolier concept was unpopular and went away rather quickly. Other references state that the 3 eyelets were added with the grommets making the belt manufacture more in the late 1880s? 

 

 

Mills Infantry Belts 2.jpg

Mills Infantry Belts.jpg

Mills Infantry Belts 1.jpg

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Seen very lately your various groupings, just one word that does apply to each of your four topics/groupings :

 

* F * A * N * T * A * S * T * I * C *   !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And, my best compliments.

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Thank you for posting your collection and explaining the differences.  There are so many minor variations, that it is impossible for me to keep straight, especially without having examples in hand.

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Hello Beast,

 

I'm a collector of these items, but even I can't keep it straight. I have a few reference books but I'm not an expert. Some items (canteens, haversack, cartridge boxes, etc.) have a model but have several variations/patterns of that model sometimes due to a small change such as a button type or change in length of the closing flap. 

 

Eric

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  • 1 month later...

You're on a roll! Nice set. The earliest Mills belts had a 'color of the arm' woven into the top and bottom edges. This was short lived for obvious reasons.  One of the problems with dating the belts to a specific year is that very few of them, prior to the Span Am war, ever survived 'as issued' with the plate intact. The sheer numers that were made from about 1880 to 1895, the myriad of small changes made to the belts (various #s of edge & center line grommets, no grommets etc.), regular as well as state guard use, combined with being surplused off and 3/4 a century of storage and catalog sales, topped off with decades of collector 'manipulation' muddied the waters. As a result of all that, most reference books have enough speculation and conjecture to make ferritng out an accurate history pretty difficult. I think the consensus that edge grommets were on regular army belts throughout the 1880's is correct.  Likewise with the center grommets coming about in the mid or late 1880s to facilitate the new equipment modifications then trending. 

 

A couple points regarding your belts for accuracy: the 1886 plates were always used (by regaular army) with the brass wire keepers; one on each side. Those sheet metal brass slides are part of the 1894 Mills patent system wihich used the brass belt ends with c-catch, along with the heavy brass wire c-catch for a buckle. So many of these have been mixed up for the aforementioned reasons that its not uncommon to find them mixed like that. The so-called 1887 sheet stamped plate was not used by regulars except for an initial experimental 2-piece one in 1880. Rather, these were, like the other designs known on them, made for Mills and available by the purchasor or dealer/vendor. You do see the sheet stamped ones occasionally on indian scouts around 1890-ish, and certainly many state gurad units used these. The Washington (state) Nat'l Guard for example used the sheet stamped US marked plate. Incidentally most of these I've found (presumably) intact as Span Am War era take homes did not have the edge grommets; they either had no grommets or centerline grommets.  Of course these do not use the keeprs on either side.  I should clarify I'm talking about the H-plates for the line units, not the mills pistol belt plates; the army did use those (both 45 and 38) with the sheet brass stamped US plates. 

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  • 1 year later...
On 8/11/2021 at 4:55 PM, utica3 said:

Hello Beast,

 

I'm a collector of these items, but even I can't keep it straight. I have a few reference books but I'm not an expert. Some items (canteens, haversack, cartridge boxes, etc.) have a model but have several variations/patterns of that model sometimes due to a small change such as a button type or change in length of the closing flap. 

 

Eric

Hello Utica, you've got an awesome collection! May you tell me which reference books you have, plz? because i'm studing those equipments on Osprey books but they are pretty simples. 

Thanks 

Manfredi

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Hello Manfredi.

 

Thanks for your kind comment regarding my collection. Several individuals that post on this forum have very impressive Indian wars collections. I would love to have some of their stuff. I also learn a lot on this forum. 

 

In my opinion R. Stephen Dorsey is the man when it comes to American Indian wars reference material. I have one of his books, American Military Belts and Related Equipments. He also has another book titled Indian War Cartridge Boxes, Pouches, and Carbine Boots. He also co-authored a book I believe on IW holsters with Scott Meadows. I don't know the exact title.  

 

Others reference I have

 

The U.S. Army in the West 1870-1880 authored by Douglas C. McChristian (excellent reference)

Bluecoats-The U.S. Army in the West by John P. Langellier

U.S Single Action Cartridge Handgun Holsters 1870-1910 by William G. Phillips and John P Vervloet. This book is part of the Historical Arms Series No. 22 (inexpensive little book)

 

 Kind regards,

 

Eric

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bbmilitaria

Excellent, can't believe I missed this the first time through. Thank you for sharing!!!

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13 hours ago, utica3 said:

Hello Manfredi.

 

Thanks for your kind comment regarding my collection. Several individuals that post on this forum have very impressive Indian wars collections. I would love to have some of their stuff. I also learn a lot on this forum. 

 

In my opinion R. Stephen Dorsey is the man when it comes to American Indian wars reference material. I have one of his books, American Military Belts and Related Equipments. He also has another book titled Indian War Cartridge Boxes, Pouches, and Carbine Boots. He also co-authored a book I believe on IW holsters with Scott Meadows. I don't know the exact title.  

 

Others reference I have

 

The U.S. Army in the West 1870-1880 authored by Douglas C. McChristian (excellent reference)

Bluecoats-The U.S. Army in the West by John P. Langellier

U.S Single Action Cartridge Handgun Holsters 1870-1910 by William G. Phillips and John P Vervloet. This book is part of the Historical Arms Series No. 22 (inexpensive little book)

 

 Kind regards,

 

Eric

Thanks Eric! Very exhaustive! I' ll start to look for 'em right now!!!

When I will find a nice set to take pictures of my displays, i'm going to share with you all my collection 😄👍 It starts from Indian wars up to now (with a total amount of 116 mannequins at the moment).

Manfredi

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Hello

Here are a couple of mine including the colored selvedges  and one of the first stamped plate.
I am sure I have posted some of these before so excuse the redundancy.

Thanks

Don

 

1st stamped buckle.JPG

2nd cast buckle and blue Infantry edge.jpg

82 belt and two piece cast buckle1.jpg

IMG_0066.JPG

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Hello Don,

 

You are one of the folks that have the cool stuff I mentioned in my recent post. I have lots of IW/SAW belts but you have two I desire the most and do not have. The model 1883 (circle around the US) and stamped brass model 1885 mills plates. I also don't have the blue boarder infantry belt. These plates and belt are very rare. When they are available for sale they carry a premium price. I have to get a little older before I can use up my retirement money!

 

I have not seen a post of your belts so thanks posting.

 

Eric

 

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5 hours ago, utica3 said:

Hello Don,

 

You are one of the folks that have the cool stuff I mentioned in my recent post. I have lots of IW/SAW belts but you have two I desire the most and do not have. The model 1883 (circle around the US) and stamped brass model 1885 mills plates. I also don't have the blue boarder infantry belt. These plates and belt are very rare. When they are available for sale they carry a premium price. I have to get a little older before I can use up my retirement money!

 

I have not seen a post of your belts so thanks posting.

 

Eric

 

Just fyi the 2 piece non-arsenal stamped US plates are the 1880 pattern. Small in number and short lived in service.  

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illinigander

Question- I have a tan belt that has the same plate as the one at the start of this thread, that is the second one in the line.  The belt  has a double row of what I assume are .30 loops, what looks like a sword hook, and two rows of three, that are above one another of what I assume to be .38 pistol loops.  My problem is that I have never been able to post photos.  This belt came out of Bannerman's in the late 1940's so it could quite well been modified by Francis.  Would this be a mounted belt?

illinigander

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Hello illinigander,

 

Yes, your belt is an 1890s cavalry mills cartridge belt. It holds 100 30-40 Krag cartridges and twelve colt 38 DA rounds. However, to be historically accurate the belt should not have the model 1886 H pattern Mills buckle on it. It should have just the brass wire C closure. I have been informed that mounted cavalry did not wear the heavy H pattern Mills buckles. Bannerman's probably had excess H pattern buckles so they added to the Mills 100 round cartridges to facilitate selling them. 

 

I have a thread posted on the forum titled 1890s US Cavalry Mills Belt Rigs where folks educated me. Check it out if you want. I posted a couple of pictures of my blue Mills cavalry belt.

 

Eric

1890 enlisted cavalry belt.jpg

1890 enlisted cavalry belt 7.jpg

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20 hours ago, illinigander said:

Question- I have a tan belt that has the same plate as the one at the start of this thread, that is the second one in the line.  The belt  has a double row of what I assume are .30 loops, what looks like a sword hook, and two rows of three, that are above one another of what I assume to be .38 pistol loops.  My problem is that I have never been able to post photos.  This belt came out of Bannerman's in the late 1940's so it could quite well been modified by Francis.  Would this be a mounted belt?

illinigander

Your description is good enough to tell this is the Mills 1894 pattern mounted belt. As noted they were designed with the c-catch fastener and a sheet brass adjuster on each side - no H-plates. Mounted troops had largely dispensed with the short lived / disliked H-plates by the mid 1880's. Unfortunately a century of surplus sales & advertising along with large stocks of surplus  - and a commensurate lack of research by enthusiasts and collectors - resulted in this belt/plate combination being a common occurrence. This got into some references books too unfortunately. Sort of an early version of facebook, where the bad info became solidified into myth and gets passed along...and along...  Incidentally the tan color Mills web belts like yours were not generally used until after 1900 so they're really a Philippine war bit of equipment. From 1895 thru 1900 all branches, foot, mounted, etc. invariably used the dark blue belts. 

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illinigander

Thank you Utica3 and CAC1901 for that belt information.  Most informative.    Nice display of the belt, revolver, gloves, etc.  I should do an artillery grouping, as I have most of those items and a 3.2" gun.  Still working on obtaining a limber.

illinigander  

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busternfo

A wonderful, fascinating explanation of identifying the various belts.  And, the beautiful displays of course.  May I ask if the .45-70 cartridges are original to the period?  Also, along the line of ammo, did other "caliber-grain" cartridges receive military use?  Like the .40-60 for example?  Thanks for posting!

 

Dennie

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Hello Dennie,

 

The 45-70 cartridges in my belts are manufactured in the 1890s. They're mixture of UMC, Winchester, and Frankford arsenal cartridges. UMC, Winchester and the US Cartridge Company had contracts with the US army to produce some .45-70 ammunition. A couple of my boxes of Winchester would probably be considered private purchase or state militaria. I have one box of 1881 Frankford arsenal manufactured 45-70 cartridges. Acquiring original Frankford arsenal 45-70 cartridges from the 1870s can be expensive. I'm working on it. 

 

The traditional 1870s, 1880s and 1890s Winchester and Marlin rifle and carbine calibers such .40-60, .45-60, .40-82, .38-55, and .44-40, to my knowledge, were never adopted by the military during the Indian Wars campaign. Only the .45 caliber for the colt army revolver (SAA).

 

The .50 caliber was the US army's precursor to the .45-70 round for most of the Indian Wars campaign. The .45-70 round was adopted by the US army with the first production of the model 1873 Springfield trapdoor rifle and carbine. Subsequent trapdoor models were also chambered in .45-70. To be honest the Indian Wars campaign was a 60 year affair so lot of percussion type weaponry was used against the Native American Indian. 

 

Springfield rifles and Sharps percussion rifles and carbines from the civil war were converted from a .58 caliber to centerfire  ,50 caliber (.50-70) breech loading single shot

The 1870/71 Remington rolling block rifle and 1870 Sharps rifle was issued in centerfire .50-70 breech loading single shot

The Springfield and Sharps 1870 converted carbines used a centerfire .50-55 round but still could fire the .50-70 

Spencer 1860 and 1865 carbines used a 56-56 (.52 caliber) and 56-50 ( converted to .50 caliber from .52) round respectively. 

 

That's all I have, I'm sure some experts may have more to offer.

 

Eric

 

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