Jump to content

Part 1: Gold Lace Charts, Midshipmen, Photos, and Documentation

Father V

Recommended Posts

Father V

At long last, after acquiring every set of Naval School (1845-1849) and Naval Academy Regulations (1850+) that are obtainable for an independent researcher and thoroughly analyzing their contents, I can now present the charts for gold lace on caps through the duration of their use in the uniform regulations. These cover every written order that I’m aware of and as the notes for these indicate, I have not seen the text of every order so I can’t verify effective dates in every case. Moreover, in this time period new orders always took an indefinite time to circulate through the fleet, especially for those on foreign station. Midshipmen in this time period have further information that will be discussed separately before we can proceed to photo identification.


A. Charts



*Original has no digital footprint. Tily often doesn’t give an effective date, so we’ll take the date given as the effective date unless otherwise stated.

**The exact date of the 1841 Uniform Regulations’ start is unknown, as far as I can tell. All the digital editions say “excerpted from the General Regulations of 1841” as well as “approved on February 19, 1841” and bear the signature of George E. Badger, but he wasn’t the Secretary in February of 1841. The illustrations also weren’t included in these general regulations that the then-Secretary Paulding approved in order to be proposed to the President for Congress’s adoption, though he never did propose them. Paulding’s regulations were probably submitted to the President by the third Secretary of 1841, Upshur, in his annual report of 4 Dec 1841, though it isn’t included in the printed schedule of attachments. The reports and attachments here: https://www.history.navy.mil/research/library/online-reading-room/title-list-alphabetically/a/secnav-reports.html , Secretary Paulding’s regulations: https://books.google.com/books/about/Regulations_for_the_Government_of_the_Na.html?hl=fr&id=X40DAAAAYAAJ Upshur recommended *not* to enact those into law. My best guess is that during the 2nd Secretary’s (George E. Badger) brief term (6 March-11 Sep 1841), he excerpted the uniform section, inserted an illustration page, and sent it to the publisher. Certainly when Upshur retracted the changes to Pursers’ coats 3 Dec 1841, he said, “as before the promulgation of the foregoing orders” in quite an impersonal fashion, so under Badger sounds reasonable. We have no idea when that happened in the 6 months, or even if he did it at all, seeing as he didn’t include the customary letter or note promulgating the order and establishing an effective date. Upshur was apparently uninterested in uniform as he only issued that one uniform modification that we know of before ending his term 23 July 1843, busying himself with sending his own general regulations to Congress, and his version didn’t include a section on uniform like Secretary Paulding’s https://books.google.com/books?id=l4kFAAAAQAAJ&pg=RA20-PA1&lpg=RA20-PA1&dq=letter+from+the+secretary+of+the+navy+148+"february+16+1843"&source=bl&ots=Gkv3otVdEP&sig=ACfU3U1Jhtp0hPeZJw0XM63b7T_TIUZUWA&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiN8IWgn76FAxU0rokEHWzFD3o4ChDoAXoECAIQAw#v=onepage&q=letter from the secretary of the navy 148 "february 16 1843"&f=false . Note that Congress didn’t adopt Upshur’s regulations either.

***The order reads “hereafter” according to Bennett, pg. 723. Such language would suggest immediate effect.

****Chaplains really are an enigma during the gold band era. Each time there was a movement towards a Naval uniform, it was cancelled sooner or later. In 1841, they had a blue coat for full and undress with a rolling collar of velvet, but otherwise like a Lieutenant’s undress, i.e. 2 rows of Navy buttons (illustrated pattern), 3 buttons on cuffs & flaps of pockets, one on each hip, one in the middle of the folds of the skirt, and one at the bottom, but on 20 Jan 1844, it was back to all black, one row of Navy buttons, and by 23 Apr 1844 a plain black coat was allowed. On 4 July 1852, they were given blue full & undress coats with some black velvet at collar & cuffs and a single row of Navy buttons, only for it to be back at full black 3 Mar 1853, even the buttons. If any Chaplain ever even followed the changes to blue is unknown, nor whether it was the Chaplains or Command that was really behind the changes. The ones who changed over, if any, did probably wear the appropriate caps. Those who didn’t, who knows? All their cues are thus put in parentheses. If anyone finds a daguerreotype or even ambrotype or CdV with a Navy Chaplain pictured with regulation design headgear (even on a table or lap) before Nov 1863, consider it the Holy Grail.

++Given the timing here, the old warrants who had their cap trimmed with 1.25” gold from the early 1850’s regs could bring it into conformity with the new regs by sewing a blue cloth strip on top through the middle. Gold lace wasn’t cheap.

B. Midshipmen

In 1845, using some clever manipulation of the laws already established, Secretary Bancroft began the Naval School by his own authority, since Congress kept proposing various measures but never adopted any. Unlike the (Army’s) Military Academy at West Point, no Midshipman could receive any shelter from being immediately ordered to the fleet. As the Secretary himself said, in an Aug 7, 1845 letter that was later introduced as a public document to Congress, “One difficulty remains to be considered. At our colleges and at West Point, young men are trained in a series of consecutive years: the laws of the United States do not sanction a preliminary school for the navy; they only provide for the instruction of officers who already are in the Navy.” https://h92010.eos-intl.net/H92010/OPAC/Details/Record.aspx?IndexCode=-1&TaskCode=5033616&HitCount=109&CollectionCode=2&SortDirection=Descending&CurrentPage=1&CurrentLinkCode=MH92010|1520185|1|29629813&SelectionType=0&SearchType=1&BibCode=MH92010|6047842|7|29629819 
So every student at the Naval School was in fact an officer, either with an official warrant or by temporary appointment. The Uniform Regulations of 1841 covered their uniforms, and indeed the 4 Jun 1845 order (effective 1 Jan 1846) on gold lace coming back to Midshipman caps coincides with the wrangling of getting the School organized, though giving the men time to acquire the gold lace they needed once back on shore. There is no note in the regulations of the first Superintendent, Franklin Buchanan, about a special Academy uniform https://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Gazetteer/People/Franklin_Buchanan/ LEWAFB/9*.html , but he didn’t need to as his first regulation was, “Article 1st. All laws and regulations for the government of the navy are to be strictly observed by every person attached to the school.” Some much later authors seem to have taken the lack of explicit mention of uniform as meaning there was none, but that isn’t justified by the record. The vast majority of the initial students were officers who already had experience in the fleet.

The original regulations were modified for the 1846-1847 school year by Secretary Bancroft 28 Aug 1846 https://usna.primo.exlibrisgroup.com/discovery/fulldisplay?docid=alma991006447555306751&context=L&vid=01USNA_INST:01USNA&lang=en&adaptor=Local Search Engine his Plan for the Academy included explicit mention of uniform, namely who paid for it, “14. All Midshipmen at the Naval School must provide themselves with such books as are necessary to pursue their studies; a quadrant, their uniform and bedding.” In the regulations, no further mention is made of uniform with the repetition of the catch-all regulation number one quoted above. For the 1847-1848 school year, the Plan & Regs remained the same but a list of minimal clothing for the new midshipmen who had never been stationed elsewhere was provided:

”List of Clothing

Candidates for admission into the Naval School must be provided with not less than the following clothing:

One good dark blue cloth jacket.

One good dark blue cloth vest.

One pair dark blue cloth pantaloons.

Six white shirts.

Six pair of socks.

Four pair of drawers.

Six pocket handkerchiefs.

Two pair of sheets.

Four pillow cases.

Six towels.

In lieu of the above, fifty dollars may be deposited with the Superintendent, to be expended under his direction in a suitable outfit, for the use of the applicant.

J.Y. Mason. Navy Department. February 19, 1847.”

(Quoted in The Henry Francis Du Pont Winterthur Museum’s copy owned by the Hagley Museum & Library via scan. If anyone wants a copy, just ask)


This tells us something important, namely that the new men were being fitted out with the “on duty” uniform, from 1841 Uniform Regs:

On duty they may wear short jackets of dark blue cloth, with the same number of small navy buttons on the breast, cuffs, and pockets as for their dress coat, with an anchor of buff cloth inserted in the collar of the jacket, as for their coat.” We will see this jacket in the photos.


By 1 July 1850, a new set of regs were issued (cited in Soley, pg 89: https://archive.org/details/histsketchusnavy00solerich/page/194/mode/2up) and here’s the first mention of a special uniform for Acting Midshipmen (those who didn’t yet possess a warrant, but merely temporary appointment letters) and only while attached to the Academy:

“Chapter XXIII. Dress and Equipment

1. Acting Midshipmen, while attached to the Academy, shall wear the jacket and cap prescribed for Midshipmen, with the exception of the buttons on the cuffs and pockets of the jacket and gold lace band on the cap. As a substitute for the gold band on the cap, an anchor shall be worn on the front over the visor, similar to that worn on the collar of the jacket. …”

Note that this was the cap as originally worn in 1841, and the jacket is just a simplified version of the on duty uniform. The text doesn’t say, but the anchor was probably sideways if the photos are any indication.

(copy is this one: https://umaryland.on.worldcat.org/search/detail/5158081?queryString=naval academy 1850&expandSearch=off&clusterResults=true&groupVariantRecords=false via another unpublished scan)


In effect, this meant that new Midshipmen had one uniform while under the supervision of the Academy and another while on station anywhere else. In 1855 (no date on published copy) the Academy uniform changed the anchor to silver and that detail seems to be the last official change until the War years, or at least a spot check of the regulations currently online shows no change to this provision. The 1855 text:

”Chapter IV. Uniform.

2. The uniform of an acting midshipman shall consist of…Cap. same as that prescribed for midshipman except the gold-lace band; instead of which, a silver foul-anchor over the vizor [sic] is to be worn.” (From Georgetown’s copy via yet another unpublic scan. The [sic] is mine.)


Now, there weren’t many daguerreotype photographers in Annapolis, in fact I found reference only to one temporary one for 2 months in 1845 and two brothers in 1858-1859 (https://craigcamera.com/dag/). Regardless, it probably wasn’t many, but that doesn’t mean none. Nor would that prevent a Midshipman on break from taking his uniform to his family’s photographer back at his residence.


MIDN while under jurisdiction of the academy:

July 1, 1850 -               1855   Plain cap with gold anchor.

1855            - Nov 11, 1863   Plain cap with silver anchor.


C. Actual photos with a concentration on unusual cases

We’ll start with images we have definite information about, namely the Navy History site.


1. Midshipman J.Q.A. Crawford 


Appointed Midshipman, 17 February, 1840. Dismissed 19 December, 1846. https://www.history.navy.mil/content/history/nhhc/research/library/online-reading-room/title-list-alphabetically/o/officers-continental-usnavy-mc-1775-1900/navy-officers-1798-1900-c.html

This one is simple. By 30 Sep 1845 he was already listed as at the Naval Academy with his warrant. https://books.google.com/books/about/Register_of_All_Officers_and_Agents_Civi.html?id=gd1BAQAAMAAJ


Gold lace was required on 1 Jan 1846. So the photo must be between 1 Jan and 19 Dec 1846.


There appears to be a single square adjuster on the chin strap.




2. Commander Abraham Bigelow and his son, Midshipman George A. Bigelow.



Bigelow, Abraham.
Midshipman, 18 June, 1812. Lieutenant, 28 March, 1820. Commander, 22 January, 1841 Captain, 12 September, 1854. Resigned 1 March, 1857.

Bigelow, George A.
Acting Midshipman, 26 May, 1852. Midshipman, 20 June, 1856. Passed Midshipman, 29 April, 1859. Master, 5 September, 1859. Lieutenant, 19 December, 1860. Lieutenant Commander, 16 July, 1862. Resigned 19 March, 1867.



George didn’t even enter the service until just before the uniform changes of 1852 came into place, so the cap badge can’t be from the 1841-1846 time frame. Commanders had 2 gold lace stripes added to the cuffs of their full dress coats (standing collar) effective 4 July 1852. He was promoted CPT on 12 Dec 1854, so the photo must be between 4 July 1852-12 Dec 1854, moreover this must be the Annapolis acting Midshipman uniform. If George were out of the jurisdiction of the Academy, the cap badge would be that illustrated for LT according to those regs:



The last example from the official site is quite revealing because we have two snapshots of the same officer at two different times, and he is plainly of different ages in both.


3. Since there are two different photos, I’ll give his CV first:

Walker, John G.  

Acting Midshipman, 5 October, 1850. Midshipman, 11 December, 1852. Passed Midshipman, 20 June, 1856. Master, 22 January, 1858. Lieutenant, 23 January, 1858. Lieutenant Commander, 16 July, 1862. Commander, 25 July, 1866. Captain, 25 June, 1877. Commodore 12 February, 1889. Rear Admiral, 23 January, 1894. Retired List, 20 March, 1897.


Younger version:



At first flush this looks like a round jacket, i.e. the same we have been seeing so far, but there’s a certain detail (red line added below):



The frock coat was constructed with a visible seam at the waist as far as I have seen, and it has a rolling collar, so this is actually the undress coat of the 1841 regs. It’s a strange one, though, as it doesn’t have the expected buttons across the cuff. This might be a quirk of early 1850’s fashion which was then codified in the 1852 regs. As he would have been subject to the new regulations on Acting Midshipmen at Annapolis, he most likely was away from their jurisdiction when the photo was taken, and indeed the register of 1 Jan 1852 shows him as already being away from the Academy on his first cruise aboard the Sloop Portsmouth which was in the Pacific Fleet at the time as an Acting Midshipman https://books.google.com/books/about/Register_of_the_Commissioned_and_Warrant.html?id=IBUYAAAAMAAJ . With the gold lace being removed 4 July 1852 and not returning without band *and* badge, the younger photo is sometime after he received orders to the Portsmouth most likely in 1851, and given the travel expenses he had already received by 30 Jun 1851, but that he wasn’t drawing any rations yet by that time, I’d say fairly close to mid 1851 or a little earlier at the earliest and 3 July 1852 at the latest, give or take a few weeks or months for word to get to his ship.

Older version:



As the charts show, the 1852 regulations were to no one’s satisfaction when it came to gold lace. Within 2 months, the different widths of lace for different grades of officer were abandoned and more officers were granted it, and within 1 year, midshipmen had their gold lace back. Unlike the 1841 uniform, which was either lace or cap insignia not both, 1852’s arrangement was lace *and* badge. So this photo is 6 May 1853 at the earliest, but there was a special section in the Academy regulations of 1855 for those midshipmen who had their initial appointment before 1Jan1851:

”Chapter XXIII. Regulations for Midshipmen who entered the service prior to 1851. …

2. While at the academy, the midshipmen will be subject, in all respects, to the same regulations and discipline as the acting midshipmen.

3. They shall have their final examination in June…”

The June referred to is at the end of the 1855-1856 school year, and indeed the record shows that he passed with an effective date of 20 Jun 1856. 

The photo shows no shoulder strap on the coat, which was all that marked a passed midshipman in undress from an ordinary midshipman as we see in the official 1852 illustration:



It’s quite difficult to see in the photo, but the continuation of the coat seam well below the belt gives this away as the undress frock versus the round jacket. Red mark to the side.


From a much later photo: (https://www.loc.gov/item/2018652626/. By cap insignia, this is between 31 July 1862-11Nov1863 giving or taking some time for orders to be communicated.)
There just isn’t much fabric below the waist on the round jacket.


The photo of MIDN Walker doesn’t have the shoulder strap so this is between 6 May 1853 - 19 Jun 1856 while not under jurisdiction of the Academy.

There are some oddities to the photo. Either the cap badge & buttoning is backwards or the belt & buttons. Daguerreotype is naturally reversed, but it could be corrected by the photographer by reflection in a mirror before image capture. I don’t know if the photo is reversed or not, but since I’m only dealing with caps in this series of posts, I don’t have to figure it out. The adjuster is by dual leather slides.


4. Unknown Midshipman 


The plain cap with gold anchor is either 1841 - 31Dec1845 or an Academy jurisdiction photo July 1, 1850-1855 *but* the sword (pattern 1841) highly suggests a photo while not at the Academy, though that’s not absolute. There’s very little said in the regulations about what midshipmen returning from the fleet were supposed to do with their possessions while at the Academy including their swords. The two recorded duels at the Academy before 1850 were with pistols https://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/obj/s4/f2/dsk1/tape9/PQDD_0034/MQ47459.pdf pg 178-183), though if that’s because of overall trends in dueling or lack of access to their swords is uncertain. I think it more likely for this to be a 1840’s photo, and I would lean more on the later side of the range given the general lack of year 1841 authenticated naval daguerreotypes. Is the image reversed? Very hard to tell. Note that the author of the article has incorrect information on uniform regs, so misdates the photo to ‘47-52.

The plain mat and unreinforced corners of the raised preserver of the daguerreotype housing also tend towards an earlier date. http://www.phototree.com/id_dag.htm

I don’t want to run afoul of fair use, so I’ll just take one more image from the Military Images article on antebellum midshipmen:


5. Unknown Midshipman 

First, with the buttons across the cuff and anchors on the collar, we are definitely within the expectations of the 1841 uniform. In 1852, only Masters, Med. Officers [see illustration in Photo 3], Pursers, and Chief Engineers (See illustration in Photo 3. 1st Assistants had medium sized buttons) still had buttons across the cuff, and they didn’t have an anchor on the collar. Even midshipmen in the fleet didn’t have anchors on the collar in 1852, except in full dress. There’s gold lace on the cap but no badge, so this most likely is 1Jan1846 - 3Jul1852, but I would lean on the earlier side since it’s completely by the book. Looks like at least one metal chin-strap adjuster.

6. Unknown Warrant Officer



The auction site misidentifies the photo as being a petty officer when the gold lace with a dark narrow stripe in the middle was for United States Navy traditional forward warrant officers (boatswain, gunner, carpenter, and sailmaker) from Feb 1853 -11 Nov 1863 BUT I’ve just discovered while writing this that the Revenue Marine Service had a similar type of cap first. Since not a lot has been written about these uniforms, I’m forced to grind through the details before moving on.


Captain Commandant Horatio David Smith as edited by John Snow, quotes extensively from original sources:

http://media.defense.gov/2017/Jul/02/2001772348/-1/-1/0/USRCS1789-1849.PDF (pg 40).


“On January 15, 1836, Secretary issued the following directions concerning uniform:

Captain’s…Undress—…Navy ‘Regulation’ cloth cap, with two gold bands half-inch wide; glazed cover in bad weather.” At the time the other commissioned officers were 1st-3rd LT’s and they were instructed that their Undress was “The same as captain’s.” Warrants didn’t have headgear described. Remember from the first post in the series that 1830 Navy Uniform Regulations were fairly sparse on detail for the cap.

1844 saw the Treasury Secretary issue the following modification: (24 Jan 1844)

”In order more effectually to distinguish the uniform of the Revenue Marine from that of the Navy, the Treasury Arms, surmounted by an anchor, will be worn on each epaulette; and the same device in gold, on the front of the capband.

The officers will be required to assume the foregoing distinctions at as early a period as they can be procured. 

Lithographic drawings of the equipments generally are in preparation, and will, when completed, be transmitted to each officer.

I am, sir, very respectfully,

Your obedient servant,

J. C. Spencer,

Secretary of the Treasury” [emphasis added]


Since no authority I’d read mentioned the drawings, and it is the only order I’ve seen that mentions a printed illustration, I presumed they were lost, but in writing to the Hackney Research Library at the Martha's Vineyard Museum about the papers of Captain William Cooke Pease, a Revenue Marine officer, they answered my inquiry about a certain document by sharing an article that had been written in 1982 using an illustration from their archives in an article by Florence Kern, Dukes County Intelligencer, v. 24, no. 2, Nov 1982, pg 48. They haven’t given me permission to share that but it helps because I can compare it to other sources. I hope to post separately on this after receiving a high resolution copy of the original.

Our forum’s Sgt. Booker, may he rest in peace, posted an alternate version with clearer focus in one of two extensive posts on Marine-Revenue, Cutter Service, Coast Guard uniforms & insignia here: 

https://www.usmilitariaforum.com/forums/index.php?/topic/15704-revenue-cutter-service-pre-coast-guard-ranks-and-rates/ He mislabels this as “1800”, but perhaps it’s a typo and he meant “1800’s.” Having seen both images, I can affirm that they are substantially the same, although the other one has more text on the drawing in very small print.


The detail:



As you can see, there are clear lines next to the words “Gold Lace” pointing to the top & bottom of the band section of the labeled “Undress Cap”, with a dark strip of cloth of roughly equal size in the middle. The cap badge is on a circle of dark material with a lighter insignia in the middle. There is nothing on the sloping section leading from the band to the top of the cap, a part later Navy Uniform Regs will call “the quarters.” Most cap insignia of the Navy were worn on the quarters, centered over the visor in front, and the Revenue Marine will do so later also.

According to CPT Commandant Smith, the new Treasury Secretary, George M. Bibb withdrew the decoration in front of the cap on March 18, 1845* (pg 73.*Original order isn’t quoted), so the cap shown lasted only from 24Jan1844-18Mar1845*, just over a year. The two strips of gold lace without the badge lasted in the Revenue Marine until 1853, at about the same time that the Navy gave their forward warrants a similar cap. The Revenue Marine/Cutter Service then switched their commissioned officers to the 1.5” gold lace https://media.defense.gov/2017/Jun/26/2001768954/-1/-1/0/UNIFORMSCANNEY.PDF (pg. 9). The only version of the 1850’s uniform regulations for the Revenue Marine I can find was published in 1857 as part of the overall Treasury Department Regulations, https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=hvd.32044018760991&seq=10&view=1up (paragraph 675, pg 362-363, and it mentions only “one band of gold lace” and makes no mention of other insignia nor the exact width of the lace.


Captain William Cooke Pease, whose papers are mentioned above. This photo is from the 1982 biography written by Florence Kern. See: https://i.ebayimg.com/images/g/aQQAAOSwCsljBmWh/s-l1600.jpg . Notice how it resembles the Navy M1841 cap of photo #1. Without buying the book, I have no idea if the original is extant, but she estimates this to be 1860, before new regulations were promulgated in 1862, https://media.defense.gov/2017/Jun/26/2001768954/-1/-1/0/UNIFORMSCANNEY.PDF (pg. 9). In 1862, cap badges and semi-circular wreaths on the quarters were added in Navy style but with the same single strip of gold lace. 1864 changed some of the insignia, but no further details as far as gold lace.

A clear example of the early Civil War era cap for the Revenue Marine:


From Sgt. Booker’s post pg. 2: https://www.usmilitariaforum.com/forums/index.php?/topic/15704-revenue-cutter-service-pre-coast-guard-ranks-and-rates/page/2/ . More examples on that 2nd page. Detail:



We went through all this to make sure we can ID photos with two-color gold lace properly. Revenue Marine Commissioned officers had a similar cap from 1838-1853 or so, for most of that time with no badge, just 1844-45. After that, they didn’t have it, though the discovery of a more complete record of regulations could overturn that conclusion. For the record, even though this is firmly in the daguerreotype era, I haven’t seen any image in any source that is even reasonably possible to be a two-color banded Revenue Marine cap.

According to neither the Navy, nor the Revenue Marine, was there ever an authorized cap badge like the one shown in photo #6. Given the narrow band of dark cloth between the gold lace, though, I think it’s safe to say he’s USN Warrant post 1853 until 11 Nov 1863.  The brass preserver & mat are quite elaborate and feature corner reinforcement which is consistent with post 1853, though the closer we get to the Civil War, the less likely daguerreotypes become http://www.phototree.com/id_dag.htm. The last thing to notice on photo #6 is the dual cord chin strap. Post-war, this became popular at the Academy and from there spread to the whole officer corps, but more on that in Part 2 when we start to break down all the details from 1852 on.


7. Unknown warrant officer, most probably a warranted master’s mate.


Our first ambrotype, that is a glass plate photo using a process very similar to daguerreotype but much cheaper to produce. Ambrotype history starts in the 1850’s. The person for whom the format was later named had patents out in 1854.  https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ambrotype . Just to confuse everything some more, the dark strip through the middle is roughly the size of the gold lace. In the Navy, that was only warranted Master’s Mates and that change was the shortest lived since it only lasted from 18 Jun 1862-11Nov1863, not even a year and 5 months. At that point gold lace had been a feature of caps for over 30 years, so I doubt much thought went into the potential longevity of the change. Regardless, it makes this photo required to fit into that narrow time frame. If it were a daguerreotype, I’d say it could be Revenue Marine, but it’s Ambrotype and so almost certainly not. Also, since Tily misstates the time frame for this cap arrangement in his own summary chart, I double-checked his text on the start date and it’s indeed an 1862 start date.


We see only one cord of the chin strap clearly, and the cap badge is again not regulation.


8. Unknown Assistant Naval Surgeon:


Has to be after 24 Sep 1852 because of both 1.5” lace and cap badge, but difficult to see insignia on the shoulder strap except to note it’s probably empty in the front. This configuration went all the way through to the end of gold lace in Nov 1863. I include this photo here mainly because of the clear view of the single square chin strap adjuster and also the very upright top that has the cap looking like a half-size shako. We’ll come back to that in part 3. All of the staff officers are easily classified in this era by unique cap insignia, whereas deck officers gradually acquire similar insignia as time goes forward and other details of uniform become essential to figuring out exactly what grade the individual is.


9. Misidentified Master


Even very knowledgeable people can make mistakes in ID. Library of Congress ID’s a series of three glass negatives as Acting Master Freeman, USN. As reluctant as I am to discuss cap insignia here, let’s zoom in on that cap badge and rotate:


Fortunately, we’ve already dealt with this non-Navy insignia, it’s the 1860’s era Marine Revenue service, specifically the 1862 version with the buttons on the sleeves of the coat just like the Master’s coat of the 1852 regulations, hence the confusion. This is one of the various Lieutenants of the Revenue Marine in the Treasury Department, not a Master of the Navy Department. Note, I wasn’t the one who noticed this first. Credit goes to: https://civilwartalk.com/threads/looking-for-first-name-of-acting-master-freeman-u-s-n.132305/#post-1494398 . Page down past the photo. This is thus most likely *Lieutenant* Freeman. https://media.defense.gov/2017/Jul/02/2001772349/-1/-1/0/USRCSHISTORICALREGISTER.PDF

“Freeman, Edward A.

  2LT 10/9/1861; 1LT 7/1/[18]63; CAPT 10/27/[18]65; suspended 1/24/[18]79.”


The only other Freeman was suspended in 1831 and so can’t be the man.

10. Master, Carte de Visite (CdV or CDV)


If we’re going to have fake Masters, we need a real one, and we can’t possibly talk about this time period without having at least one carte de visite. Unlike almost all of the other formats above (except possibly photo #2 & the example of Captain Pease, as well as the midshipman CdV example) which were direct captures on their media, CdV was a print from a negative, much more like modern photos. The negatives were created via the wet collodion process onto a glass plate and needed to have the treated paper applied to them in a darkroom within a short period of time after exposure. Finding a citation online that’s not behind a paywall is a bit difficult. Here’s one: https://cool.culturalheritage.org/jaic/articles/jaic30-01-005.html . Matthew Brady was one of the first to adopt CdV in the mid-1850’s https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mathew_Brady, though it wasn’t an exclusive medium for him at first.

As for this photo, the insignia is the original 1852 one which came to an end 31 July 1862. The gold lace is very wide though, so it has to be after 24 Sep 1852. CdV was cheaper and thus more widely used in the US immediately leading into the War as volunteers and others joined, so odds are this photo is after 1860. From the volunteer officers listed in the registers I’ve reviewed, quite a few were acting Masters. The buttons across the cuffs and the blank shoulder straps are also tell-tale signs of a Master of the early Civil War.


D. Documents 

1. Concerning Engineers: 


Perry’s Original Uniform Regulations of 1837: (pg. 714)



For chief engineers, dress coat of navy-blue cloth, double-breasted, black velvet rolling collar, two rows of large navy buttons on the breast, nine in each row; the cuffs to have three large navy buttons around the upper edge, with three small ones in the opening; the skirts to be lined with black silk serge, to have one large navy button behind on each hip, two at the center of each skirt in the fold, and one at the end of each; the pocket flaps to be pointed, to have three large navy buttons beneath them, showing one-half their diameter; and one embroidered five-pointed gold star, one inch and a half in diameter, to be worn on each end of the collar.

For a first assistant engineer, the same as for a chief, except that there shall be but one large navy button in the center of the fold of each skirt, and an embroidered five-pointed silver star, one inch and a half in diameter, on each end of the collar.

For a second, the same as for a first assistant engineer, except that there shall be but one embroidered silver star, of the same dimensions, to be worn on the right side of the collar.

For a third assistant, the same as for a second assistant engineer, with this exception, that the embroidered silver star shall on the left side of the collar.



For all engineers, the same as worn, according to the season.



For all engineers, plain navy-blue or white, as the season demands.



For all engineers, of the usual style worn; with a gold band one inch and a half wide for chief engineers, and without the band for all assistants.



For all engineers, of the usual style.



For chief engineers only, of the usual style.”


Tily evaluated the coat as the undress coat of 1830 of surgeons (pg. 86) but with different insignia.


Surgeon Cap of 1834:

NavUniRegs1834GenOrd Surg.pdf This was kindly scanned for me from the papers of a Navy Surgeon, William S.W. Ruschenberger housed at East Carolina University in North Carolina, and since then has become available to everyone here: https://digital.lib.ecu.edu/86272 .

The relevant sections:


“Naval General Order

Navy Department

December 24th, 1834.

From and after the 22d day of February next, the changes in the ‘Uniform Dress,’ as hereinafter described, shall be conformed to by all Navy Surgeons and Assistants.


Surgeons and Assistants are permitted to wear, in undress,…blue cloth caps, with a band of gold lace not exceeding one and a half inches wide.”


Various changes:

https://books.google.com/books?id=u0kZAAAAYAAJ&newbks=1&newbks_redir=0&printsec=frontcover&pg=PA9&dq="1841"+Navy+regulation&hl=en#v=onepage&q="1841" Navy regulation&f=false


MIDN lace 1838 (pg. 5)

”Naval General Order

Navy Department 

June 20th, 1838.

From the 4th of July, 1838, Passed Midshipmen and Midshipmen, but no other officers of the Navy of the United States of an inferior grade, are to wear a gold band around their caps when in undress.



First grant of gold lace to forward warrants.


Naval Uniform.

The Boatswains, Gunners, Carpenters and Sailmakers of the Navy…will also wear round their caps a band of navy gold-lace, one inch and a quarter wide.


Navy Department,

April 5th, 1849.”



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Father V



MIDN lace 1 Jan 1846: https://archive.org/details/RegulationsForTheUniform1841/page/n21/mode/2up


The following changes and modifications in the uniform prescribed for Offi

cers in the U. S. Navy, are hereby authorized, to take effect on the first day

of January, 1846.



Passed Midshipmen and Midshipmen shall wear round their caps a band

of Navy gold lace, one and a half inches wide, instead of the present anchor

and star.


Navy Department,

June 4th, 1845.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Father V

@Dirk. Very slow going. I’m going to do some minor projects while I accumulate energy for Part 2: Dimensions & Details 1852-1922, then break again before part 3: The origins of the RN 1825.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thank you for taking on this task…hard to do, but a great mission to advance our understanding! 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Create New...