Highlights from the Collection: The Civil War

Highlights of the collection include Civil War artifacts, left by Union troops encamped in many parts of the City.

Page updated on Aug 11, 2020 at 2:13 PM

Artifacts from the Civil War

Alexandria was an occupied city during the Civil War. Federal troops built a ring of forts known as the Defenses of Washington, which included Fort Ward, Fort Ellsworth and Fort Williams in Alexandria. Many homes and public buildings were used as hospitals and officers’ quarters, and camp sites occupied parts of town.

These artifacts are from the Smucker Site on Quaker Lane. The site was excavated in 2006 by John Milner Associates, Inc., through a grant from the Virginia Threatened Sites Program. The project area was part of Confederate General Samuel Cooper's early 19th-century plantation, known as Cameron, and was occupied by Union troops during the Civil War.

It is possible that the 38th N.Y. infantry regiment occupied the site (as well as nearby Quaker Ridge, where a Crimean Oven was found, as these troops were most likely in the general vicinity. In the fall of 1861, the site was probably part of the large encampment of the Eighth Brigade commanded by General Sedgwick. 

Learn more about Alexandria during the Civil War.

Saddle Shield Saddle shield

Saddle Shield, brass, ca. 1859-1864.
Catalogue number AX199 M-06-266 

This saddle shield was used on the front of a model 1859 McClellan saddle. This model saddle was used by the U.S. Cavalry up until World War II.

Cartridge Box Plate CArtridge box plate

Cartridge Box Plate, brass with lead backing, ca. 1855-1864.
Catalogue number AX199 M-06-188.

This U.S. plate adorned the front of a model 1855 leather cartridge box. This plate is a type made by J I Pittman. The box held forty rounds of ammunition in two tin liners. A round Eagle plate would have been placed on the leather shoulder strap. In 1864, the army replaced the brass plate with a “U.S.” embossed on the leather.

Shoulder Scales Shoulder scales  

Shoulder Scales, brass, ca. 1861-1864.
Catalogue number AX199 M-06-192.

These shoulder scales were worn on the dress uniform coat or jacket of a private in the Union army. Different patterns of shoulder scales were worn by sergeants, corporals and other enlisted men, while officers wore elaborate epaulets.

Hat Horn Insignia  HAt horn insignia

Hat Horn Insignia, brass, ca. 1858-1864. Catalogue number AX199 M-06-186.

The horn insignia was used on Infantry hats. This stamped brass insignia was designed in 1858.