COMING IN MAY 2020
REGULATION CONFEDERATE GENERAL’S FROCK COAT, SASH & TROUSERS OF MAJOR GENERAL MARTIN LUTHER SMITH.
inv # 02-13231
This is the only regulation General’s uniform to ever come to market with direct family descent. This coat for many years was on display, while loaned, at the Museum of the Confederacy (now the Museum of the American Civil War) in Richmond, Virginia. This coat, like the other uniform items in this archive have been professionally conserved & conservation reports accompany each. The coat is regulation gray wool made in New Orleans originally as a Brigadier General’s coat with buttons in groups of 2. Martin Luther Smith was promoted to Brigadier General on April 11, 1862 & had his photograph made in this exact coat in Brigadier General configuration. He was promoted to Major General & was confirmed in that rank less than a year later in April 1863. This coat was then modified by resewing button holes, quite expertly & changing the positions instead of groups of 2 to groups of 3. Sleeves balloon to 8 1/2″ at elbows with 4-strand flat metal quatrefoil braid terminating in regulation gold/buff 5 1/2″ cuffs. The gold/buff stand up collar has metallic braid hand stitched in scrolls which originally held 3 bullion stars on either side. The central star on each side is missing but the original sewing threads are still present outlining that star. The high resolution ambrotype taken of Smith as a brigadier clearly shows the unique scrolled metallic braid. There are a total of 32 General staff domed eagle buttons on this coat. Four were missing & the conservator replaced them with matching original examples. One of the missing buttons was found by the family & now accompanies this coat. The coat is finely lined with a green/olive silk & quilted on the breast panels. There are 2 pockets on the inside of the tails lined with a brown/red cotton twill. Blue wool military trousers have front button flap with 4 hand stitched bone buttons, 2 flat metal buttons in the waist band, cotton lined waist lining & pocket linings. Pant cuffs are partially lined in blue & white decorated silk. Identified military trousers are virtually non existent to Confederate General officers. The regulation General officer’s gold/buff sash has 10″ knotted tassels. Body is 61″ long & 4″ wide of a very loose woven silk. Martin Luther Smith (1819-1866) graduated from West Point in 1842. His class would provide 24 Civil War Generals, both North & South. He was commissioned Lieutenant in the topographical engineers. After graduation his first assignments were in the South, which he never left, even though originally from New York. He fought in the Mexican War & continued his military engineering until the Civil War began. Smith was commissioned Colonel of the 22nd Louisiana Infantry. He was soon promoted to Brigadier General & after the loss of New Orleans Smith took command of troops in Vicksburg while improving the city’s defenses & designing earth works. Smith was confirmed Major General April 1863. During the siege of Vicksburg, Smith’s troops held the left side of the Confederate line, opposing William Tecumseh Sherman’s forces. Smith was captured after the fall of Vicksburg. In the spring of 1864 Major General Smith became Robert E. Lee’s Chief Engineer of the Army of Northern Virginia. By July, Smith was reassigned as Chief Engineer of the Army of Tennessee under John Bell Hood. His last assignment was in Mobile. As the Chief Engineer of the Department of Alabama, Mississippi & East Louisiana where he erected the Defenses at Spanish Fort in Blakely. After Mobile fell, General Smith was paroled May 8, 1865 & returned home to Georgia. After the War he worked as an engineer for an Alabama & Tennessee railroad. He died July 29, 1866 in Savannah, Georgia at the age of 47.
Photo Courtesy of David Richardson and CivilWarinColor.com