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The William R. and Clarice V. Spurlock Museum at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
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Featured Artifact


Union Civil War Uniform

Civil War Uniform
Union Civil War Uniform
Union Civil War Uniform: Eagle Design from Brass Button
The brass buttons on the coat each bear the image of an American Bald Eagle holding 3 arrows in its left claws and an olive branch in its right. The letter "I" within the inscribed shield stands for "Infantry". All infantrymen in the Union army wore buttons of this kind.

A generous gift of Miss Daisy Tinkham Babb, this federal full dress coat belonged to Charles Johnston Tinkham, Lt. Col. of the 26th Illinois Volunteers. Born in Covington, Kentucky, Tinkham graduated from West Point Academy in 1849, and worked as a civil engineer. He later settled in Homer, Illinois, until his marriage to Caroline Coffeen on May 14, 1860.

With the coming of the Civil War, Tinkham helped to organize Company F of the 26th Illinois Volunteers regiment and was commissioned as Captain on August 10, 1861 by Governor Richard Yates. After less than a month of service, Tinkham was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel on August 31, 1861. Armed only with hickory clubs, the 26th Illinois began their career with guard duty in Quincy, Illinois. After guarding the Hannibal and St. Joseph Rail Road, the 26th were assigned to Brigadier General J. B. Plummer's Brigade on February 19, 1862. Lt. Col. Tinkham and the 26th Illinois Volunteers engaged Confederate troops at New Madrid, Missouri and took part in the siege of Corinth, Mississippi. On May 9, 1862, the 26th were engaged in Farmington, Mississippi where Lt. Col. Tinkham suffered a wound to his right hand. Though he would stay with the 26th Illinois Volunteers until Fall, Tinkham resigned his commission on October 7, 1862.

Union Civil War Epaulet
The silver leaves on the epaulets indicate the rank of Lt. Col. The blue field on the epaulets signifies the Infantry branch of the U. S. Army.

This navy blue infantry battle regalia is made out of wool according to Union color standards of the era. It sports double breasted brass buttons in the front, and three brass buttons on each cuff. The shoulders are intricately decorated with epaulets bearing silver oak leaves on a blue field, indicating the Infantry branch of the United States' Army. This type of dress coat would likely have been worn for portraits and formal occasions.

Learn More: Union Civil War Uniform, 26th Illinois Volunteers (1942.05.0001)

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