This is an extraordinary example of an identified Civil War infantry officer’s overcoat. The coat is a regulation dark blue, tightly woven wool. Four frogs and loops of black silk fasten the overcoat. It was also closed by a longer thong at the base of the neck. Called a cloak coat, the garment was a copy of the official greatcoat worn by French officers. The body and sleeve linings are bright vermillion-red polished cotton. As the war progressed, the regulations were amended to allow officers to wear enlisted men’s sky blue overcoats to avoid making them less conspicuous in the field.
The coat is identified in ink on the backside of the hook loop located at the neck to Lt. George W. Bates, 14th Illilnois Infantry. Lieutenant Bates enlisted in 1861 and was discharged on February 26, 1864. He participated in the Battles of Fort Donelson and Shiloh where he was in the ranks until ordered to the rear due to sickness. He also participated in the seige of Vicksburg, but afterwards was taken by boat north with little hope of survival.
It was written of Bates, "His moral character was such that the men of his company rallied around him in battle, believing that he had a charmed life, and that they would be safe when under him.” Surviving the war, Bates married and had two daughters, and survived miraculously, but with extremely poor health until February 14, 1901.