Confederate Frock Coat and Kepi of J.F. Wilson Co. D, Cobb's Legion
a well made short jacket of cadet grey wool having 6 brass Georgia state seal buttons with the back mark of English maker Van Wart, Son & Co. (see Tice, 1997: 270, GA212A1) and 3 state seal buttons stamped Horstmann. Base of collar edged with a thin welt of dark navy blue piping. Interior lined with raw cotton and secured by quilted tan cloth. Kepi with silk lining and indented crown is made of identical cadet grey wool having thin welts of blue-black piping down either side and back denoting an officer. Thick, black leather visor (possibly replaced) is crudely hand stitched to body of the kepi with leather chinstrap partially secured by two brass state seal buttons stamped Horstmann. Tice notes that the imported Van Wart buttons were "made all around 1864-1865 to run through the blockade" indicating that this jacket was being worn by Captain Wilson as late as 1864. Horstmann and other Northern makers supplied quantities of state seal buttons to the Georgia militia up until the start of the war.
Accompanying this uniform is an old hand written letter of provenance from Mrs. Annie B. Page attesting, This jacket and cap were used by my father Mr. J.F. Wilson from the Civil War who was from Georgia. Also accompanying the uniform are extensive archival records of James F. Wilson, showing that this soldier joined Company D. of Cobb's Georgia (Infantry) Legion as first sergeant in September 1861 and resigned as a captain do to age (Wilson was 45) in August 1864. The identical uniform and kepi are pictured in Topper (1989: 177).
Georgia adopted frock coats for its small State Army under regulations dated February 1861. In May 1861 the state adjutant general circulated an appeal for cloth to make uniforms specifying a “roundabout or army jacket” (shell jacket) and in September the state was able to place contracts for “30,000 suits of clothing,” a substantial portion intended for Georgia troops then serving in the Virginia. This prescription not withstanding, Georgia troops through 1862 are recorded in both frock coats and shell jackets in about equal proportion based on a wealth of period photography. In the Confederate Army the frock coat soon gave way to the more economical shell jacket as a cost saving measure and the “mass production” of this style of uniform at Southern depots continued until the very end of the war.
While no precise information regarding the uniforms of Cobb’s Georgia Legion can be found, this jacket conforms to the specifications in place during the summer of 1861 and based on its quality and construction appears to be an early issue. Oddly, the jacket lacks any indication of rank, either chevrons (as sergeant) or collar bars (as company grade officer) and we have no satisfactory explanation for this other than to suggest the possibly that Wilson instead wore shoulder straps, now missing.
Organized by prominent antebellum political Howell Cobb and his brother Thomas R.R. Cobb during the spring of 1861, Cobb’s Legion was an unusual all-arms organization comprising a battalion of cavalry (6 companies), a battalion of infantry (7 companies) with an attached artillery company that mustered into Confederate service on August 1, 1861. The Legion concept proved to be inherently cumbersome, too weak to fight together in an independent capacity, and the sub-units never served together in the field. The infantry battalion was assigned to the Army of Northern Virginia and was initially commanded by Colonel Thomas R.R. Cobb, numbering about 600 men prior to its combat debut at the Seven Days’ battles.
James F. Wilson had joined Company D, also known as the "Mell Rifles," as first sergeant in September 1861 and was later promoted to 1st lieutenant in November 1862 and captain in November 1863. Cobb’s Legion suffered heavily at Antietam and Chancellorsville and marched with the army to Gettysburg where losses were about 10%. Lieutenant Wilson missed the Gettysburg campaign, being listed as "absent, sick in General Hospital #4, Richmond" from June 2, 1863, rejoining his unit on July 8, 1863. Afterwards, the Georgians accompanied Longstreet’s Corps west as strategic reinforcements, but was not engaged at Chickamauga.
After winning an empty victory at Chickamauga, Longstreet sought independent command and detached his corps to Knoxville where he campaigned with little to show for the suffering during the dismal winter. Cobb's Legion returned to the Army of Northern Virginia in time to participate in the grueling summer campaign of 1864 fighting at the Wilderness, Spotsylvania and Cold Harbor.
Captain Wilson resigned his commission on August 11, 1864 citing his age and the rigors of prior service. Interestingly, records show that Wilson was still deemed a combatant by Union authorities and held briefly as a POW at the end of the war before being formally paroled on May 5, 1865.
An exceedingly rare combination of Confederate uniform kit in fine condition sold with accompanying family provenance and documentation.
Ex Pete and Jackie Kersten Collection