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Civil War Double-Breasted Frock Coat Worn by Major William S. Harlan, 159th Ohio (NG) Infantry

Navy blue seven-button double-breasted staff grade infantry officer's frock coat with original major's shoulder straps.  Buttons are marked "Waterbury Button Co."  Matched straps are blue cloth with single gold bullion border and a gold embroidered bullion oak leaf.  Three-button serviceable cuff.  Skirt is 17" to rough edge and sleeves 9" in width and are bell shaped.  Lining of coat is dark olive and has close quilted pattern in chest, underarms and center back and shoulders.  Boldly embroidered on center back of lining is "R. Silvey" who was the coat's tailor according to the consignor.  Sleeves are lined in white with brown stripe in an unusual spades, diamonds, hearts and clubs pattern.  Piped pocket on inside left chest. Back has three seams that lead to center vent.  Vent has two buttons at top.  

Along with the frock coat is a tray of post-war GAR ribbons (5) and medals (4) belonging to Major William S. Harlan. Two photographs are included, the first being an earlier ink identified CDV of Capt. Harlan by Hoag & Quick, Cincinnati showing Harlan as a company grade officer in the 78th OVI, the second a post-war cabinet card with Seattle imprint of "Grandfather Harlan" dated May 1891. Two of the ribbons are St. Louis National Convention types dated 1887. Two more denote the Annual Encampment Dept. of Washington and Alaska dating 1892. Two of the medals are Woman's Relief Corps, Delegate and Treasurer, while another is a Dept. of the Ohio Toledo medal from 1888 featuring a fine bust of Gen. McPherson.  A thin file of research accompanies the group comprising readily available military information with a page of Harlan family genealogy reflecting the coat's descendance in the family.

William S. Harlan had early service with the 78th OVI having enlisted in Co. D. as First Sergeant on Oct. 25, 1861. He was promoted to 2nd Lieut. in December 1861 and was engaged at Shiloh and Bolivar, Tennessee in April 1862, being promoted to 1st Lieut. and Capt. the same month in the wake of several resignations that created vacancies. Captain Harlan may have been involved in early operations against Vicksburg but he, too, resigned his commission on Feb. 13, 1863. Harlan re-enlisted as Major of the 159th Ohio Infantry (National Guard) on May 5, 1864. The 159th Ohio was a 100-day Regiment sent to Harper’s Ferry and assigned to the 8th Corps, Middle Department. Almost immediately the regiment was broken up and served by company at various points including the defenses of Baltimore on guard and garrison duty. Major Harlan commanded that portion of the regiment detailed to Camp Bradford, Baltimore and is mentioned several times in Official Records correspondence during the July 1864 period. Another detachment of the 159th, about 100 men, were mounted as scouts and fought at Monocacy Junction on July 9, 1864. The regiment mustered out at Zanesville on August 24, 1864 so ending Major Harlan’s service.

Parenthetically, Major Harlan's wife was a Milhous and related to Hanna Milhous, mother of future President Richard Milhous Nixon.  Another interesting aspect of this uniform pertains to its discovery and cleaning. The coat along with a number of other personal articles were discovered in the attic of an old home in Nashville, Tennessee. The frock coat had apparently hung on a wooden hanger for the better portion of a century. The consignor relates that the coat had so much dirt and accumulated grime “it could literally stand by itself.” It was sent to the Smithsonian's historical textile expert and cleaned using techniques similar to the period. “Five pounds of silt were removed during the cleaning process."  After conservation a fine quality uniform emerged.

Provenance:Sylvia to Consignor 2002

Condition:Front of coat shows signs of wear and mothing on front chest, shoulders and skirt.  One button is removed, but the button comes with coat and can be repaired. One button holing on by long thread.  Moth holes on each sleeve.  Back of coat shows mothing, moth holes and wear.  Inside lining has signs of wear and holes.  Center vent is missing the 2 buttons at middle of vent.  Overall condition is good.

Estimate: $6,000 - $9,000
Price Realized Including Buyer's Premium
$2,938
05/01/2014

 

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