During the 1830s-1850s the United States Army arguably had the most visually beautiful uniforms before they became more conservative in the 1860s. They were not made at all for comfort, and the dress uniforms even more so. An example of this is the 1832-1851-era artillery dress coatee worn by Lieutenant Julius Adolphus De Lagnel.
Julius De Lagnel had quite an interesting military history. He was born on July 24, 1827, in Newark, New Jersey. His father of the same name had been an army ordnance officer who died in 1841. Julius, along with his brother Johnston, moved to Alexandria, Virginia at some point after the passing of their father. In 1847, Julius was commissioned into the United States Army as a second lieutenant in the regular artillery without having attended any military schools or West Point. On January 29, 1849, he was promoted to first lieutenant and was in Captain Luther’s Company of the 2nd U.S. Artillery serving faithfully until the outbreak of the Civil War.
On May 17, 1861, Julius resigned his commission in the U.S. Army and joined the Confederate service as a captain of regular artillery. During the Battle of Rich Mountain on July 11, 1861, he manned an artillery piece when he was wounded and soon captured. Imprisoned in New York for a time, he was exchanged for Union General James Ricketts on December 13, 1861. In 1862, he was given a promotion to brigadier general but turned it down for unknown reasons. He then served as a major in the 20th Virginia Artillery Battalion along with his brother until he was promoted to lieutenant colonel and assigned as second in command of the Confederate Ordnance Service under Brigadier General Josiah Gorgas, inspecting Confederate arsenals, a position which he held until the end of the war. He was paroled in Greensborough, North Carolina on April 26, 1865.
After the war, he worked for the Pacific Steamship Service and in 1903 he sold his mansion on Prince Street in Alexandria to be used as a home for veterans. The United Daughters of the Confederacy own it today and run it as a museum. Julius died on June 3, 1912, at the age of 84. His coatee was passed down by a descendant until it was donated to a museum in 1945 along with his brother Johnston’s Confederate officer’s uniform.
As mentioned above, the coatee is stunning. It’s made from indigo blue superfine broadcloth with scarlet broadcloth piping around the collar and cuff flaps and lined in the skirts with the same scarlet cloth with the upper body lined in red, glazed serge, and a strip of red Morocco around the waist. The cuffs and collar have two rows of gold metallic lace, and the pocket flaps are also piped with scarlet and have four gold metallic loops each. The tails of the skirts are long with embroidered bombs on the false turnbacks. The buttons are all eagle “A” with gilt wash and are in excellent condition.
It must have been quite a sight to see a company all decked out in their dress uniforms during that pre-war period, and this rare survivor is a wonderful view into the martial uniforms of our past.
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