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    Description

    Truly Historic and Important Slouch Hat Worn by a Famed Major General. This tall black felt slouch hat was worn throughout the Civil War by Major General Nathaniel P. Banks, pre-war Governor of Massachusetts and controversial Union army commander. The hat is in remarkable condition and shows many alterations personally made by Banks. The 3" wide brim is bound in ribbed silk which shows fraying at the edges and a short split on one side. A black ribbed silk ribbon is around the base of the hat and the top rises to about 6." Flexing has caused the felt to split at the front and rear points of the crown. The original General Officer gold hat cords are with the hat as well but otherwise there is no sign any other insignia was ever worn with it. A simple thread loop on the side and hook on the brim allows the left side to be turned up. No interior lining remains, but the full sweatband is intact and has clearly marked in ink "N P Banks/M.G.V." (for "Major General Volunteers") along with "Port Hudson/1863." The remnant of a small green paper size label is also affixed. The hat shows some intriguing personal modifications typical of those made by soldiers of all ranks to alleviate the discomfort of their notoriously hot head wear. First, probably when he arrived in the steamy climate of Louisiana, it seems that Banks simply cut a small "flap" into each side and the back to promote the flow of air. Those were then sewn up and dime-size patent brass ventilation discs were put in their place. Eight ventilation holes were also punched in the top of the crown. This was obviously a hat the general cared about and found comfortable. It apparently was worn by him throughout his service and there is a photograph showing Banks wearing the hat after he had altered it for use in the field and the extreme southern heat. Given its extended use, the condition today is excellent. It is by chance that this piece of history has survived to this day. It was in front of Banks' ancestral home on a trash pile around 1970 waiting to be picked up by the city sanitation department in Waltham, Massachusetts, when it was spotted and rescued from its terrible fate by a sharp eyed antique dealer who happened to be passing by! Nathaniel Prentice Banks was an early anti-slave Republican who served in the U.S. Congress and then as Governor of Massachusetts from 1858 to 1860. Lincoln appointed him one of the first Major Generals of Volunteers on May 16, 1861. Lacking military acumen, he nevertheless attracted recruits and money to the Federal cause. He helped suppress Confederate support in Maryland, then was sent to the Shenandoah Valley where he was outmaneuvered by the legendary Confederate General "Stonewall" Jackson. Banks later replaced Gen. Benjamin Butler in New Orleans as commander of the Department of the Gulf and besieged Port Hudson, La. From March to May, 1864 he launched the Red River Campaign which accomplished little. Afterwards Banks was removed from command and placed on leave in Washington D.C. He officially mustered out of the service in August, 1865. Banks returned to politics as an advocate of manifest destiny and the purchase of Alaska. He died at his lifelong home in Waltham, Massachusetts in 1894. This highly desirable hat is accompanied by several carte d'visite photographs of Banks both in his Civil War uniform and civilian clothes.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    November, 2008
    20th-21st Thursday-Friday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 1
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 3,421

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