True or False: Confederate soldiers wore upside down Federal “US” belt buckles. These are referred to as Southern Nation buckles.
The buckles were worn upside down by Rebel soldiers. It stands to reason that they would call them “Southern Nation” buckles, as the “US” looks like “SN” upside down, but I have no evidence to prove the Rebels referred to them as such. It is plausible that they were simply worn upside down as an insult to the US troops. In any case, I’ve dug enough flat buttons, militia buttons and US plates at rebel campsites to prove that the ill-equipped rebels wore US buckles often, and often wore them upside down. I know that many campsites were re-used be Federals but the evidence speaks for itself. “The relics never lie.”
The upside down buckle concept is understandingly irritating to re-enactor purists, who prefer everyone wear fancy official accoutrements. Relic hunters know for a fact that your average conscripted Confederate soldier did not wear fancy officially issued accoutrements. On that subject:
I believe if you could talk to any rebel soldier’s ghost right now, he’d tell the reenactorist to do him justice and wear the coolest issued Confederate buckle you can find and afford, because that’s what he would have preferred he’d had to wear. Just cause they had to wear what they could get doesn’t mean you have to.
Note: Beware of photos where someone references Federal soldiers wearing upside down buckles. Look closely. These are simply mirrored by the early camera, and are not upside down. They are reversed.
Note: Some argue that these upside down buckles were just reversed for left handed soldiers. However, it is impossible to believe that a Federal soldier wearing an upside down buckle would be tolerated by Federal Officers.
It is well known that the Confederates were not as well supplied as their Federal counterparts, especially early in the war. Many soldiers wore anything they could get their hands on and went to war with Militia accoutrements, jackets with flat buttons, and even Federal buttons and belt buckles, prewar and/or captured. In addition, many of the “CS” accoutrements were flimsy and poor quality. Here is some pretty irrefutable evidence that the Confederates wore these upside down.
Exhibit A: Both sides of upside down buckle found in a Confederate camp in Northern Alabama by a detectorist. The soldier actually melted out and reversed the hooks on the back.
Exhibit B: Report of captured Federal Soldier W.L. Hess
Slept soundly. Fine morning and with the opening day three more of the 35th were brought in making nine of us. As the day grew, it became warmer and we were taken into a wood where it was cool and comfortable. The rebel soldiers were anxious to buy watches knives, paper, and jewelry paying in Confederate money now worth in exchange value 1/10th of United States money. They were in the main good solid looking men, well clothed, many having on some part of United States Uniform. Those wearing our army belts did so with the “U.S.” upside down. Were free to talk with us. At near 3 p.m. shot from some distant battery began to roll in among us and soon we were in a grand “skidaddle” to the rear for about a mile. At 4 p.m. came the words “fall in forward march,” and a march of five mile brought us to Taylorsville, where we halted to then start a ten mile march to Ashland, where we permitted to camp on a fine grasy plot. Got a good ducking on the way. Missed Uncle Sam’s rubber blankets. During the march in the p.m. passed several regiments of confederates evidently waiting orders and lining the roadsides. While halted for a rest saw a young confederate whose face looked familiar but could not recall his name or where I had seen him before. He recognized me and found him to be Charles Ellis, whose father, a former Massachusetts man had removed to Florida, and at the opening of the war had [responsed] the cause of the confederacy. He with his brother Frank, were schoolmates of brothers Ronnie, and Herbert. Charles was now in the 2nd Florida and Frank in a regiment of Texas Rangers. Was quite affected to see me, inquiring minutely about his former schoolmates and relations still living in his former northern home, and to be sure and tell his relatives of my seeing him should I live to get home.
W. L. Hess
Exhibit D: “Brickyard Fight” Mural at Gettysburg
Exhibit E: Myriad of other photos
Book Confederate General accoutrement Plates page 297