Stud Covers and Scalloped Shoulder Strap Ends on Early Federal Knapsacks

By Paul A. Boccadoro


There has been discussion about when certain characteristics of the Federal Double Bag Knapsack came into existence, two of which are examined here. Some say that "early war" packs generally had exposed studs and squared or rounded shoulder strap ends, while "late war" packs had covered studs and scalloped shoulder strap ends. By examining a series of Library of Congress photographs of the 22nd New York at Harpers Ferry and using dates noted in The History of the Twenty-second Regiment of the State of New York by General George W. Wingate, it is seen that "late war" covered studs and scalloped ends were on knapsacks issued as early as May 1862.

As indicated by Special Order No. 130 and General Orders No. 8 and 9 (p. 31-33), the 22nd New York left New York City on May 28, 1862. Two days before departing, "at each of the company armories issues were made on each man of a blue blouse . . . knapsack, blanket, haversack, and canteen" (p. 31). They travelled to Washington, camped at Baltimore, and then "awaking at 4 A.M. on June 20, the Twenty-second packed its knapsacks, boxed its cooking outfit, and 'struck its tents'" to travel by rail to Harpers Ferry, Virginia, arriving on June 21 at 7PM (p. 54).

In the photos of the 22nd NY at Harpers Ferry, a few men still wear their grey militia trousers (evident by the red seam stripes with white piping) and the drummer of Co. H still wears his grey musicians jacket, even though while back in Baltimore "on June 10, 1862, the grey dress coat and trousers were discarded" to be sent back to New York and they adopted the regulation sky blue trousers (p. 46). This implies that the photos of them at Harpers Ferry photographs were taken soon after they arrived since some men retained their old uniforms, so probably in late June or early July, 1862.

Therefore, the photos of the 22nd NY were taken in the early summer of 1862 and show the knapsacks issued to them in New York City on May 26, 1862, which featured covered studs and scalloped ends.

This is perhaps the best photograph of the 22nd NY series to show the stud covers and scalloped ends. These two men also still wear their grey militia trousers, evident by the red seam stripes with white piping, leading to believe the photos were taken soon after their arrival in Harpers Ferry. (LOC#: LC-USZ62-119128)

Still, other details on their packs are commonly associated with earlier production:

This photo shows that the three outer straps have horizontal stitching, as opposed to the vertical stitching usually associated with later packs. (MOLLUS Vol. 29 Doc. ID 255810)

This man displays his open knapsack, which allows a clear view of the inner flaps which are more squared in shape, usually associated with early packs. Later packs are usually thought to have more rounded flaps. (Medford Historical Society/CORBIS)

This is the only man in the series of photos who is seen using the removable wooden frame inside his pack. Many period accounts show men discarding this item, and the item was eventually discontinued. (Medford Historical Society/CORBIS)