19th Century U.S. Navy Issued Blanket

Michael W.

First Sergeant
Joined
Jun 19, 2015
Messages
1,275
Location
The Hoosier State
Ok folks, I have a tough one here and hope that maybe @Package4 or someone more knowledgeable than myself can help me with this artifact. Several years ago I acquired at Cowan's Auctions what they described as a 19th Century U.S. Navy issue blanket, dated ca. 1850-1890. As a C.W. Navy collector, I have never come across an 1800's Navy blanket, either at auctions, shows, or seen one in a museum. A now deceased lifelong Navy collector informed as well that he had never run across one, either. But he did tell me where (to his knowledge) the only known existing, authentic Civil War U.S. Navy blanket was located, and that is in the old Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond. That particular blanket was on board the U.S.S. Cumberland when she was sunk by the C.S.S. Virginia at Hampton Roads on 8 March 1862. After sinking, the blanket floated to the surface where it was fished out of the water by a Confederate patrol, and then acquired by a sergeant in the 61st Virginia Infantry, ANV, who carried it throughout the war all the way to Appomattox. He or his family donated it to the MOC around the turn of the century.

With this knowledge in hand, two years ago I made arrangements with one of the curators at the MOC to do a side-by-side comparison of my blanket with the one from the Cumberland. They are similar, but different in several aspects. Both are wool, off white/cream colored with matching blue stripes. Both are double length attached blankets. The MOC artifact measures 50.5 inches in width, 138 in. in length. Mine is 50.5 inches in width, 143
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in. in length.

There is where the similarities end. The Cumberland blanket is a singe weave pattern and hand stitched, mine is double weave and machine. The MOC blanket has "U.S. Navy" in red dye on each end of the blanket, mine has it on only one end, and it is dyed brown. (Any possibility it was red and then faded to brown)? Mine also has had a large hole dead center of the blanket, which was repaired with period textiles. Several fellow collectors have examined my artifact and are of the opinion the blanket was intentionally cut in the center (see photo) and was used like a poncho. The MOC curator after dual examination was of the opinion that mine is post Civil War, but unsure of an exact time frame. I share his opinion, but would like to narrow the time from down, something closer than 40 years. I have included pics of the blanket from the Cumberland that I pulled from their website (they would not let me take photographs). When the curator wasn't looking, I did touch the Cumberland blanket with my bare hands (Can't be that close to history and NOT touch it!!) :D Take a look at the pics attached and share your thoughts. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks!!
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DaveBrt

Sergeant Major
Joined
Mar 6, 2010
Messages
2,383
Location
Charlotte, NC
Ok folks, I have a tough one here and hope that maybe @Package4 or someone more knowledgeable than myself can help me with this artifact. Several years ago I acquired at Cowan's Auctions what they described as a 19th Century U.S. Navy issue blanket, dated ca. 1850-1890. As a C.W. Navy collector, I have never come across an 1800's Navy blanket, either at auctions, shows, or seen one in a museum. A now deceased lifelong Navy collector informed as well that he had never run across one, either. But he did tell me where (to his knowledge) the only known existing, authentic Civil War U.S. Navy blanket was located, and that is in the old Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond. That particular blanket was on board the U.S.S. Cumberland when she was sunk by the C.S.S. Virginia at Hampton Roads on 8 March 1862. After sinking, the blanket floated to the surface where it was fished out of the water by a Confederate patrol, and then acquired by a sergeant in the 61st Virginia Infantry, ANV, who carried it throughout the war all the way to Appomattox. He or his family donated it to the MOC around the turn of the century.

With this knowledge in hand, two years ago I made arrangements with one of the curators at the MOC to do a side-by-side comparison of my blanket with the one from the Cumberland. They are similar, but different in several aspects. Both are wool, off white/cream colored with matching blue stripes. Both are double length attached blankets. The MOC artifact measures 50.5 inches in width, 138 in. in length. Mine is 50.5 inches in width, 143 View attachment 301250View attachment 301251View attachment 301252View attachment 301253View attachment 301254View attachment 301255View attachment 301256View attachment 301257in. in length.

There is where the similarities end. The Cumberland blanket is a singe weave pattern and hand stitched, mine is double weave and machine. The MOC blanket has "U.S. Navy" in red dye on each end of the blanket, mine has it on only one end, and it is dyed brown. (Any possibility it was red and then faded to brown)? Mine also has had a large hole dead center of the blanket, which was repaired with period textiles. Several fellow collectors have examined my artifact and are of the opinion the blanket was intentionally cut in the center (see photo) and was used like a poncho. The MOC curator after dual examination was of the opinion that mine is post Civil War, but unsure of an exact time frame. I share his opinion, but would like to narrow the time from down, something closer than 40 years. I have included pics of the blanket from the Cumberland that I pulled from their website (they would not let me take photographs). When the curator wasn't looking, I did touch the Cumberland blanket with my bare hands (Can't be that close to history and NOT touch it!!) :D Take a look at the pics attached and share your thoughts. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks!!View attachment 301247View attachment 301248View attachment 301249View attachment 301248
My immediate thought is that after the war, there was a large amount of quartermaster type material left on hand. It would seem, to me, unlikely that new purchases would be needed for the vastly reduced Navy until, say 1890 or so, as it came to life again with and after the ABCD ships. So, I would look for a late 1800's blanket for comparison.

But then, my second thought is that during the war a large number of blankets were needed for the greatly expanding USN. So, it could be a purchase from this expansion phase, when strict quality controls were not in place. Also, there were many cases of substandard products being provided to the government during the war. Meaning, we don't know, unless you find it elsewhere..

Glad to be of help. :smoke:
 

Package4

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Jul 28, 2015
Messages
3,194
The give away for me are the stitched ends, though there is no way of knowing when that was done, but most likely when produced. It is rare to see the ends stitched on a period blanket; the weave was so tight that they seldom frayed. You will also see this on frock coats where the bottom is left "unfinished" without a hem.

Border stitching was done at a later time, I agree that finding an 1880-90s blanket for compare would be beneficial in your quest. US Naval Academy? Possibly the ISM Cruiser Olympia Collection in Philadelphia )(Independence Seaport Museum), they have Oliver Pavey's Navy blanket when he served aboard the cruiser.
 

Michael W.

First Sergeant
Joined
Jun 19, 2015
Messages
1,275
Location
The Hoosier State
The give away for me are the stitched ends, though there is no way of knowing when that was done, but most likely when produced. It is rare to see the ends stitched on a period blanket; the weave was so tight that they seldom frayed. You will also see this on frock coats where the bottom is left "unfinished" without a hem.

Border stitching was done at a later time, I agree that finding an 1880-90s blanket for compare would be beneficial in your quest. US Naval Academy? Possibly the ISM Cruiser Olympia Collection in Philadelphia )(Independence Seaport Museum), they have Oliver Pavey's Navy blanket when he served aboard the cruiser.
Thank you for your input, and many thanks on suggestions where to look!
 


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