Rubber Baby Berdan Buttons!

At the beginning of the Civil War, one of the country’s best marksman, Hiram Berdan, organized a regiment of similarly-talented marksmen. It became the 1st Regiment United States Sharpshooters and Berdan became its Colonel.

The qualifications to be a “sharpshooter” were strict: “No man would be enlisted who could not put ten bullets in succession within five inches from the center at a distance of six hundred feet from a rest or three hundred feet off hand” (i.e., standing without a support).

Berdan's Sharpshooters, 'Uniforms of the Civil War Series' Painting by Dan Troiani (used by permission)

Berdan's Sharpshooters
'Uniforms of the Civil War Series'
Painting by Dan Troiani
(used by permission)

“Berdan’s Sharpshooters,” as they were known, were equipped with special green uniforms that helped to camouflage them in the woods. Leather leggings protected their shins as they ran through the underbrush. And since standard brass buttons would glint in the sun and give away their position, their coats were fastened with dark black rubber buttons. The rubber buttons were patented by Goodyear in 1851. (Yes, that Goodyear.)

Berdan’s Sharpshooters were present at the Battle of Gettysburg. In fact, they famously crossed the field from the Peach Orchard to Pitzer Woods at about noon on July 2nd and encountered a large force of Confederate infantry (Alabamians) moving to their left to attack Devil’s Den and Little Round Top. The resulting skirmish of some 20 minutes caused a critical delay in that Confederate attack and gave more time to the Union army to reinforce its left flank.

A rubber Berdan's Sharpshooters button.

A rubber Berdan's Sharpshooters button.

Due to the relatively small numbers of sharpshooters and the fact that these buttons can’t be found with metal detectors, they are among the rarest Civil War Infantry buttons.

We have one of these rubber buttons in our collection, however. It was found by chance while digging at an old privy site.

We invite you to come by and see it!

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