Can anyone identify this uniform?

+7 votes

Can anyone identify this uniform or medals? I am told it was American Civil War, but I only see one medal that could be Civil War, and the uniform itself is not typical of Civil War, looks more Prussian to me. The belt buckle says "A B (?) ", and the cannons are odd shaped (not US style). I assume from the cannons that this was Artillery regiment or something similar. Rumor has it he was called "the Major".

US Civil War Major?

in Photos by Cindy Behr G2G3 (3.0k points)
picture uploaded to Hill-32407 , where it is supposed to go. Noted that the census data (1880) states his occupation was "Musician". Maybe this is a marching band uniform?
Could it have been a military band, rather than a marching band (specifically).

Here is the pic:

3 Answers

+8 votes
Best answer

This is most definitely an American and based on the uniform, I'd agree with the others that it is a band uniform.  Looking at the medals on the top row, there is one suspended from his neck and then starting at the button line, the second medal over is a Grand Army of the Republic medal.  The Grand Army of the Republic is similar to today's Veterans of Foreign Wars or the American Legion veteran's organizations.  Enrollment in the GAR peaked in 1890 and there were lodges all over America (not unlike the VFW lodges).

The GAR medal is similar in appearance to the Civil War era Medal of Honor but is different in that the eagle is above the ribbon whereas the MoH is below the ribbon.

I have never seen a foreign medal that is similar in appearance to the US MoH and/or the GAR medal - it has a distinctive American look.  And, if you zoom in on the photo, you'll notice that his GAR medal has an American flag ribbon.

I would say that this gentleman is a Civil War veteran (Union) and is the drum major of a GAR band or some other veteran's group.  Some of the other medals well may be society medals, GAR accomplishment medals, or other civic/veteran awards.

The guy who leads the marching band is called the "Drum Major," and I could very easily see him called "The Major" years later by his grandkids.

I may be wrong, but this is what I think.

by SJ Baty G2G Astronaut (1.1m points)
selected by Melanie Paul
I have come around to this same conclusion, the "Major" was an appellation, not an officer title. Those two medals I did notice appeared to be Civil War , I could not place any of the others except possibly the stunted cross as being American (it is hanging by a colored ribbon which appears to be tricolor.)

Thanks for the work, all of you, I am leaning towards this solution.
+5 votes

It does look Prussian Cindy. A lot of them have the corded hanging loops though, not like in your picture The closest I could find was: Napoleonic Prussian Army and Officers Napoleonic Hussars uniform.

Maybe one of our WikiTree war buffs will know

by Mindy Silva G2G6 Pilot (762k points)
I only saw one triple button row in the US Civil War uniforms, and it wasnt embroidered or fancy, just straight buttons. Seems pretty common on Prussian uniforms though. One of the cross medals (with the colored ribbon) is very much like a Civil war medal, but almost none of the others are, with the exception of the American flag one. Family history says it was Major Hill, but I am not convinced, I have found family history to be misleading at best.
Might he have been a band major?
I am starting to think that is a possibility.
+6 votes
If you google Prussian uniform you will get some pics click more , there are stacks to scroll through.
by Marion Poole G2G Astronaut (1.2m points)

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