Mass Militia B Gen. Eliab Ward’s ’51 Shako & Frock Coat SOLD

General’s Ward’s Frock Coat and boxed Shako.


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This is a rare opportunity to own a Model 1851 general officer’s shako, not only in its original hat box with maker’s label, but identified as well.  Brigadier General Eliab Ward, of Middleborough, Massachusetts wore this shako from 1851 to 1855, when he commanded the 2nd Brigade of the 1st Division, Massachusetts Volunteer Militia. That unit designation can be seen in the bullion wreath bearing the “2d Brig./MVM” applied insignia.  A general officer wore a large gold bullion acorn with a federal eagle in bullion suspended below the base of the acorn. The body is fashioned of thin, stiff cardboard covered in blue wool. A leather chinstrap with central buckle is held in place by a pair of Mass. Militia buttons.  The interior is lined with a deep maroon silk, and the maker’s name printed in gold. The sweatband is very tall, being 3 inches high with a reenforced stitched edge. A narrow band of black silk used as an additional strap, could be used to wear on the back of the neck, to prevent the wearer from losing his shako in a high wind.

The height of the shako is 7 inches high from base to crown, 10 inches overall height including the acorn plume. Accompanying the shako is the original box, made of stiff cardboard, and covered in a light yellow paper. The maker’s printed label is glued to the top lid of the box, and reads, “From BENT & BUSH’S Fashionable HAT ESTABLISHMENT, (etc.)…BOSTON.”  This is similar to the marking in the lining of the hat.  The box show obvious wear, some water staining and repairs to lid. Eliab Ward wrote his name in pencil on the label now showing a good deal of wear, but is legible, “Gen. Ward.”

I have had some restoration done on the cap to take care of some mothing to the wool body in several small places, as well as fortifying the lid of the box.  The photos that I took were taken in extreme sunlight, and the photos show moth tracking and wear to the wool body, but in an indoor display light, the look is super.  The leather is all in great shape, the bullion shows light toning, but in fine-excellent condition. The lining and sweatband are the original and fine+ as well.

Eliab Ward, the son of General Ephraim Ward, was born in Carver, Mass, July 1, 1805 and moved to Middleborough, Ma. He attended Amherst College, and after graduation continued his law studies in the officer of Jacob H. Loud of Plymouth, eventually admitted to the bar in 1836. Be began his own practice some time not long after. Ward held the confidence of a large clientele, but the active duties of his profession were distasteful to him, and he preferred to serve his clients in matters of advice and council rather than appear in court.

In the local militia he rose from one rank to another, holding field rank from the early 1840’s from major through to brigadier general, the latter rank achieved in April of 1850, until October of 1855, when he removed from command, (with advice and consent of the Governor of the Commonwealth.  The reason, as of yet, I have been unable to find.

Ward was a prominent member of the Democratic Party, and served as a representative to the General Court in 1838-42, and in 1852.  He served as a state senator in 1843.  He served as a trustee of Pierce Academy from 1843 until his death.  About 1855 he retired from active practice in law and politics, spending his remaining years with family and friends. He was a gentleman of the old school, was much interested in the early history of the town (Middleboro)   and   Plymouth County. General Ward died on May 12, 1885.   (The above was largely extracted from the History of the Town of Middleboro, Mass,  with some additions).

Eliab Ward’s larger commands were as Colonel of the 3rd Regiment of Light Infanty in the 2nd, Brigade, 1st Division, taking command as the brigadier in command of the Brigade in April of 1850.  Given what little I found of his military record, I am of course assuming why he was removed from command in 1855.  In the previous biography ( not complete), Ward was well thought of, educated, having been heavily involved in town, county, and state politics and local concerns. It seems that in 1855 after being dismissed from the militia, he also retired from all other forms of professional pursuits the same year, and I submit some form of health issue caused him the inability to engage physically or mentally in those capacities.  Consider why a man so accomplished would have retired from everything in 1855 only to remain retired for his last 30 years of life?

A great piece of military history, as well as a rare cap.


I recently acquired General Ward’s frock coat. His name is written underneath the collar lining in period ink. The frock is similar to the 1851 Army regulation dress uniform for general officers, with the exception the white standup collar.  The shoulder straps are probably not original to the coat, and would be correct with dress bullion epaulets.

Condition is excellent inside and out with just a few moth holes, that can easily be fixed.  A great looking frock complete with all of its Massachusetts Volunteer Militia buttons.



Additional information

Weight 30 lbs